The Afterparty Actor Ike Barinholtz On His Character's Hilarious Urinal Stand-Off With Dave Franco [Interview]

Ike Barinholtz has an unironic appreciation of action movie hero Steven Seagal. Maybe not so much the late-stage, direct to video, filmed-in-Bucharest-because-of-absurd-tax-breaks era of Seagal's filmography, but, as he told me in a recent interview, "[Seagal's] personality was so strange and terrible and funny" that Barinholtz was oddly drawn to his movies. Now, in the new murder mystery series "The Afterparty," Barinholtz gets to incorporate some of that Seagal influence into his own performance as Brett, a divorced dad who thinks of himself as an action movie hero.

The premise of the show, which hails from Chris Miller and is executive produced by Miller and creative partner Phil Lord, is that a murder occurs at an afterparty for a 15-year high school reunion, and as each suspect recounts the events leading up to the mysterious death, the audience sees each suspect's story in a different genre: musical, romantic comedy, arthouse film, the list goes on. I spoke with Barinholtz about preparing for his character's big episode, reuniting with Dave Franco, and more.

"Listen, this is a middle aged guy who loves dad movies."

The second episode of this show is all about your character, and it's envisioned as this "Fast and Furious"-style action movie with you as the Dom Toretto figure. I don't want to make it seem like you're doing an impression of Vin Diesel, because a majority of that episode is you very much doing your own thing, but there are a couple of direct references to that franchise. So I was curious if you studied Vin Diesel's performances in those movies when you were prepping for the show.

Well, Ben, I'm surprised you didn't do your research on this, but you would've found that on "Mad TV," I played Vin Diesel in our "XXX" parody called "Triple A," where he fixes cars. But if you actually knew that, I would be incredibly disturbed. [laughs] So, yeah, definitely I think the way it was written and conceived, they were like, "Listen, this is a middle aged guy who loves dad movies." "Fast and Furious" are definite dad movies. One thing that I brought to it — I talked to Chris about it early on — I'm a big fan of Steven Seagal. His first, whatever, eight movies, I really enjoyed watching. His personality was so strange and terrible and funny. And so there's definitely a lot of Seagal — it's kind of like if Seagal and Vin Diesel had a kid, and that kid was going through a divorce.

Excellent. So I know you had worked with Dave Franco before this, but you two have a couple of really fun showdown scenes here. Obviously, Chris Miller and the rest of the writers are incredible at what they do, but I'm just wondering if you had any opportunities for improv, especially in those scenes, because it seems like the two of you are really having a lot of fun there.

Oh yeah, yeah. [laughs] Right away, when I read it and I saw in the script Chris set up this tension between Dave Franco's Xavier and me, I just knew that it was going to get really stupid and just very homoerotic, very quickly. Just the nature of the two characters. One guy's more of a repressed dad and the other guy's like, "I'm a Hollywood pop star." And we right away, it was one of the first scenes we shot together, and within moments, the tension became like, "Are these guys going to start fighting or are they going to fall in love?" Because it was just very, very tense, but really, really, really, fun. I love Dave. We've been working together for a long time and he's just such a funny guy. And the character he created in this is just out of this world, man. It's so funny. Who wears a suit with no shirt?

"He gave you so many different little games about how you can control your pee."

Tell me about that urinal scene you guys had. What are your first memories when I say that? What's the first thing that you think of?

Well, I just remember that Chris — again, Chris Miller wrote such a great script where he gave you so many different little games about how you can control your pee. You know what I mean? Just the notion of that, allowing Dave and I to take it to such an absurd level led to this ridiculous stand-off. And we were just really grateful that Chris took such a complex story that had so many twists and turns, but then also had different genre leaps and points of view and managing all that, but giving his actors the freedom to improvise within it and guide the improvisation. So it actually has a chance of making it into the final cut. That's really a special thing to have, and Chris is all about that.

At first glance, your character, Brett, is this toxic, aggro archetype. But tell me about trying to infuse some humanity into that persona, because there's a lot of room for that as well.

Well, I was lucky that the way I had read the scripts and the way that they're presented to the audience, you do Brett's story early on. And it doesn't excuse his behavior. You see him in high school and he's kind of a dick. But he's in love, right? Which, I get it, that's kind of a noble thing. But when we see him in present day, he's such a mess and he's going about it in such a stupid way, and you almost kind of forgive him. So I was lucky to get that in my head and frame that early on, which allows me to be insanely stupid and get stupider. Like, by the end, I'm the dumbest person. So really, to me, it was just so much fun to play that part.

The first three episodes of "The Afterparty" are currently streaming on Apple TV+.