mad men

Blake J. Harris: Awesome.

Mackenzie Astin: Mad Men was an exalted experience, you know? That is the major leagues as far as television shows go. And I had been up for a few episodes previously and to land a part before it was no longer a show was incredible. And also I had worked with Jon Hamm years before, in 2000, on a pilot, and he remembered me so that was exciting. He’s a genuine…he’s as good as everyone says he is. And he’s such a professional. Fuck is he awesome. So that was real exciting, to go and get my hair parted real hard. And appear on a television show that was about as far from Garbage Pail Kids as you can get.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah. Pretty far, yeah.

Mackenzie Astin: What else?

Blake J. Harris: Let me ask about one.

Mackenzie Astin: Sure, go ahead.

Blake J. Harris: Okay, so I usually don’t fan out about anything (and I think that helps me as an interviewer—that I’m kind of apathetic) but there’s a few shows that I absolutely love and one of them is Psych. Do you remember working on Psych for that episode that was like a spoof of Friday the 13th?

Mackenzie Astin: Oh yeah. That was a godsend and a gift. And a solid from an old pal. So James Roday I worked together on a show that we shot eight episodes of 2000 called First Years. Which had Samantha Mathis, Ken Marino, Sydney Poitier (the daughter, not the father) and this asshole on the other end of the phone. It was a great show. Looking back it was incredibly young because…

Blake J. Harris: …you guys were young?

Mackenzie Astin: Because we were young and the consciousness of the country was young. 2000 is a lot different than 2002, if you know what I’m saying?

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, yeah.

Mackenzie Astin: So anyway, I took off to Baltimore in 2005 and was not working as an actor. Instead, I was getting to the bottom of as many pints as possible. And James called me up. He’s like, “Hey, dude! Come play this part. I’m directing an episode of Psych.” He told me that he wrote this episode and he wanted me to play…Oh man, what was the name? Something Cunningham. I wanna say Richie Cunningham because that’s sort of what they wanted.

Blake J. Harris: Jason!

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah! James said, “I want you to play this part, come to Vancouver and we’ll have an awesome time.” And I was like: holy fucking shit. Hell yeah! [laughs] But James goes, “Wait, you gotta put yourself on tape so the network says it’s okay.”

psych

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Mackenzie Astin: So my Dad and I, we videotaped an audition for Psych. And it was good enough to get the part (which was already mine!). And when I got there, James was thrilled, as was [creator] Steve Franks, because they were: dude, hearing your dad read off-camera was the best experience ever!

Blake J. Harris: [laughing]

Mackenzie Astin: And I had a blast. You know, James is one of those guys…he’s a leader. And a very, very smart and gifted professional artist. Fortunately, I was in his quiver and I got there and had a lot of fun; running around chasing him with a machete.

Blake J. Harris: That’s so awesome. Like I said, there’s not too many shows that I freak out for, but that one…I just love Psych. And you know, it’s probably one of my favorite shows and I don’t even think I could explain to someone why it’s good. Because of what you’re saying about James. Like I don’t think I could write something for him because I don’t even know how he makes what he makes funny. He just does. He has a very original voice and you can’t replicate that.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah, it’s incredible. He’s just gifted. And they [USA Network] got very lucky that he got the part. As lucky as he was to get the part. Because what he brought to that show for 8 seasons…and now they’ve got a film coming out! He’s just… he’s that good. He’s one of those guys that’s preternaturally gifted. Like on a baseball team, there are guys that the rest of the players stop to watch take batting practice: that’s Roday.

Blake J. Harris: So in the baseball batting practice analogy, who are you?

Mackenzie Astin: Utility player. Happy to play any position. Wherever you want me. I’ll do the little things, the intangibles. I don’t mind getting dirty. And, you know, I’m okay in the field. I’m a decent defender.

Blake J. Harris: Do you have time for a couple more questions?

Mackenzie Astin: Absolutely.

Blake J. Harris: Awesome. So, you know, I always relate everything back to my experiences and I had a younger brother and I was such an asshole to him. So I was a little different than Sean [was to you], but there’s always a sibling rivalry. It’s natural. And I always felt like we weren’t friends, we were just brothers. Until I was in my early twenties and we became friends and I realized: wow, I don’t need to root against him. Actually, I want him to succeed. So I’m wondering how did your relationship with your brother evolve? Did you ever feel like you could take full participation in his success? That there wasn’t a sibling rivalry? I’m sure it was a healthy sibling rivalry, but when did you start to feel like you guys were friends, or maybe you felt that way the whole time.

Mackenzie Astin: You know, relationships are interesting. And siblings, as you know, are interesting. Stuff vacillates and goes back and forth; and I can get absolutely livid with his bullshit, as much as he can get absolutely livid with my bullshit. You know, I think that’s just natural. Again, as my friend Timmy says, “That’s birth order stuff, Mackie. You can’t help it! It’s fucking cosmic!”

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Mackenzie Astin: So you know…I think we respect each other more now than we probably ever have. Which as men is important.

Blake J. Harris: And you’ve mentioned a few times that you live in Baltimore (and have previously lived in Baltimore). What brought you to Baltimore?

Mackenzie Astin: A funny thing happened on the way to Birmingham, interestingly. My buddy Ken Marino got married in 2005. I bought my plane ticket late, so it was just a one-way. And, you know, I was still saucing; so I was more than willing to go where the day took me. After the wedding I thought: you know what? I’ll go see my old man, who had been living in Baltimore for about five years at that point (teaching at Johns Hopkins). So I bought a train ticket. And I had no idea, really, how fucking far that is. So it was a real long train ride. And interestingly, it was the first train that originated in New Orleans after Katrina. So it was filled with people who were running from, wow, the biggest storm ever. I happened to, at the time, have just broken off an engagement. So in my own egotistical, egoistical and narcissistic way was running from my own big storm.

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Mackenzie Astin: And so that train ride was just incredible and filled with good spirit. You know, people are amazing. Especially people who come from nothing and don’t have much. Because there is a character there that is priceless and wealthy. And so it was a real good train ride. I got to Baltimore a few days later and fell in love with fall. Fell in love with the changing of season. Fell in love with not being in Los Angeles…I just felt like Baltimore wrapped its arms around me and brought me to its macabre and funky breast and I was more than happy at the time to, you know, get on it.

Blake J. Harris: That’s great. Sounds like home.

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah. And then a couple years after that I met my now-wife, which was amazing.

Blake J. Harris: How’d you meet your wife?

Mackenzie Astin: We were both drinking. In the same bar. On a Monday afternoon.

Blake J. Harris: And what was your big pickup line? You said: hey, you know that Garbage Pail Kids Movie? That was me…

Mackenzie Astin: [cracks up] Oh my god. Is there a tape. How did you know that?! No, it worked out perfectly. She had just finished taking some big exams for a Masters Degree in Philosophy and was celebrating with some libation. And all the seats at the bar were taken except for the two right next to me. She came in and said, “Is this seat taken?” No, go ahead. She sat down, put a big book of philosophy on the bar and ordered a drink and we got to talking about (I guess?) philosophy? I don’t know, but we just clicked. We just absolutely clicked. We just…we just started a conversation that we’ve yet to finish, basically.

Blake J. Harris: That’s beautiful. And to finish this conversation: final question.

Mackenzie Astin: Okay…

Blake J. Harris: Alright, so I hate questions about regret, like “Do you regret doing The Garbage Pail Kids Movie?” because my philosophy’s a lot more like what you described at rehab where we can learn from everything; and you wouldn’t be where you are today if you hadn’t done that movie, whether you like it or not. So let me ask you this instead: going back to when you were a kid, and you were in the theater with your friends watching The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, feeling whatever it was that you felt that day… if, in the middle of the movie, you went to the bathroom and Present Day You was there, what do you think that conversation would be like?

Mackenzie Astin: [laughs] Wow. You just blew my mind.

Blake J. Harris: Good!

Mackenzie Astin: Wait, who starts this conversation? Do I get to choose? And is Present Day Me fully aware of all the experiences that come after for Garbage Pail Kids Me?

Blake J. Harris: Yes. And you just want your younger self to, you know, get to laughing about it sooner. You know it’s gonna hurt, you know this experience is gonna hurt, and you can’t change his trajectory…

Mackenzie Astin: So here’s what I would say to that kid. I’d say, “Hey, you’re the one that plays Dodger, right?” And then I guess Other Me would say, “Uh, yeah.”

Blake J. Harris: [laughing]

Mackenzie Astin: [laughing] I would say, “Don’t change a fucking thing. Because in 30 years, you’re gonna spend an hour and forty minutes laughing the kind of laugh that will make you feel better than you felt in a long, long time, listening to a podcast about people making fun of what you’re watching in there. And little Dodger, you’ll also be having a great fucking season on the field. Go Blue!

Blake J. Harris: Awesome. So I guess the real last question is what can stop the freight train of the Dodgers?

Mackenzie Astin: [nervous about jinxing his beloved baseball team]

Blake J. Harris: I mean, I don’t want to jinx it. Knock on wood, knock on wood!

Mackenzie Astin: Yeah, knock on wood. But listen, it’s the same thing that can stop us in life: unforeseen injuries…unforeseen forces…institutionalized racism…Donald-fucking-Trump…and injuries, I think. We just gotta stay healthy. If you stay healthy—I mean, this is life advice—if you stay healthy and keep doing what you are supposed to do, what you are gifted—through Allah, God, Buddha, the Universe…Katie Barberi!—through whatever has made you gifted at what you’re gifted, if you stay healthy, you’ll get the ring. If you stay healthy…[with over-the-top sarcasm] you’ll be the lord of the rings.

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] Full circle! Thank you so much, Mack.

Mackenzie Astin: No, thank you. Honestly…[struggles to find the right words] my perspective on that podcast is individual and specific and unique. And what’s wonderful is all of the laughter that I was listening to…I was a part of. And to be a part of something that makes people laugh? That is…that’s the most important thing in life. That’s fucking creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky.

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