JASON SEGEL, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
‘I f you can find the line between sympathetic and creepy, you have reached a very funny area,” Jason Segel once said. Not only has the actor and screenwriter found that line, he walks it like a tightrope.
Since coming to the attention of viewers (and his mentor, Knocked Up writer-director Judd Apatow) in the cult high school series Freaks and Geeks, Segel has made a habit of playing guys who are just slightly off.
In TV shows and films (such as the recent Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which he also wrote), his characters tend to be a little clingy, a little clueless, but somehow likeable, even loveable, despite it all.
Of course, the tall, handsome Segel is adept at playing nice guys as well, as his character Marshall on the Seven sitcom How I Met Your Mother proves. Viewers have seen long-term couple Marshall and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) break up, make up and take on the joys and challenges of parenthood.
Here, Segel talks about the How I Met Your Mother ensemble, the universal appeal of Neil Patrick Harris and the misconceptions people have about him … The How I Met Your Mother cast is a mix of newcomers and familiar faces – what’s it like working with this team? There was this strange chemistry between the five of us right from the beginning. I think the first time the five of us met was at a barbecue. And then Alyson was there for my screen test. I read with her, and I’d say that within a couple of minutes of starting the scene we had gone off-book and sort of started improvising. It was so funny and so natural that I just knew we would make a great team. Then when we met the other three, something about it just felt right. It was very easy from the beginning.
Harris’s Barney has emerged as a bit of a scene stealer in a role that’s different to the way he’s been seen in the past.
When Barney was first written on the page, he was intended to be this sort of slobbish, overweight guy. So, Neil came in and did this version of Barney, which I just think is so interesting and great. More than him making any effort to try to change his image, I think he’s just a really diverse and talented performer. We just haven’t seen him like this before but it’s well within his grasp. He’s a talented guy.
The framework for the show is Ted telling the story of his relationships to his kids in the future. Now, the show gets a tad racy at times … has anyone brought up the
fact that Ted’s stories might be a little inappropriate? [Laughs] Yeah, we’ve thought about that. But maybe in the future, society’s values have changed.
You write movies and music, you act in leads and supporting roles. How do you see your career?
As diverse and as positive. Diversity, I think, is the key. I look at somebody like Peter Sellers, who was just one of the amazing, amazing character actors. Being There couldn’t be further from Pink Panther. I’m always in awe of that. Also, you do have a choice over what material you do, certainly as you progress in your career. I’d like to choose things that at least speak to something that I think is relevant. That’s always when I act the best, when I connect to it in some way. When it’s frivolous, I show up and do it and do my best, but … Even something as simple as trying to be single, at least you can hook into and try to express something that anyone can relate to. People seeing you as the sleazy friend in Knocked Up or the lovelorn lead in Forgetting Sarah Marshall could easily form strong opinions of you. Anything you want to clear up for the record? No. Sadly, it’s all true. [Laughs] But I am this tall. And I’m better-looking in person.
Party of five: Jason Segel with HowI MetYourMother co-stars, from left, Alyson Hannigan, Josh Radnor, Cobie Smulders and Neil Patrick Harris.