From fixing computers in the grottiest of basements to starring opposite the funniest women in American film, the Irish comic actor's come a long way in a short space of time. Here, the star of The IT Crowd talks about moving to the US, starring in the Knocked Up spin-off and beating up Jack Black while dressed as a giant robot.
What's it like being based in LosAngeles?
It's very exciting. You keep doing double-takes because you think you've walked passed someone you know off the telly. It also never rains. I'm sure the novelty of this will eventually wear off but it's fun for the time being.
In Bridesmaids, you’re called upon to speak in an American accent. Did that pose any problems?
Like most kids, I used to speak in a cod American accent when I was playing with my mates. And is that the accent I'm still using? No, casting directors don't seem to like that one so much.
But you did audition for the role in an American accent, didn't you?
Yes, I did. I was in LA and I used the accent in the audition and it went fine. You'll be hearing more of it in my next couple of films, actually. But [Bridesmaids director] Paul Feig, he'd asked me to go for the part because he'd liked The IT Crowd, and so he was very surprised when I opened my mouth and an American accent came out. He was so shocked that he actually asked me to take a crack at it again using an Irish accent but in the end we decided to do it the way it is.
Accent aside, what did you make of Officer Nathan Rhodes?
Nathan’s pretty easy to play because he's perhaps the only character in the film who behaves in a completely believable fashion. He's the rational character you need in every comedy.
What was it like working with so many women?
It was good for me because I grew up in a house full of women. I love women, I like their company, I think they're very pretty. Before I get myself into any further trouble, I should say this group of women - Kirsten Wiig, Rose Byrne, Maya Rudolph - are the most charming, intelligent people you could hope to work with. As funny as the film is, we had as much fun when the cameras weren't rolling.
"When I got the script I assumed it must be because it was funny. With each new page it became less and less apparent that this was the case. 'Where are the laughs?' 'There aren't any - it's serious drama'."
You're on record as describing Bridesmaids as 'bawdy'. Did that appeal to your comedic sensibilities?
What I think I said was that Bridesmaids was as if - it not more - bawdy that a lot of British and Irish films, and that's fine by me. You see, what's interesting to me is that Irish humour seems to have more in common with American comedy that with British comedy. Perhaps that why I felt like I fitted in really well - we were all on the same page.
Given that you're so associated with comedy, how did you come to be cast in the BBC drama The Crimson Petal And The White?
I don't know! When I got the script I assumed it must be because it was funny. With each new page it became less and less apparent that this was the case. 'Where are the laughs?' 'There aren't any - it's serious drama'.
Do you ever worry that your background might prevent audiences taking you seriously in straight drama?
I suppose the concern'sthere in the back of my mind, but it's not a worry when you're working on something that's as brilliantly written as The Crimson Petal And The White. Lucinda Cox did such a remarkable job of adapting the Michel Faber book. It really is an astonishing piece of work.
Back on the comic front, what are your memories of making Gulliver's Travels?
That the film didn't have that much to do with Jonathan Swift's classic. No, I had a great time - how can you not enjoy working with guys like Jack Black, Billy Connolly and Catherine Tate? But it was rather funny when, as recently happened on Something For The Weekend, they show a clip of a giant robot beating up Jack Black. You can just see the Swift purists at home going, 'I really don't remember anything like that happening in the book'. The KISS tribute act must have come as a bit of a shock, too.
And do you think Judd Apatowpurists will approve of the forthcoming Knocked Up spin-off that you're starring in?
I certainly hope so. I can't actually say that much about it. All you need to know is that it concentrates upon the couple played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in Knocked Up and that I'm in it. That's enough to put bums on seats, right?
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