Nat Faxon Talks Surfing, Marriage, and Fighting Dinosaurs on the Set of FX’s New Dark Comedy MARRIED

     July 16, 2014


“The first couple table reads, I was barely getting any laughs”, Nat Faxon chuckles to himself, “I was totally in my head, [thinking] ‘I suck. I’m going to get fired…’”  Faxon is in between takes of shooting the series finale of Married’s first season when he offers this particular bit of self-deprecation.  Obviously his fears were unfounded – and rightly so.  Faxon has proven himself to be one of the funniest and most eccentric leading comedy actors on television.  With his big toothy grin and aw-shucks demeanor, it’s impossible not to instantly root for the guy (as apparent on Faxon’s unfortunately short-lived sitcom Ben & Kate).  On FX’s new dark-comedy Married, Faxon plays against type, using his naturally likable demeanor in the service of a character who’s a bit of a shit.  Faxon stars as Russ, an unhappily married man, whose lackluster sex-life leads him to seek alternative means of ‘satisfaction’. There’s something sickly funny about watching seemingly the nicest person on earth reveal himself to be as base and amoral as all the rest of us.  So rest assured, Nat Faxon, you are still very funny.

In the following on-set interview with Faxon, he discusses how the married life of his character compares to his own, the differences between Network & Cable TV and his involvement in the character’s season long arc.  For the full interview, hit the jump.

married-nat-faxonQuestion: How has the shoot been going?

NAT FAXON: It’s been really fun. Most everyone’s a dick but other than that it’s been really great {Laughs}. No — I’ve been enjoying everything quite a bit. It’s a good group. 

You have a long history with Judy Greer. What’s it like actually playing husband and wife on screen together?

FAXON: It’s frighteningly easy which freaks me out a lot. She’s just a natural performer and that makes everything very easy because you can slide right into it. I’ve been lucky the last couple [shows] I’ve done to have that. On Ben and Kate, it was similar. It just very easily slid into a brother-sister thing and I feel that way with Judy. It’s been very easy to slide into a married couple that’s been through a lot of stuff and is living through it and dealing with it.

How does your experience on this show compare to Ben and Kate?

FAXON: It’s a totally different medium. I enjoyed Ben and Kate immensely. It was similar in the sense — and this is so grossly cliché — but everybody’s great and I loved everybody and we’re all best friends. That was a great group and this is a great group — so it shares those common elements. I think certainly the differences between network and cable are pretty evident in terms of I think on this show we’re allowed to be darker and more tragic and slightly dirtier. Network is more heightened and a little bit glossier. There’s a rhythm to Network TV that I feel is different from this show. You kind of know that going in when you’re doing Network TV. I think you know that this has to be a little more heightened and this has to be a little big[ger] and I’ve got to hit this and everything is a little bit elevated. It’s a bigger performance in a way. This has been the total opposite. This has felt much more like an independent movie. Very understated, very grounded. It’s not like Ben and Kate didn’t have heartfelt moments but I feel like this lives in a more honest place in terms of what relationships are really like.  I don’t think we strive all the time to be funny on this show. I think that’s one of its strengths in a sense. It took me a little bit to get used to that. It took me a little time to transition into not driving everything and not feeling like I had to give it something. The first couple table reads, I was barely getting any laughs on anything I was doing. I was totally in my head – ‘I suck. I’m going to get fired. This is not going well.’ But I think that’s just what this show is. Obviously there’s craziness and elements that are heightened but I think it lives in a very truthful place — a sort of warts and all environment where you get to see stuff that is not meant to be funny, that is meant to be real and truthful.

married-image-nat-faxon-judy-greerYou go back and forth between writing movies and starring in shows. Do you feel more comfortable doing one or the other? [Of note: Nat Faxon won an Academy Award writing The Descendants alongside partner Jim Rash; they both also wrote and directed last year’s The Way Way Back]

FAXON: I came out here to be an actor. I grew up in Boston and moved out to LA to act so I feel like that has always been my first love, if you will. It’s something I’m always drawn to. I like the challenges of performing. Writing was borne out of a desire to do more acting really. Jim Rash, my partner, and I met at the Groundlings and started writing a bunch of sketches together and then we wanted to showcase more of our abilities in ways we were not getting opportunities to. We were getting typecast quite a bit or always going in for the same type of roles. In his case — nerdy scientist. And me — dumb stoner roommates. So we just wanted an opportunity to showcase more of what we can do. We started writing as a way to do that — to write roles for ourselves. And it just sort of took off and became this whole other thing and I’ve enjoyed that partnership immensely. I’ve always wanted to write something that we both star in together. That was the dream when we started out so hopefully one day that will happen amidst all of this other stuff.

You’re currently writing now, aren’t you?

FAXON: Yes — We currently have a couple projects in various stages of development and whatnot. Trying to get other things off the ground.

married-brett-gelman-nat-faxonWould you be interested in writing or directing an episode of the show in the future?

FAXON: Yeah — potentially I would. This season there was a lot going on.  Also I felt like I wanted to concentrate and settle into the character a little bit and we were on such a compressed schedule it felt like it would have been hard to do all of that. Certainly if [creator/showrunner] Andrew [Gurland] and [writer] Salumo [Levin] and all those guys wanted that, I would welcome it. I would be intimidated and scared in a way because I do love the scripts but I think it would be a fun challenge to try to do so. And the same with directing. It’s hard — I laud the people who can do the directing and the acting. I mean we did a little bit of that in The Way Way Back, but the people like Clooney, Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, those guys who have done the lead part in these huge movies and directed them. That is impressive. Because when we were shooting The Way Way Back, it was so stressful.

What would it be if you guys could star in a movie together? Would you be the stoner and he — the nerdy scientist?

FAXON: Probably yeah and we would probably be fighting dinosaurs. It feels like our genre.

Is there anything you brought from your own personal life out into your character?

FAXON: Everything. {Laughs}

Are there any personal issues because this seems like it deals with [such things]…

married-nat-faxon-karolin-lunaFAXON: It does. It’s also part of the reason why I’ve really enjoyed this process because like I said before it feels very honest to what happens in actual relationships and I can say that because I am married and do have children and some of the circumstances or arguments or things that happen on this show are so reminiscent of things that have happened in my life personally. We shot a scene the other day where Judy catches me in a lie. I tell work that I’m sick and then I go surfing and then she shows up at the beach and says ‘I called work and they said you were sick… I hope you’re feeling better.’ And that has happened to me a lot.

Surfing specifically?

FAXON: Yes with surfing. I’ve gone surfing and then been caught when I said I was going to do something else. Then I get caught in this horrible stupid lie and realize I don’t know why I didn’t just say I was going to go do this to begin with. So it does. It’s very much art mirroring life to the tee.

Does Andrew or anyone come up to you and ask you for experiences when they’re writing the show?

married-nat-faxon-judy-greerFAXON: I think they’ve got a pretty good handle on it. Andrew — being married and having three kids. This character [is] a little bit based on him and his experiences. But I think these are universal things most people that are married with kids can identify with. We have certainly talked about things like the ‘going surfing [but saying] you’re going to do something else.’ Experiences like that. But it’s not like we talk about something and then he goes and writes it. Maybe some of those little tidbits will sneak their way into the script — but I think a lot of it is just things that come from his brain from dealing with family and commitment and all of those things.

How involved are you in the character’s arc?

FAXON: I think Andrew’s incredibly open and incredibly collaborative and would sit down and want to talk about things for as long as it took. I, however, don’t want to talk about it. He’s so open about it that it’s very — again this is a cliché type word — but organic in terms of the discussions we have about it. Or even if there’s subtle line changes or if there’s subtle emotional moments that feel like they can be enhanced or don’t feel completely honest, he’s like ‘Oh let’s take it out. Let’s do something else. Screw that. Throw that away.’ It’s very comforting to be around a creator like that. It feels collaborative.

Married premieres this Thursday at 10PM on FX.


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