Rank #1: Dax Shepard 2
In fact, his entire podcast is inspired by his fascination with true happiness. “A lot of us go through life thinking, ‘I would be happy, if…’ ‘I would have self-esteem, if…’ ‘I would know contentment, if…’ But those are illusions that most people don’t get to find out are illusions.”
Dax had the dubious honor of learning that lesson first hand. Early in his career, he had all of the status markers and money that he thought would make him happy, but none of that prevented him from reaching one of the lowest points in his life, magnified by his demoralizing addiction to alcohol and drugs. Huddled in an airport bar, sucking down Jack and Cokes, Dax took a moment to evaluate his situation. “My whole life I thought, ‘Man, if I had a million dollars…’ Well, I had a million dollars, and I couldn’t get on a flight to fly 35 minutes from San Francisco to L.A.” It’s with that wisdom that Dax asks his celebrity guests, “You’re rich, and you’re famous. Did it cure all of the things you thought it would?” In general, it doesn’t.
Dax’s honesty is contagious—he brings it out in his guests and the people around him. It seems like his superpower is curating human vulnerability and talking frankly about the messiness of life, and that’s why he’s one of my favorite people to talk to.
Dax joins Off Camera to talk about the misnomer that is "rock bottom," the magic osmosis that makes his marriage with Kristen Bell work so well, and why you shouldn’t compare yourself to your neighbor’s seemingly perfect life.
Jan 31 2019
Rank #2: Ep 2. John Krasinski
Krasinski shares his own version of the waiter-to A-list story and talks about staying true to his artistic path despite periods of self-doubt. An avid and humble student of experience, he discusses what he’s learned from his work with industry veterans such as Sam Mendes, Gus Van Sant and George Clooney. Krasinski talks to Off Camera about wrapping the final season of The Office, the value of supportive parents, and about his newest film, Promised Land, which he co-wrote, and co-stars with Matt Damon.
At one of the most interesting junctions in his career, an actor who’s arguably done it all looks ahead to what he hopes will be next.
Mar 12 2020
Rank #3: Robert Downey Jr. 2
Jul 18 2019
Rank #4: Seth Rogen
Apr 25 2019
Rank #5: Daniel Radcliffe
Now nearly a decade removed from Harry Potter, he still finds acting to be a constant source of joy. When he made his first foray outside of Hogwarts, Dan bravely decided to take a giant risk, choosing the dark and psychologically complex play Equus as his coming out party. “I couldn’t do something half-assed for my first thing on stage. It was my chance to get far away from Potter as possible, both to show people that I was in it for the right reasons and to test myself.”
From his work on stage to his other films like Swiss Army Man, Jungle, and Kill Your Darlings, Dan continues to challenge himself—his most recent example being his broad, playful, and comedic role in the hilarious new series Miracle Workers, opposite Steve Buscemi.
Dan joins Off Camera to talk about pressures that come with fame, taking on uncharted waters as a “magical dead guy” in Swiss Army, and how to get through a Japanese airport without dying.
Feb 21 2019
Rank #6: Edward Norton
Oct 31 2019
Rank #7: Zach Galifianakis
Sep 26 2019
Rank #8: Josh Gad
Nov 21 2019
Rank #9: Jenny Slate 2
Jenny had to do some soul-searching over the past few years. Divorce, the public spotlight, and emotional turmoil were inhibiting her creativity, and as she depicts in her memoir, she had to work through some of that “gloop.” Writing Little Weirds led to a maturity and self-assuredness that helped her reach not only new creative heights, but also to find peace and happiness within herself. She inhabits an interesting space between creating entertainment and soul-searching. As Jenny says, “I don’t think that there will be a world in which I don’t try to be funny and add levity to reality, but the most important thing for me as an artist and the only constant is, ‘Openness until death.’ Stay open until you’re terminal.”
Jenny joins Off Camera to talk about losing her creative spirit in the woods of New England, freaking out after she bombed the Stage Fright rehearsal, and the psychological and creative benefits of dressing monochromatically for a couple weeks.
Dec 05 2019
Rank #10: Jeff Bridges 2
Oct 24 2019
Rank #11: Fred Armisen
Jun 06 2019
Rank #12: Ep 26. Will Ferrell
While working a number of “regular” jobs, (he actually almost became an anchorman), Ferrell did stand up in small clubs, clinging to his father’s surprisingly helpful advice that his ever making it would be a long shot. It was just that take-it-or-leave it approach that allowed him to pursue his unique comedic style free from the angst that might have otherwise crushed it. It might also explain a small sadistic streak that underlies his performances – if you don’t like what he’s doing, sit back and enjoy it anyway…or else.
In this issue, he describes his stomach-churning, knee-buckling Saturday Night Live audition and the even more daunting experience of joining the legendary show at one of its lowest points. He also shares his writing process, stories behind some of his best loved impersonations and his long and sometimes perplexing feature film cv. His success and work in projects as diverse as Elf and Stranger Than Fiction illustrate the rare genius of someone who can make the ridiculously absurd not only believable, but sympathetic. Chalk it up to talent or unquestioning commitment to any role he takes on, but not to hard work. Ferrell’s a firm believer in not overthinking the work or worrying too much about whether his projects succeed, as long as he’s having fun along the way. He may not be cerebral, but trust us, he’s brilliant.
Feb 19 2020
Rank #13: Jake Johnson
Oct 17 2019
Rank #14: Jason Mantzoukas
May 16 2019
Rank #15: Ep 37. Jake Gyllenhaal
Though much has been made of his on screen metamorphoses, his most profound change in recent years is one we didn’t realize we were seeing. After coming to wide attention and critical acclaim in films like Donnie Darko and Brokeback Mountain, he found himself in the enviable position of being very young and very successful in Hollywood. That’s when everyone in the business will tell you exactly which projects and path will guarantee you a lucrative career. And that’s when Gyllenhaal stepped back and decided it was time to listen to his own voice about what he wanted to do and what his work would say about him. The results are sometimes perplexing (Enemy), or darkly comic (Nightcrawler), but always worth watching. And for Gyllenhaal, richly rewarding – the spoils being the experience, worldview and friendships he takes with him from every role.
From Southpaw, he learned that a mere five pounds of pressure is all it takes to knock a guy’s brain against the side of his skull and put him down, if you know just where to land it. It’s the kind of instinct that told him just how to play one of the most touching and terrifying scenes in that film, and the same instinct that now guides the career he’s designing for himself. In this issue, Gyllenhaal discusses his work ethic, how he chooses and prepares for roles, and why he’d like to see someone else take a shot at playing them – really. It’s an esoteric conversation, but don’t worry; you’ll love it even if you’re not into Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen or Wild Geese.
Feb 26 2020
Rank #16: Ray Romano
Despite all of his success and fame, Ray dealt with an unexpected identity crisis when Raymond ended. “It took about three months until the void smacked me in the head. It was this sense of, ‘What now? Where’s my passion? Where’s my direction? What am I throwing all my energy into now?’ I had this non-stop creative energy for nine years. And suddenly, I was empty.” But working through the existential void turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It’s what led to the creation of Men of a Certain Age, the show Ray co-wrote with his friend Mike Royce, and it led to a desire to flex his acting muscles in other, more dramatic areas.
Getting people to see him as more than a sitcom actor was difficult, especially after spending nine years in the shoes of one character that was loosely based on himself. “I didn’t want to make everyone forget about my sitcom legacy, because I was proud of it, but my goal was to do what I wanted—and what I wanted was to stick my little dramatic toe in there.” Since he made that decision, he’s evolved into a versatile and relatable dramatic actor with his work in projects like Parenthood, Vinyl, Get Shorty, The Big Sick, and most recently, Paddleton, opposite Mark Duplass.
Ray joins Off Camera to talk about the first and only time he was fired, how he turns real life into a comedic bit, and why it’s so hard for some men to say, “I love you.”
Mar 14 2019
Rank #17: Busy Philipps
Apr 18 2019
Rank #18: Olivia Wilde 2
Jun 13 2019
Rank #19: David Harbour
Apr 11 2019
Rank #20: Ep 57. Kristen Bell
Not surprisingly, then, the sunny, perky blond wasn’t the first actor that came to mind for Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas. “I had Christina Ricci in my head when I wrote it. I wanted someone who had a caustic delivery for lines that had weight and dryness.” As it turned out, Bell was also damn funny, with a gift for injecting just the right amount of dark, wry wit into what became her breakout role, turning her into a geek goddess of sorts. Her excellent turn as Elle Bishop in Heroes only settled that crown more firmly on her head.
Maybe the fanboy hall-of-fame was a pre-destined landing place for someone who always felt (and early on, was often told) she wasn’t homely enough to play the nerdy girl and not nearly pretty enough to play the pretty girl. If that was a struggle at the outset, it seems to have made her a guileless and non-judgmental career plotter. That approach doesn’t work for everyone, but in Bell’s case, it’s allowed for angst-free role choices that ultimately did justice to her surprising range. (Check out Hit & Run for an early example of her abilities—and her director and then-fiancée’s knowing exactly how to push her buttons.)
Post-Veronica Mars, her big screen break arrived with a part in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a potentially intimidating career leap that landed well. In its review, Rolling Stone gave “Cheers to Bell for finding nuance in a diva written as a stone-cold bitch.” More recent evidence of her range turned up in a role in which she technically never appeared. For thousands of unsuspecting fans, Disney’s unstoppable snowball of a hit Frozen unmasked her extraordinary talent as a singer, a gift she honed in years of early musical theater training but modestly underplays.
These days, Bell finds herself increasingly in demand, and increasingly in the company of bar-raising colleagues, a challenge she deliberately seeks out. She’s playing the ambitious partner and foil to Don Cheadle in Showtime’s not-so-sunny House of Lies. In the upcoming film The Boss, Bell plays a mousey would-be brownie maven alongside Melissa McCarthy, one of her comedic idols. She’s also somehow managed to start work on a new NBC show called Good Place from the executive producer of Parks and Recreation and co-starring Ted Danson. The series allows Bell an interesting opportunity to explore the character of Eleanor, a not-so-good person trying to figure out how to become a good person—if she can figure out what actually defines “a good person.” Our advice to Eleanor? As examples go, your friend Kristen Bell wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Feb 06 2020