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Interview | Will Forte

Will Forte talks auditions, ‘SNL’ comparisons

Published: Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 09:12

While promoting his new film “Nebraska,” Will Forte took some time to sit down with the Daily and answer questions about the new Alexander Payne drama.


The Tufts Daily: Can you talk a little bit about your first reaction to Bob Nelson’s script and then the audition process?


Will Forte: I loved the script. It read to me more as a drama than a comedy, so I was really surprised at all these comedic moments that Alexander found, and it made me go back to the script and go, “How did I not know that this was funny, this area right here?” The script was just wonderful. The character that I was auditioning for — I just felt a connection — so I figured, why not send in a tape of me doing the scenes, knowing that I had no shot of realistically getting it? I just really loved the script, so I figured, what the heck? It was like buying a lottery ticket — you just know you have no chance.


TD: Was it more exciting to get the “SNL” call or this one?


WF: They’re very similar calls to get. They’re so exciting, but because of the way my brain works, I can’t savor that moment for very long before the fear sets in. I remember wanting that period between getting the job and starting [the job] to never end. My brain gets nervous about things and goes to worst-case scenarios. The difference [with] “SNL” — when I went into comedy — was that that was my ultimate goal. It was terrifying for me to go into it worrying that you might suck at your dream. This job, however, I would never put on a dream list — it wasn’t even a possibility. It was every bit as intimidating, but it came out of nowhere. It’s a rare experience for any actor, let alone some s***head coming from comedy.


TD: You said you felt a connection to the role. Can you elaborate on whether that made it easier when you went to prepare?


WF: Preparation-wise, it was just about being comfortable with the script, getting to know it. This character was very close to who I am in real life, so you’re comfortable because you know what you should be doing, but you’re uncomfortable because you’re very vulnerable in a way you don’t [usually] feel when you’re playing characters. Things that are more embarrassing, you can just blame on the character. This felt much closer to home and [was also more] revealing. It was terrifying in a way, but also thrilling. By the way, I wasn’t terrified throughout the whole thing, even though I’m making it sound that way. They were very good about making me feel comfortable. We had this week before shooting where we all got together and got to know each other. That was wonderful because by the time we started working, all these things I was worried about — the fear of the unknown — became known.


TD: Can you talk a little bit about Alexander Payne on set? He’s definitely known as an actor’s director.


WF: He’s an incredibly confident person — very smart [and] knows exactly what he wants — so he’s very relaxed on set, and everyone is then relaxed. He creates a very welcoming set, which helped me a lot. 

He gets to a point where the scripts are in such good shape by the time you’re working that you know what is expected of you. There is a feeling of security because you trust him, and you know he’s not going to finish a scene before he has exactly what he wants. 

That was something I had to get used to, because I would feel insecure about the way I did something, but he would assure me that we would not be moving on otherwise. 

The way he talks to actors differs in every scenario. Sometimes he’ll be very hands-on and detailed in explanations, and other times he’ll just chat with you.

TD: Can you talk a little bit about working with Bruce Dern, June Squibb and Stacy Keach?


WF: It was the best. Those three people have had such amazing careers and worked with so many amazing people, so it terrified me, but they were such wonderful people. They were such great actors. Bruce was nothing like the character you see in the movie. 

He was talkative and vibrant, and tells these long stories about Alfred Hitchcock. Then, the cameras would turn on, and he would morph into this man of few words, gruff. It was amazing to watch. June is the same way. She’s very different [from] her character. 

She’s very sweet. It was a great learning experience to see them change. And Stacy is just the ultimate cool person. He’s super mellow, always wearing a Kangol.

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