Laraine Newman titled her memoir May You Live in Interesting Times, a phrase many people believe to be a curse. But Laraine thinks it’s an appropriate framework for her life and career. She tells Marc what it was like to be a part of culture-changing comedy institutions as a founding member of both The Groundlings and Saturday Night Live. They also talk about her prolific career as a voiceover artist in animation which also began on serendipitous terms.
Hugh Grant thinks he’s only getting better as an actor now. The work he’s done for the past few years feels real to him, as opposed to felling like he was faking it when he made all those romantic comedies. Hugh and Marc talk about that realization and what happened in his life to make him finally feel less insecure as an actor. They also discuss his early comedy troupe, his recent habit of playing scoundrels and villains, and his mission to push back against the violating behavior of the British tabloids.
In order for Eddie Murphy to become “Eddie Murphy” he had to become a comedian. Eddie tells Marc, comic-to-comic, what it was like being a Black teenager on Long Island building a standup act fueled by impressions and inspired by Richard Pryor. And now, with fatherhood at the center of his life, Eddie explains why he wants to bookend his career by going back on stage. Eddie also talks about the real reason he exploded on the movie scene, why he stopped doing standup before he turned 30, and why it was finally the right time to make Coming 2 America.
Jake Gyllenhaal knows he has a great job as a celebrated film actor. But the thing that brings him true joy is bursting into song as part of a stage musical. Jake talks with Marc about his love of theater, which ended up landing him three Tony Award nominations this year, one for acting and two for producing. They also get into why Broadway needs to evolve when it returns, why Jake was in awe of Heath Ledger, and why he was completely surprised by Marc after this episode started.
Tim Allen has embodied enough different personas - Tim Taylor, Mike Baxter, Buzz Lightyear, Santa Claus - that he often doesn’t know which guy he actually is. But at least he’s no longer the directionless young man who made bad choices and ran afoul of the law. Tim tells Marc how he cleaned up his act and made it as a club comic before breaking out with one of the most popular sitcoms in network history. They also talk about how Tim’s emotions are running high as Last Man Standing comes to an end and why his new competition show, Assembly Required, is surprisingly out of his comfort zone.
Michael K. Williams knows that a lot of people consider his character, Omar Little, to be the best character on The Wire. But he has a different opinion about the show’s best character. Michael tells Marc about how he brought his struggles as an addict to his performance, how he relapsed while making the show, and how the cast gave him the support he needed to get clean. They also talk about Michael’s scar and how it helped him land his first acting job, why he loves Rachael Ray so much, and why his role in the movie Body Brokers was so personal to him.
Melissa Leo’s acting style is a combination of gut instincts and a compulsive need to ask questions. It’s a style that already earned her an Oscar and continual employment, but also keeps her from falling into the trap of business-as-usual. Melissa and Marc talk about her performances in movies like Frozen River The Fighter and the new film Body Brokers, how she played a character not unlike Mitzi Shore for the series I’m Dying Up Here, and what is the one type of part she refuses to play, even though she gets offers to play it over and over again.
Sam Neill never had any ambitions as an actor, which is not true about his ambitions as a wine maker. Speaking to Marc from one of his vineyards in New Zealand, Sam talks about how he’s still striving to make the greatest bottle of wine as he lives a sort of double-life as a very familiar face on screens big and small. They also discuss Sam’s ideal music festival, their shared love of Randy Newman, the therapeutic reason Sam started acting in the first place, his new movie Rams, and his own ram named Jeff Goldblum.
Jodie Foster came out on the other side of being a child actor as a two-time Oscar winner, a celebrated director, a producer and someone who is content with her life. She tells Marc how she did it, which has a lot to do with her mother and establishing boundaries. They also talk about how Taxi Driver changed her conception of acting, the great lesson she learned playing Nell, why she loves David Fincher, and why she maintains strong relationships with a lot of her co-workers.
Mark Harris is a writer, journalist, critic and lover of film, which is why Marc wanted to talk with him. After months of at-home movie watching, Marc is convinced that artistic appreciation and critical thinking around film is more important than ever. Mark Harris has devoted a large chunk of his life to doing that kind of work, including his books on Hollywood after World War II, filmmaking in the late 1960s, and his new biography about Mike Nichols. They also talk about censorship fights, pandemic award shows and being married to Tony Kushner.