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Andy Samberg Interview: ‘That’s My Boy,’ Leaving ‘SNL’ and Vanilla Ice

Andy Samberg
Sony Pictures

That’s My Boy‘ hits theaters tomorrow, and in the film Andy Samberg plays Todd, the son of Donny (Adam Sandler), a crude, obnoxious guy who became famous as a teen for bedding his teacher. Todd was the result of that statutory affair, and fled home (and his insane dad) at 18 to start his life over. But when the washed-up, beer-guzzling Donny gets into some trouble with the IRS, he tracks Todd down on the eve of his wedding and shenanigans ensue.

We spoke with Samberg today about his role in the movie, crossing over from ‘SNL,’ working with one of his comedy heroes, and yes, ‘MacGruber 2.’

I really loved you in the movie.

Thanks!

You were so great, and I really enjoyed that you played the straight guy this time out. Is that something that drew you to the role initially?

It is not what drew me to the role, but it was actually the thing I was most nervous about. I’m usually… Some people might describe my acting style as over the top, but it was definitely the biggest challenge of it. I was actually really relieved. [Adam] Sandler and his crew built in a lot of laughs for me even though I was playing the reactionary character, and as the movie went on I got to do more fun stuff, too.

How did you get involved with the Happy Madison crew for this film?

I first heard about the script and I was like, that sounds like something that could be perfect for me, so I read it and really liked it, and I called Sandler and told him that if he was thinking about doing the movie that I would love to throw my hat in the ring to play his son.

Did they bring you in to audition, or was he sold on the idea right away?

No, I think maybe he met with some other people and we talked a couple times on the phone, and he decided he was going to do it. And once they decided that, they just called me and asked me to do it. Which felt great.

How did you approach the role and manage to balance your own brand of humor with what they were going for with the tightly-wound character of Todd?

I felt like I knew kind of how I was going to play it right out of the gate, but they definitely let me work on my character a little bit, which was nice, just to put it in words that were more comfortable for me because, you know, Sandler’s a writer and he acknowledged that I also am a writer, which was… I really appreciated that trust. But I didn’t really do much to prepare for the role outside of getting a shorter haircut. I pretty much just showed up on set every day and tried to make it funny.

So your hair was definitely in character? It was method acting?

Oh yeah, I had that hedge fund manager hair.

It’s a very specific hairstyle.

My whole personality changed instantly.

The film definitely has a little heart to it in its own crude way, which is reminiscent of Sandler’s earlier work. You make Todd a very empathetic character in this sea of absurdity, though some of your goofier facial expressions and physical acting remain — were those things you tried to remain conscious of at all times, to keep it reigned in a bit?

Definitely. Sandler’s character is so big and so many of the surrounding characters are so insane that me and the director Sean [Anders] were talking about that I would just get laughs off staying grounded and sort of being the window for the audience, just so that there’s somebody in there being like, “Are you f—ing seeing how crazy this is?!” You know, a classic thing in comedy for somebody to play that part. I think especially for the first half of the movie that is my primary role, just to point that out. But also, the cool and funny part about the character is that because he’s such a reactionary character to his upbringing and having had this weird family experience, he’s so uptight that it kind of lends itself to a fun, quirky character trait, like carrying around an extra pair of underwear and that kind of stuff.

You’ve been compared at times to Adam Sandler from earlier in his career. Is he someone who you’ve looked up to for a long time?

Yeah, without a doubt. I started watching ‘SNL’ when I was eight, and I think he started on the show four years after that? Something like that. As soon as he was on I was a huge fan, like all his [Weekend] Update features and stuff I was really obsessed with. By the time I got into high school and college I was just full-on obsessed with his early records and ‘Billy Madison’ and ‘Happy Gilmore.’

Besides working with someone you’ve looked up to for most of your life, what was it like to work with Sandler specifically?

It was fun! He’s a sweet guy. Everyone says this about him, but it really is true — he’s a very stand-up dude. He’s very loyal to his friends and his crew. He keeps the same group working with him all the time, and that’s a rare thing. He really stands by people. And just in terms of comedy, it’s awesome. I found a lot of similarities in the way that we work in that we’re always trying to top the thing that we’re working on, and can we write a better joke for this beat, and is this working? He really likes to examine it and make sure it’s working in a way that he likes.

Both of you being comedic actors with a background in ‘SNL,’ was improvisation something that was involved or encouraged?

Definitely encouraged. It wasn’t a lot of improv while the camera was rolling, but it would be, let’s play this scene. Okay, now we have that coverage, let’s think of some alts. And then we would come up with a bunch of different things to try and we definitely added a bunch of stuff on set that was not in the script, but the script itself was also very funny. There [were] a lot of different funnels of comedy pouring into the cake mix.

And of course I have to ask, what was it like to work with Vanilla Ice?

It was, I would say, like a dream. He’s a very, very nice man as well. It’s been funny watching so many people kind of get to know the new him in this round of doing press for the movie and everything, ’cause he is… he’s  not like what you’re expecting, if you were expecting him to be the guy he was when “Ice Ice Baby” came out. He’s like hyper-positive, really believes in positive thinking and putting good energy out into the world and karma, and he has all these little sayings that’s he’s always flipping off and sort of getting through the day. He was fun. He was game to make fun of himself and do the sort of fake version of his own life, which is a brave thing to do, to make fun of your own image, especially when you’re as well known as he is. And he kills in the movie for it, he’s great. He’s really fun to watch. The theater goes crazy for him.

He is pretty funny in it. I grew up with Vanilla Ice in my life.

We all did!

This is your first film to be released following your departure from ‘SNL.’ Were you aware you’d be leaving ‘SNL’ at the time you made ‘That’s My Boy’?

No, not at all. I shot it last summer and I still didn’t know what I was going to do. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have announced as early as I did if I didn’t know I was going to have to do 800 interviews where people asked me if I was leaving or not. But I did know once the season ended that I was going to, so I talked to Lorne [Michaels] about it, and let him know, and made sure that he understood how much I was grateful to him and all that stuff. And now this is happening when it’s happening. It’s funny with movies the stuff you don’t really have control over when they come out, and how they come out. You just kind of know if you like them or not going in, and you shoot them and what happens happens.

Speaking of ‘SNL,’ how did Will Forte, Ana Gasteyer, and Rachel Dratch get involved with the film? Is that something you helped coordinate?

Sandler definitely knew I was buddies with Forte, and he loved ‘MacGruber,’ which was directed by my besty, Jorma [Taccone], and it’s one of my favorite movies ever made!

For good reason. It’s hilarious!

It’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. So Sandler loved that, and we were looking for somebody to play Phil and it was Sandler’s idea. He was like, “What about Forte for that guy?” And I was like, “Holy s—, that would be incredible.” He was like, “Call him, tell him he’s in the movie!”

No questions.

That’s how he does it. He just calls people and tells them to be in stuff. He doesn’t really… He assumes they wanna be in a huge Adam Sandler movie.

And who would say no?

Yeah, exactly.

And what was it like to be on set with some of your ‘SNL’ colleagues as well as the Happy Madison crew? That had to be a cool balance of familiar and new.

It was awesome! Working with ‘SNL’ folks is always fun. It’s really cool for me to get to work with… I had one season of crossover with Dratch, so me and her are buddies for sure, but I loved getting to spend time with Ana ’cause she’s someone I’ve looked up to for so long and she’s so f—in’ talented. Just to have them around, and Sandler is obviously ex-’SNL’ and has a bunch of friends. Even the writers that swing by set and stuff like Tim Herlihy and Robert Smigel all worked there. So it’s cool to keep it in the family. On ‘Grown Ups 2‘ we went and did a day, me and a bunch of friends that are all ‘SNL’ related, and we’ve got [Chris] Rock and [David] Spade and all these people, and Cheri Oteri — it’s a big family that’s sort of… You can always connect with people who’ve worked there ’cause there’s something sort of unspoken about what you have to go through there in order to work there, and it helps you connect with people who have also.

What’s up next for you? I read this week that you’re working on a new show for the BBC.

Yeah, I’m about to go shoot that in England. It’s called ‘Cuckoo,’ and I’m really excited about it.  I’m not sure when that’ll start airing over there, but I’ll be shooting that for five or six weeks, I think. And then in August a movie called ‘Celeste and Jesse Forever’ that I did with Rashida Jones that was at Sundance this year is going to come out which I’m excited about. Really proud of that. And then in September ‘Hotel Transylvania,’ which is another Happy Madison/Sony movie, but it’s animated [with] me and Sandler, is going to come out. I have a small part in this movie called ‘The To-Do List’ with Aubrey Plaza that Bill Hader‘s wife Maggie directed and wrote, and that is… fun.

Wasn’t that originally called ‘The Hand Job’?

It was, but I don’t think they could sell it as ‘The Hand Job.’

That’s just unfortunate.

Like how ‘Friends With Benefits’ was originally called ‘F— Buddies,’ but no dice on that, either.

Are there any projects that you think would be incredibly difficult for you to get made, but you’d love to make if someone gave you the money? Let’s say someone hands you $10 million tomorrow to make a movie or a TV pilot — what would you do with it?

Man, I’d probably hand it straight over to the ‘MacGruber 2′ team.

Yes! Hero!

I don’t think there’s anything I’d wanna see more than that. I’m not giving up on ‘MacGruber 2.’ I know Will said that, but I feel like the legend of ‘MacGruber’ only grows. Just because they’re not actively talking about it at this moment doesn’t mean that it’s something that can’t happen in the future. I mean, they’re doing ‘Zoolander 2′ and ‘Anchorman 2′ now, so many years later. I think you never give up on the dream of a crazy sequel.

Was there anything from ‘SNL’ — a character or a sketch — that you secretly wanted to see made into a movie?

[Laughs] …Nope!

That’s a terrible answer!

I’ve been a great fan of ‘SNL’ spin-off movies, but I’ve never had one that I thought just really deserved one.

I have an awesome idea for a Stefon movie.

I think you might not be the only one… yeah. It would be fun to see him in his world!

I just imagine him waking up and he’s hungover, and he takes his job at ‘SNL’ really seriously, even though they don’t pay him at all.

I like that! I like that his job in the movie is still coming on Weekend Update and giving travel tips for the city.

He’s like a travel guide and he takes it really seriously, and he runs into Drunk Uncle at a bar.

Yeah, and it shows him on other shows, like he’s on ‘The Today Show.’

‘That’s My Boy’ is in theaters now. Watch the NSFW red-band trailer below:

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