Over the past few years Zach Galifianakis’ career has sky-rocketed to atmospheric levels and beyond. It is fair to say it is a career that is varied from performances as the hapless Alan in The Hangover to starring in Alejandro Iñárritu’s Oscar-nominated Birdman.
We caught up with the man himself to talk about his latest show, Baskets, as well as the eagerly anticipated Tulip Fever and the future of Bored to Death.
Louis had called me to see if I was interested in being in a show he wrote. But that’s maybe a better idea, for Louis to play Chip.
You could maybe switch for the next season, see if anyone notices…
The less of me people see, the better…[laughs]
What did you do to prepare for the role?
Well, I think the whole thing of dreaming up a show out of thin air you get to write the narrative either way you want to do it. I just knew I wanted to play a bitter guy who didn’t really know why he was bitter. A rodeo clown seemed like the profession that might make someone kind of angry especially one who is 47 years old.I also wanted it to be a lot about the family. This show is ultimately not about a rodeo clown but more the dynamics with his family.
How was it for you to be shooting scenes as both characters, Chip and Dale?
Yeah, it’s fun to do. We shoot it out of sequence. So we start with episode seven on the first day of work but then end up finishing on episode three. That’s the difficult part, the emotional arc and just keeping up with that stuff. The characters were pretty easy to play – they were pretty flushed out in my head.
Were you able to improv much on set?
There’s not a lot of time to improv, we didn’t have a lot of time to shoot the show. Just the nature of the show we had to move a lot. We have really good comedic actors that helped write it, we have really good writers. So we improvised to keep it fresh and entertaining for ourselves. We didn’t overdo it because it can get in the way.
How challenging was it to strike that right balance between moments of comedy and the darker elements of the show?
It’s real difficult. I attribute it to the director, Jonathan Krisel. Our goal was to do a weird comedy with our jokes but have real emotional arcs in it – that’s a hard balance. I don’t really know if it has been done to this degree. I give all the credits to the writers and directors on that. My main goal was to keep up with what the characters I was playing were doing, make sure it tracks emotionally. The twins are so different that I can tell when a line is not right for Chip and I’ll give it to Dale. Dale is real easy to play because he talks a lot whereas Chip doesn’t talk that much so it is more difficult to play.
With season two already showing in the U.S – was that something you planned for?
Well, you hope but don’t know that it will happen. I wanted the characters to start out being unlikeable meaning Chip in the hope we will have enough time to gradually show him change – become more enlightened. We do have that convenience but it wasn’t a pre-meditated thought. It was a pre-meditated thought is that I did want him to unfold and kind of become a better person. I like how the Brits do it – only run a show for a few seasons and that’s good enough whereas here in the United States we beat the proverbial horse to death.
Ala Fawlty Towers and the like…
Yes! That would still be on television here in the US.
What parallels can you draw between yourself and Chip when you were starting out as an actor?
I think it’s like anything and everybody feels this way, I imagine, and not just in an artistic endeavour. The parallels is that Chip always feels like he is an outsiders and in the first season when he meets a group of outsiders he becomes not so much of an outsider. But even that has isolationism in it. Chip is not that cool of a guy but wants to be one.
Sometimes we just don’t fit into places – that struggle to find that community to fit in. I think ultimately for Chip is going to have to come to grips with that his family is his community whether he likes it or not. Forced relations drives comedy to me and also relationships you have to have with people that you don’t choose to. Those are really easy targets for comedy – those kind of forced relationships.
One of the plots of the show is Chip chasing his estranged wife – what dating or relationship advice would you give or have been given?
Listen, the best relationship advice I ever got was from my father at 18. My father said ‘look, you are just too young and stupid to know what’s going on’. I was going to get married and told me to go see the world. That advice at the time was completely wrong in my head but now he is completely right. My dad gave me the best advice about that kind of stuff. My advice to men is to respect women. What’s happened with men these days have become such a Madison-Avenue-Hollywood creates what they think what men should be. To me the best men can be, if lucky enough to do it, is to just be a good dad and human being and not drive fast cars and not grab his dick all the time. Men could really go through a re-hashing if you ask me [laughs].
We are also super excited about Tulip Fever – were you able to share any beard tips with the great Christoph Waltz?
I didn’t work with him at all. I didn’t get a chance to hang out with Christoph. I’ve met him and he’s incredibly funny. In a matter of fact I am in a scene with Judy Dench and we shot that completely different. I don’t think legitimate actors want to be in the same room as me [laughs].
What was it like for you to be able to show audiences your whole range of skills in a film that’s different to what you normally do?
When you’re lucky and can keep doing this performing thing, I think part of you as a comic you can run out of tricks or repeat yourself – that can be boring for the audience and the person doing it. I didn’t want to keep doing the same thing. I kind of come from a more esoteric background, if you will anyway – I was just performing jokes in a coffee house and got lucky. I have a different background and kind of miss that smaller audience a little bit
With a new president in the Whitehouse – how much fun would it be for you to have President Trump on Between Two Ferns?
I am not interested. I am not even interested in him. He’s a different type of, I guess he’s a human being, I don’t understand what he is so wouldn’t understand what to do with him. I wouldn’t want to give him any attention. Nothing against the guy but just don’t understand him.
When you interviewed President Obama – how nervous were you about potentially offending for real the most powerful man in the world?
You want to be respectful to human beings in general and they hopefully come in knowing what the show is about. For me to be lighter on one person than another, that’s not the essence of the show. It’s not a prank show, it’s just a rude version of myself.
The celebrity culture is so ridiculous and it’s also making fun of those sugar coated interviews celebrities often get where they are always so nice to these people. I don’t know, it’s more fun to be more real. I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone. A matter of fact, President Obama called me after we did the show, he called my cell phone. He said he hoped it would be good for my career and I almost said the same to him.
For a few years now there’s been talk of a Bored to Death film. Are you able to offer any updates? Have you seen any sort of script from Jonathan Ames?
No, I don’t know any information. All I know is that we all want to do it – I don’t know if there’s any movement. Jonathan knows we are all excited about doing it but making it come together maybe is a little bit harder. I loved working on that show, I loved those people that were on that show. We are all still friends and keep in touch – it’s a show I am very proud of.
You also voiced the Joker so did you get any advice from Mark Hamill and get the chance to ask him about the new Star Wars?
I didn’t get a chance to speak to any of the Jokers about my work. I didn’t do a lot of research on that, threw caution to the wind and did my interpretation on it. But if I talk to Mark I will let HeyUGuys know…
Will we see you perhaps move into the live action superhero movie?
No one wants to see my live-action face.
Baskets continues Thursday’s at 10.30pm, only on FOX UK