It’s not exactly uncommon to find comedic actors who have made the transition, or at least attempted the transition, to more serious acting roles.
Nick Kroll’s latest creation, the indie-comedy Adult Beginners, is an undeniably sharp departure from the character-based sketch comedy that the comedian’s fans have come to expect from his Comedy Central show, Kroll Show. Though it has its comic moments, Adult Beginners, which explores the relationship between two estranged siblings as they struggle to adapt to the challenges of adult life and familial responsibilities, is far more serious than one would expect. As well as being the leading man, Kroll is credited with producing the picture and developing the story.
It’s obvious that he’s proud of the final result, and for good reason: the film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last year was an undeniable success. Kroll was back in Toronto last week to promote its theatrical release. I had the opportunity to talk about his new film, the end of Kroll Show, and what he’ll be working on next.
Kroll was positive when asked about the experience of taking the film to TIFF.
“You know, you hear about a movie going to a festival [and getting sold]. I went and had the ideal situation which is [that] you bring your movie, you don’t have distribution, we showed it that night and started having midnight meetings with different distributers who were interested in it and then we sort of zeroed in on one and negotiated over a day or so and then at like two in the morning in our hotel room an email goes back and forth like ‘we did it, the deal is done’.”
“Toronto seemed like the right place for us [to bring Adult Beginners to] and it was,” Kroll said. “The audiences were great and it was a great experience.”
But why now? What was it that made Kroll feel that it was the right time to take on a dramatic project? The idea for the film actually began more than three years ago, before Kroll began work on season one of Kroll Show. As the youngest of four children and uncle to numerous nieces and nephews, Kroll has a lot in common with Jake, the film’s younger-sibling-entrepreneur-turned-full-time-baby-sitter protagonist.
“In general so far in my career, it’s like you just get a lot of things going and see what takes hold and where you get momentum,” said Kroll. “I don’t assume that anything I work on is going to actually get made or turn into anything real. Partly for me it’s the exercise in just physically doing something and learning what I can doing it. Then hopefully it gets made and hopefully it’s good.”
“I was interested in being able to do some [more dramatic acting] and I would still argue that, weirdly, a lot of the characters on Kroll Show, while they were insane I was trying to act them as realistically as possible. Or at least as honestly as possible, from wherever their emotional place was,” he pointed out. “It was something new that I hadn’t had the chance to do that I was excited to be able to try.”
The one thing Kroll seemed reluctant to talk about is what, exactly, he will be spearheading next. With the announcement that the currently airing third season of Kroll Show will be the last, Kroll is finally free to pursue other major projects and having proved that he can handle a dramatic role and successfully put together a television show, it seems there isn’t much that would be impossible for the 36 year old comedian to accomplish.
“Part of ending Kroll Show was feeling like we had covered a lot of the territory that I wanted to do and it now just leaves me more time to pursue both [comedic and dramatic projects],” said Kroll, noting that the end of Kroll Show will give him more time to work on films that he is interested in and begin to produce and develop projects for other comedians. Currently, Kroll is starring in several projects including My Blind Brother, a feature length picture based on Sophie Goodhart’s short film. He has also lent his voice talents to Seth Rogan’s animated adult-comedy Sausage Party, a film that Kroll describes as “the dirtiest movie that [he’s] ever been a part of”. The extra free time has also given him time to do more stand-up work, something that he says he has missed since becoming busy with film and television.
“Whenever I’m doing one thing it makes me appreciate the other things that I am doing and vice versa,” he said. “It’s always the goal to keep doing a few different things. Being able to hop from one to the other makes me enjoy them all the more.”
Part of the reluctance to announce a new project may be a reluctance to become boxed in as either a dramatic actor or a comedian. He emphasized that the experience of dramatic acting has made him realize what he is capable of.
“It just made me want to continue to experiment and try to just keep making new things and trying new media,” Kroll said when asked what he would take away from the experience of working on Adult Beginners. “It made me realize that it’s good to take risks creatively and professional and see what happens.”
Adult Beginners is now playing in select theatres.
Click here to read Shannon Page’s Adult Beginners review
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