Rob Benedict [Interview]
November 16, 2011 1 Comment
6 years ago a campy independent comedy came out that probably made everyone who saw it, be just a bit nicer to the employees of your favorite middle class oriented restaurant. You know which one I am talking about. It Was Waiting… And if you’re like me, you can’t look at raw chicken and not see Luiz Guzman’s balls. And, that if Dane Cook is only limited to a couple of tacky one liners, he can be at least tolerable. But, what got me the most, was sweet, dear, lovable, Calvin. The man who developed the inability to urinate in public because of the dreaded “guy in the other stall looking at him too hard”. He was also the pathetic doe eyed man covering a double shift for a woman he loved, who in turn had no interest him whatsoever. I just wanted to hug this guy, and tell him everything was going to be okay. As awkward as he was, he was the only real character in the film. Well, the kid from Freaks and Geeks who hasn’t seemed to grow out of his awkward phase yet was there too, sad, and doe eyed as well.
But, the man behind Calvin is somebody entirely different. He is the great Rob Benedict! And, I despise the fact that I felt the need to give a brief synopsis on Waiting to make sure people know this amazing actor. I remember him from shows like the now defunct Head Case, and more so for his reoccurring role in Felicity. You remember Felicity! It was the chick show you secretly loved to watch with your girlfriend, but always pretended to hate because of your infectiously masochistic stamina in life. Shame on you! But, most recently I caught Benedict again in 2010′s A Little Help. Here we found Rob, still playing a funny and lovable character, sad even. But, this time it was serious. He had real issues. His character was moving, awe-inspiring even. It was amazing to see this obviously talented actor take on a somewhat more serious role as a pot smoking dad who desperately wants to support his son, although his wife won’t let him, all the while having a full-fledged crush on his sister-in-law that has lasted over twenty years. This is the sort of stuff that indie gems are made of. And Rob Benedict was more spot on with this role than anyone I have ever seen anyone perform….ever!
I decided to do a bit of research, and soon came to grips with the fact that I knew Rob elsewhere…..as the front man for the L.A. based indie rock band Louden Swain. An amazing group that always seemed to turn up in talking circles somewhere, but I never truly dove into their music as a package. But when I did just a few days ago, I fell in love. And with a new album, Eskimo, coming out this December, I thought it would be nice to exchange a few words with Rob Benedict himself to tell us a bit about what it is like to be a character from a cult film, where he’s headed, learn a bit about Louden Swain, and, obviously, what it was like kissing Jenna Fischer!
Rob Benedict is an amazingly nice and talented person. You are in for a treat. Let’s go:
Let’s start with saying this….if IMDB is correct, you turned 41 years old this year. Yet you still appear to be easily in your twenties? What the hell is your secret? Carrot juice?
I did?? Man, no one told ME that. Maybe that’s my secret. I don’t know, I work out, I meditate, I maintain a pretty naive and energetic approach to life. That probably helps. ….that, and truckloads of carrot juice.
Are you recognized often for your role as the nervous Calvin in Waiting? Is it getting old?
It’s only awkward when it happens in bathrooms! What with Calvin’s fear of peeing in public restrooms and all. I fear people recognizing me while I’m at a urinal. No, it doesn’t get old– we had such a blast making that movie and at the time we weren’t sure how it would be received or if it would be received at all. The fact that it has this little cult following is awesome.
How about when pesky interviewers ask if it get’s old….is this getting old?
Not yet. I’m still stuck on the fact that IMDB outed my age.
In 2010 we seemed to see a slightly more mature recreation of your roles in Felicity. Can we expect even more serious roles in the future?
It’s hard to say what the future holds……the kind of actor I am, it’s hard to predict. Coming up, I have two fairly straight roles in an episode of Psych, and then an episode of Shameless. But then I’ve also recently wrapped a mockumentary shot for the DVD/Blu-ray of Hangover Pt 2, that is all comedy. I think I tend to be most comfortable somewhere in the middle– where I can shove a little comedy into an otherwise dramatic turn. I will say that the role I played in A Little Help was especially gratifying because it was so close to who I really am. You know minus all the extra marital stuff. But I would like to continue to play roles like that, and explore that genre more too.
Not to be too invasive….but when you were kissing Jenna Fischer, did you feel like Jim Halpert for a couple of seconds?
Jenna’s a sweetheart– it was definitely not difficult play someone with a crush on her.
If you could, tell us a bit about this new short you wrote and starred in, Lifetripper? How did this come to light?
The film’s director, Graeme Joyce, was introduced to me through a mutual friend. He had this idea of doing a short about a guy who was a mechanic, who on his bus rides to and from work, would light up the bus with stand up comedy, and then he is finally persuaded to actually go onstage and perform. I used to do stand-up back in the day, and Graeme and I got together and poured over all my old stand up tapes and put together what became this little movie. I was thrilled with how it came out. It’s a sweet little film. It should hit festivals later this year.
Now, like any real actor, you are also a musician. Tell us a bit about Loudon Swain. What is your role in the band?
My role is that of lead singer and rhythm guitar player. We started playing about 10 plus years ago but in the past five years, things have really picked up for us. We’ve just completed our fourth full length CD, and returned from a tour in Europe. The fans have been amazing, and really have developed this online following. We also had a song in my movie, A Little Help earlier this year which was a trip.
Thanks– yeah, we’re putting together a press package and setting up some US tour dates now. Most likely we’ll be doing press in December, and then it’s actually released in the US (and on iTunes) in January. We’ll have a big blowout gig here, and then hit the road for a series of mini tours.
What is the inspiration behind the songs you and Loudon Swain write?
So many different things, really. Usually I bring in a song I’ve written on an acoustic guitar and the band will work its magic and we’ll mold something together. In terms of what my inspiration is when I write– it kind of depends on the mood I’m in– happy, depressed, goofy, whatever, and it finds its way into the lyrics. Sometimes its about me, sometimes I’ve made someone up. In Eskimo, a lot of the lyrics tended to drift toward a feeling of isolation, and coming to terms with who you are amidst your surroundings– in the song “Eskimo” there is the lyric “it’s like teaching architecture to an Eskimo/you can show him everything you know/he’s still gonna build it out of snow”. And that kind of became the theme of the album. We’d originally envisioned the picture of an init wearing a huge fur parka standing in the middle of the desert. The idea that you can take the man out of his surroundings but you can’t take the surroundings out of the man sort of thing. In terms of the feel of the song, a lot of it depends on who we’ve been listening to. We all bring a wide range of influences to the table. For the Eskimo album, there was a lot of Wilco and My Morning Jacket being batted about. I think that found its way into a lot of the songs. But then there’s stuff from our past that creeps in as well. Borja (Mike Borja, our bassist) and I were always big REM fans, and that tends to sneak in. We’re all also big classic rock fans and there’s always a hint of that as well.
Finally, what was the last thing that made you smile?
This question itself kind of makes me smile….Man– I tell you when we were in Europe just now playing these shows, I was grinning ear to ear every night. We played for about 100 people on the last night of the tour, in London, and you have all these people singing along to the songs– it doesn’t get much better than that. We’ve worked really hard as a band and it was such a nice payoff for all the work we’ve put in. I was talking to a friend about this the other night, and I think this applies to my acting career as well–just to tie the whole interview together here– But there are some things you experience as you get older, that you are able to enjoy and even DO better– things you might not have been able to pull off 5 years ago. But you get to a certain point where opportunities come your way, and it’s all so much more gratifying because of all the time and work you’ve put in leading up to this point…you’re ready for it. That idea makes me smile too.