ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Linoleum star and comedian Jim Gaffigan about the newly released dramedy that is now playing in theaters. Gaffigan discussed working with Rhea Seehorn and his time on Flight of the Conchords.
“Cameron Edwin (Jim Gaffigan), the host of a failing children’s science TV show called Above & Beyond, has always had aspirations of being an astronaut,” reads the movie’s synopsis. “After a mysterious space-race era satellite coincidentally falls from space and lands in his backyard, his midlife crisis manifests in a plan to rebuild the machine into his dream rocket. As his relationship with his wife (Rhea Seehorn) and daughter (Katelyn Nacon) start to strain, surreal events begin unfolding around him — a doppelgänger moving into the house next door, a car falling from the sky, and an unusual teenage boy forging a friendship with him. He slowly starts to piece these events together to ultimately reveal that there’s more to his life story than he once thought.”
Tyler Treese: One of the things that I thought was really wonderful was this message about not letting your passions be dreams. You obviously went to business school, then you chased a career in entertainment, which has clearly worked out. So how did that resonate with you for this role?
Jim Gaffigan: That’s a great question. I would say that there is something … that’s what I think is so unique about Linoleum, is that there’s so many different takeaways and so many different themes and questions. But I would also say that I think that, and maybe you are saying this, but I think that like the dreams, like ambition — Cameron’s desire to be an astronaut — is that what is fantastic? Or is a fulfilling, rich relationship fantastic? You know what I mean? Is that the measure of a life, you know what I mean? Is a measure of a life some kind of passion or dream you had? Or is [it] humans? These social beings? Is [it] the relationship? That’s one of the questions that, having been to a bunch of screenings, consistently comes up. But also the price that we might pay for some of these pursuits.
I love the dynamic between you and Rhea Seehorn. What impressed you the most about just working off of her as a scene partner? You share some really great moments.
Yeah, I mean, she is the real deal. I think that the really impressive thing about Rhea is [that] there was a thoroughness to the preparation that was not … there was no selfish intention around it. She was very concerned about the arc of the story. So a conversation we kept having is that we didn’t want our relationship — in the movie, we portray this couple [where] there’s an impending divorce. But we didn’t want to portray it as this marriage is dead because often, people that have relationships that end, it’s not necessarily that all the love is gone. The flat-footed response would be [that] there’s an absence of caring that exists between these two.
But the reality is that in most relationships, there is, and where the movie goes, we wanted to serve that. We wanted to make sure that the characters … there was a realism, and every moment or beat was earned. It wasn’t what I call “the first bus,” which is — nothing against Married… With Children, but that married relationship, just the antipathy between the two participants … it should have some flavors in it.
I’ve been so impressed with the roles that you’ve been taking for the past decade — you’re doing a lot of challenging work. How do you choose what projects you undertake?
Thank you, but some of it is … it’s more fulfilling to do these complex characters. Some of it is also doing things that I enjoy consuming, myself. Like, I would much rather watch a movie like Linoleum than a broad silly comedy. That’s not to say that like doing a broad silly romantic comedy isn’t fun. I mean, that is fun, but it’s just not as fulfilling as playing the different layers of a relationship. And, obviously, portraying two people in a movie is fun stuff, you know what I mean? They have a scene where they come together and they kind of interact that and there’s opportunities for humor, but it’s also you’re serving a larger journey. There’s larger questions. Some of it is just, selfishly, it’s more rewarding for me [Laugh], you know?
One of your earlier appearances I really loved was the “Friends” song in Flight of the Concords. I thought that was so fun. How was working on that show and getting to be a part of one of their music videos?
I mean, that show … every project is so different and you’re constantly learning. But I remember being a fan of that show — and I do not sing at all by the way — so I remember going into the sound stage and Bret [McKenzie] was like, “Don’t worry.” And I’m like, “Look, I can’t sing. I don’t want to ruin this for you.” And he was like, “Don’t worry, we can fix it.”
But what was so interesting about Flight of the Concords is that there was a script, and the script was fine and we maybe did it once, and then we improvised the whole thing. And by the way, it was the same in Portlandia, where I think the script was there because there are some people that can’t improvise. But the improv is where you find those really kind of quirky, offbeat things that are fun. And so, Rhys [Darby] is — obviously those guys are so funny — but Rhys is so funny. So I think that the reason Flight of the Concords worked so well is that they knew that some of the gems were going to be found in improv, and they opened it up to that. Then of course there’s the layer of the fantastic music, right? Which is so foreign to me — that’s just me getting lucky, being able to be in that “Friends” song.