Jesse Plemons takes a breather from creepy-role duty

Actor of Breaking Bad and Fargo fame tries out comedy in Game Night.

In Game Night, Jesse Plemons takes a break from playing a character that is “intense or creepy.”

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

In Game Night, Jesse Plemons takes a break from playing a character that is “intense or creepy.”

This is Jesse Plemons like we’ve never seen him. Best known for a trio of dramatic roles on television — Landry Clarke in the football drama Friday Night Lights, Todd Alquist in crime series Breaking Bad and Ed Blumquist in Fargo — he has made a name playing characters he describes as “intense or creepy.”

On the phone from Los Angeles to chat up his new comedy Game Night, he’s neither of those things. Friendly and soft-spoken, he says his latest character Gary, a cop with a broken heart and a suspicious nature, “feels like he was in his own movie or had snuck from some other movie and just seemed really out of place.”

Game Night sees Plemons as the oddball neighbour to Max and Annie, played by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams. The hypercompetitive couple host weekly game nights, get-togethers Gary used to be invited to before he divorced their friend Debbie. When an innocent murder mystery game escalates to real life danger, Max and Annie welcome Gary’s expertise in law enforcement.

Plemons hasn’t done a lot of comedy but says he liked Game Night immediately.

“You read a lot of scripts,” he says, “and I find that you know pretty early on whether you respond to it or not. It is pretty rare to read a comedy script and actually laugh out loud sitting by yourself.”

To create the character, Plemons, who will soon be seen alongside Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in the Martin Scorsese movie The Irishman, mixed deadpan delivery with a thousand-yard-stare that is as unnerving as it is funny.

“I watched a lot of cops for inspiration,” he says. “Not to say I ever found a Gary per se, but I felt like it was an easy world to step into.”

When I mention that Gary’s situation — he’s a lonely sad sack, still pining for his ex wife — might make it easy for an audience to feel sorry for him and not laugh, he shudders.

“I didn’t even think about that,” he says. “I should have been worried about that but somehow I wasn’t. I could immediately picture him. I feel like everyone has come across someone in their lives who is a great person but you don’t necessarily want to talk to them. There is something really sweet and innocent about Gary that I really liked and I think maybe that’s what people will respond to.

“No matter what genre I am doing I still try and try to bring truth and honesty to it. That is also the kind of comedy I respond to. Not that I don’t like broad comedy but this is something I haven’t been able to play around with in the past.”

Ultimately, however, he says the only difference between playing drama and comedy is “that it is hard to escape that, ‘I hope people laugh,’ thought in the back of your mind.”

He says Game Night, like his recent appearance in Oscar-nominated The Post, offered up the chance to do something new and stretch as an actor.

“That’s what I love about acting,” he says. “I don’t feel like you ever really arrive or feel like you’ve done it all. There is always a new part, a new story to try and figure out.”

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