The Backlot Episodes


— A guy opens his door and gets shot you think that of me. No, I am the one who knocks.

Alright! It is cavity time!

I’m the grooviest dude who has ever grooved on.

Six Americans get caught playing movie make-believe with the CIA at the airport and executed. It’s “a national embarrassment” they are calling the operation.

You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither I’m in the empire business. —

Eric: Bryan Cranston went from playing one of TV’s most lovable goofballs to one of its scariest anti-heroes along the way he’s portrayed a blacklisted screenwriter, a conflicted American president; he’s battled Godzilla and has appeared in over 150 different films and TV shows. But before all that he was just a young man on a motorcycle.

Bryan Cranston: I realized that I wanted to be an actor when I was 22 years old and I was stranded at a picnic site on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. It was – I was on a motorcycle and it was raining for six days straight and the only thing I had with me really for entertainment was a compilation of plays, and I was reading Hedda Gabbler at the time. And it was daylight and I’m reading and reading and by the time I finished the last page I was leaning, and I didn’t really know why and I leaned forward and I realized, “Oh! My God! It’s dark outside!”

I was leaning toward the only light maybe 15 feet away. There’s one light for the whole area. I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing. How did I miss the transition? How did I miss dusk altogether? It fascinated me. It gave me pause. And it was at that moment that I had this epiphany that I should do something like this.

This took me away and I already loved the art of acting and evoking emotions in other people, it’s very empowering. But I came up with this credo that I live by. And it’s that I would attempt to do something that I love and hopefully become good at it as opposed to doing something I’m good at but not in love with.

So, once I made up my mind that’s what I was going to do, then I had to put it into action.

Eric: Mr. Cranston began auditioning for a variety of roles and along the way, he learned an important lesson.

Bryan Cranston: I always thought and most of you do too, that when you go on an interview or an audition that you’re trying to get a job. Right? That makes sense? You’re trying to get a job. You’re there to get a job whether you’re a director, or an art director, or AD or whatever the case is. You’re interviewing with a company in hopes that they will hire you. You’re in casting. Same thing you’re pitching a story idea as a writer, same thing you’re trying to get a job. And as long as you feel you’re trying to get a job you want something from someone else that you don’t have. And when you put yourself in a position of need, it’ll stay away from you. It wants to stay away from you. Why? Because people don’t want to hire people who need anything. You come into my office and I’m casting, and I feel the need from you? I’m not as confident. I’m not as confident because there’s a different feeling if you if you can do this one thing which I did 25 years ago and really own it not say I’m going to try that but really practice it, really take it in; ingest it, and let it live inside of you, it could possibly change your life like it changed mine.

And that is this: you are there at that interview to give them something; not to get anything. And that’s the difference. And you can’t do it in a phony way. You can’t do it like” I’m giving you this gift. Now, don’t you have something for me?”

You know, you can do it and expect someone to give you something back because then you’re not giving that gift freely. There are conditions attached to the gift you’re giving and that can’t work. It doesn’t work that way.

It is unbelievable the difference you’ll feel going into a room if you truly feel and value your ability. I’m assuming you’re all talented. Let’s get to that part. But talent alone will not create a career for any of you. No one who just had talent has a career.

It – it is persistence and patience. And this attitude. There is no substitute for putting in the hours. There just isn’t. So you have to be willing to devote yourself and all the time it takes. There’s no shortcut. I’m not going to give you any secret but you work on it, and you go in, and you have to own that feeling. And Someone who says they hate to audition it’s because they’re going there with the wrong need. They’re going there because they think they’re trying to get a job. “I don’t want to put myself in a position,” you sit in a waiting room you see other people, “Oh my! I have seen that guy he’s so good. Oh god!”

You see what you think is competition. It’s not competition. If they want you they’ll hire you if they don’t want you to hire someone else. Move on. And that’s it.

So once you adapt that, the positive energy that you start to imbue in yourself and others is unbelievable. It’s it’s life-changing.

Eric: During his years of auditioning he found that when one door was shut another would soon open.

Bryan Cranston: There were pilots that I was up for down to three guys. In the fifth audition and I didn’t get it and the guys who did it was like “Hey, have fun. That’s great!” And I truly meant it because it was not meant for me. I’ll give you one example of this and why it’s healthy to adopt this point of view. NBC 5th audition test three guys we’re in there. It goes to someone else. Four days later I tested for a show at Fox, But for the CW. That I didn’t get it went to someone else. OK, so the other guys I was with who didn’t get it also, “God son of a bitch!” And it’s like it’s, it’s all right. Well, it’s the way it is. It wasn’t wasn’t for you. A week after that I get an audition for this show called “Malcolm in the Middle.”

— I just love you boys so much who wants a hug?

You thought no one would discover your dirty little secret, didn’t you? That clever little flail of the wrist every four steps masking the hop.

Who wants to make five bucks?  – Make it 10! – Done!

You’re a good son.

I got him, honey. I got him, don’t worry. —

Had I gotten one of those other two jobs that I thought I wanted, that they shot the pilot and both of them did not sell, I would have been looking for another job. So when something you think appears like a negative, maybe it’s not a negative because it wasn’t for you anyway. If it’s supposed to be for you then great. If it’s not, OK.

Eric: Before Malcolm in the middle. Mr. Cranston honed his comedic chops on numerous sitcoms most notably as the dentist Tim Watley on Seinfeld.

— George, you know Tim Watley? – Yeah dentist of the stars. What’s up? – I’ll tell you what’s up. I’m a Jew. I finish converting two days ago.

Did you hear the one about the rabbi and the farmer’s daughter? Those aren’t Matza Balls! —

Eric: In Hollywood actors are often typecast by easily defined labels. Thankfully Mr. Cranston never put much stock into that concept. After years of comedic work he was ready for a truly dramatic departure.

Bryan Cranston: I knew that I can’t do another comedy. I got two offers to do comedies and I turned them both down.

To me, it was an easy decision. Easy! I didn’t give it a second thought. To others, they might accept it because it was another job. But it would be – like you were talking about – it would be pigeon-holing myself into that position. And I wanted to do other things. So I informed the agency that I’m looking for a drama. Let’s look for a drama because…It’s so funny. It’s like you do one thing and they say, “Oh! He’s a drama guy.” Then you do a comedy, “Oh! He’s a comedy guy.” Like, we’re just actors. That’s what I hate, I hate – I hate the comment, “Oh! He’s a theater actor. He’s a theater actor,”  almost in a derisive way. You know “He’s soap opera actor. A soap opera actor.” Which I was; which I was proud of; which was a great training ground; which was an opportunity for me to act every single day and try to make something honest of scenes that were repetitive and weren’t written very well. But you just do the best you can forgive yourself and move on.

Eric: One of Bryan Cranston most notable roles was the X-Files episode titled Drive.

— You shut up and drive, you understand!? Oh yeah. You think I don’t know. You think I’m just some pudknocker. But I get it, man! —

This marks his first collaboration with writer Vince Gilligan who would become the creator of Breaking Bad.

— I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger.

Say my name. – You’re Heisenberg. – You’re god damn right! —

Bryan Cranston: When I first met with Vince Gilligan – on my first meeting with him which was supposed to be 20 minutes and lasted an hour and a half. And when I went in there I told him what the character looked like. I told him what how he dressed. I told him all these details. I had –  that I had a thin mustache that looked “impotent,” is what I called it. In other words, it was his writing that inspired me to daydream. And that’s an actor’s job. It’s part of the actor’s palette, to start daydreaming character and you develop those characteristics along the way. So without his really brilliant writing, it would have been harder for me to develop those thoughts because the hardest work we’ve ever had to do is on poorly written material. The easiest work we’ve ever had to do is on brilliant material, where you read it and you’re already flooded with – it resonates so deeply and you have a plethora of ideas that you want to go and you’re so excited, and I would wake up and come up with ideas. I knew he should be overweight. I knew that he would – I took the color out of his face, you know. All these things that just came to me because it was – I was so inspired by the work. Without that, and there are many occasions, many more occasions where you’ll read material that is not that good. You have to do your own work. What is that particular character look like. What does he sound like.

Eric: When playing a character as dark as Walter White Mr. Cranston stressed the importance of leaving one’s work at the office.

Bryan Cranston: I always talked about this I want to create a foundation at home that’s really sane so that I can go insane in work. So there’s like almost an invisible tether to my foundation that I come back to that makes me sane, so that I can go out in my work. But I always know I come back at the end of every day when I’m shooting a show; especially something as tense as breaking bad was. I would go into the hair and makeup trailer and put a hot steamy towel on my head and just let the hot moistness just kind of lift all the tension and dirt and anxiety that you’re feeling for that day and wash Walter White off of me; take off his clothes and I’d leave him at the studio. I never brought him home. That’s the only way that you can survive. Really you have to. You have to be able to compartmentalize. You know you hear a lot of stories about actors who are, you know, who never are without the character. And I would think, “Oh, my god! I would be exhausted!” You’d be exhausted. So I would recommend that work on your home life. Make sure that’s solid then if, if your home life is boring in some, in some great way then you have a chance to make something very exciting in your professional life. Tell a story about one of the first Emmys that I went to and I’m in a tuxedo and my wife’s in a gown and we’re picked up in a limo. We go there and “Flash! Flash! Flash” and “Pictures, pictures, autographs.”

And I’m up for an award, and the parties, and all this pomp and circumstance we get in the limo going home, and I pay the babysitter, she says goodbye. My wife’s in the kitchen, she says, “What the hell is that?!” It’s like the trash is like “Ew!’ She grabs the trash and she pulls it out and hands it to me and I – and I just take it and I’m like doing this because I don’t want that. I don’t want whatever’s dripping to get on my patent leather shoes. You know, I have my tuxedo and I’m I’m realizing, “Oh, my god!” 20 minutes ago people wanted my autograph. Now I’m just a trash man, and I smile because that’s life. Right? You’ve got to have both.

Eric: He emphasized that actors always need to be working on something.

Bryan Cranston: You know I – as far as actors, actors act.

And if you’re not acting you’re not putting your best effort forward if you’re not writing, which I recommend every actor do, and it’s a way of expressing yourself. Certainly, for me, it was a way of expressing myself creatively in between auditions.

But it was –  just get into a class, get into any class. And I had a little litmus test for myself that, at the risk of sounding self-centered, I took a test where if I got into a class and I felt that I was becoming one of the best actors in the class I would leave the class. And I had to move up to where I constantly felt challenged. And to this day I always look for something that scares me a little bit, and if it scares me a little bit there’s something to it. It’s like a really ferocious roller coaster ride. And and I want to jump in. So there’s that. I think actors have to have that mentality of – I’ll put it in a sports analogy: if you have three seconds left in the game, you want the ball. “Give me the ball. Let me take the shot. Sink or swim. I want to be out there.” And we all know that there are people who are of the other ilk who’s who, when there’s the game on the line they go, “Please don’t give it to me. Please don’t give it to me. Please.” They don’t want it at all. And, and that’s fine. And thank God there are those kind of people. But if you’re going to be an actor I think you need to put yourself out there and take risks. Look at what we do: we – we – we make ourselves available for criticism on a on a regular basis. And you have to be able to withstand that and know that what your strength is, what your passion is, is far stronger than what anybody else can say.

Eric: Mr. Cranston’s passion led him to the treacherous waters of improvisation.

Bryan Cranston: I did years and years and years of improv classes. If you’re not doing improv you’re, you’re missing a huge part of your life here. Not only are you sharpening the tool but you’re getting up in front of people every single week without a clue of what you’re about to do. Think about that.

You’re getting up in front of people and you don’t know what’s going to happen. If you can somehow get comfortable with that, then when you do have something planned, when you have worked on a character in front of people, it’s easier. It’s just easier because you’re attuned to it. I would highly recommend you maintain that comedy improv. Every single week get up on stage. Fail. Get used to failing. Throw it out there, risking, try it again. It’s, it’s good.

I did – I did nine months of stand up comedy. And the reason I did it was because I was afraid of it. It scared me.

So, I do it you know and then I, and I, I really, really got mediocre. Went all the way up to mediocre. It’s a very, very tough thing. And I you know, I didn’t say I was going to it for nine months but something happened to me personally that I didn’t like. I started drinking a lot. If you go to those clubs and they put you on at midnight you’re wired, you’re going. Right. You’re like, buzzing. Right? It’s like when you finish a play you’re like -REVVING NOISE – with adrenaline and you can’t go to sleep. So what do you do. You go out, there’s the bar. If you have a good set you’re going to have a drink. If you have a bad set you need a drink.

Right? So all of a sudden I was drinking no matter what happened.

And staying up till 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning until I finally calmed down. Finally, it was nine months in and I realized, “What am I doing?” I didn’t – it wasn’t my passion. I just did this because it scared me. And I realized, “Oh, I can stop.” And I just stopped. So I would, I would challenge you to do things that scare you.

Get up in front of people and write some material and say some jokes.

Eric: and a good attitude doesn’t hurt either.

Bryan Cranston: One thing I do when I when I’m going to show that I’m running, or if I’m producing, or if I’m the lead actor on it, I don’t allow bitching on the set. I know. I don’t allow people to bitch and complain about the hour we have to start or anything like that. You’re working as an actor. Shut up. But I do – I do embrace frustration. Frustration’s allowed. We all get frustrated when we can’t get in, we can’t crack a character or something is blocking it, like – and arguments ensue. That’s fine as long as it’s about the work then allow it to be and just stick with it and work through it.

Eric: Even after receiving five Emmys for Walter White, Mr. Cranston continues playing complicated and challenging roles including President Lyndon B. Johnson in both the stage and film versions of “All the Way.”

— The greatest leader of our time has been struck down by the foulest deed of our time.

That maniac wants a lob an A-bomb into the Kremlin’s bathroom to start World War 3.

I’m trying to turn this country around and prevent a major war.

Everybody wants power Walter, but everybody thinks it ought to be given out like Mardi Gras beads.

Politics is War period. —

Bryan Cranston: Bill Moyers was a very respected journalist who said that Lyndon Johnson was 11 of the most interesting people he’s ever met. And it tells you something about the characteristics that you would assign to that man. He was all over the place. And so that was an intimidating character to take on, but he was also a very accomplished and ego driven. I think it was his hubris that got him in trouble with, with Vietnam. You mostly know and remember his legacy as a failed one from Vietnam. But he did some amazing things in domestic policy. The crown jewel was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Where he changed the face of the country.

So anyway, there’s an enormous amount of research and it’s just it’s one of the actor’s job, doing the research.

Eric: Research helped him portray another conflicted historical figure, the legendary blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

Bryan Cranston: With Trumbo he was such a chain smoker and he had an affectation you know, and he went he went up and down it was, it was a fun thing to work on.

— Congress has no right to investigate how we vote, or where we pray; what we think or say, or how we make movies.

Hello. I’m Dalton Trumbo.

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?  – Am I accused of a crime? – You’re not asking the question. – If so I believe I have the right to be confronted with any evidence that supports this question. – Are you refusing to answer – I would very much like to see what you have. – Oh, you would! You will see. Very soon! – Good!

You’re not asking the question. – I was. – The chief investigator’s asking the question. – I beg your pardon. – Now, are you or have you ever been a member of the communist party? – I believe I have the right to be confronted with any evidence which supports this question. I should like to see what you have. – Oh, well you would? – Yes. – Well, you will pretty soon!

Eric: Even at the heights that Mr. Cranston has reached, he doesn’t let money dictate his creative choices.

Bryan Cranston: I was never money motivated. To this day I’m not money motivated. I never really even know what I’m making on projects. I’ve never said yes to a project because of money. I don’t want to have to make a creative decision based on financial need. So once I became rich, I socked it away. And you know I’m married and have a child and so we – you, you do the things that you need to do to buy a house.

But it wasn’t it wasn’t extravagant. Living a very middle-class life,  and that’s what was important to me.

Eric: After the multiple Emmys, the Oscar and Tony nominations, becoming a working full-time actor is still the highlight of his career.

Bryan Cranston: No, it’s been a pretty, pretty blessed life. I must say. Not without ups and downs but to be able to act for a living was when I was 25 years old, the greatest accomplishment that I’ve ever had in my profession and remains so.

It’s a great career in the arts but it is something that needs your full attention and your patience and your faith. But this is true: if you don’t try then you have truly failed. If you feel that passion in your heart, you must try. And that’s that’s a good thing. That’s a powerful thing. There’s power in being bold, taking chances. And if you live a clean life the risks that you take are all fine. Go out and have a good career.

Eric: This episode was written by me, Eric Conner; based on the guest speaker series produced and moderated by Tova Laiter; the episode was edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden produced by David Andrew Nelson Kristian Hayden and myself; executive produced by Jean Sherlock, Dan Mackler, and Tova Laiter. Associate produced by Vinny Sisson; a special thanks to Robert Cosnahan,  Sajja Johnson and the staff and crew who made this possible. To learn more about our programs please check us out at Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. See you next time!


I gave my gay boyfriend’s boyfriend a hickey and it totally made my gay boyfriend jealous.

I don’t want you scaring off the guard coolest girl at my party Scott. We all know you’re a total lady killer wannabe jerky jerk.

Do you like music. Did you just ask me if I like music. Yeah, that’s like asking me if I like food you’re like no-nonsense.

Well, there’s no sense of nonsense especially when the heats hot.

Are you the kind of doctor who gets hooked on his own drugs? I bet you are. You ever face certain death? If it was so certain I wouldn’t be here would I.

Is there anywhere you don’t work? They’re called Jobs something a —-ball like you would know anything about here about.

You ever find a dead body in the trash? Or body parts? Like a torso or a head? Please say head.

I think you should lose the first line and the last line and all of the other lines and instead just walk up to the mike and meow really loudly for eight minutes.

Eric: Before she was known for her work in front of the camera, Aubrey Plaza spent a great deal of time behind the camera, including studying here at New York Film Academy.

Aubrey: I did the New York Film Academy summer session in 2001. I was a film student and I think the program was at Universal. I really have to honestly say that that experience was – I went on to go to NYU film school. I got into Tisch after that and I used my NYFA movie to get into Tisch. That was very helpful so that was something I got out of it. And honestly like my freshman curriculum at NYU like I feel like I learned more in this program than I did there because it was more hands on and I believe with filmmaking especially, like it’s like you have to do it and you have to just be like thrown into it and that’s how you learn. And like sitting in like critiquing movies is one way of learning about movies but I learned a lot more from doing what you guys are doing.

Eric: Ms. Plaza began acting in community theater at an early age. It was at this time she learned that even though Cinderella might get the prince it’s the stepsister who has the most fun.

Aubrey: I remember when I was like 11 or 12 I auditioned for Cinderella at the community theater and I really wanted to play Cinderella. And they gave me the part of the ugly stepsister and I was kind of devastated. But then I had like this one musical number that was like the big comedy in number of the show. And I remember like once I got on stage and started doing it I thought like it’s actually really fun to make people laugh so – and I don’t know I just grew up. I was really like I said into sketch comedy Saturday Night Live and then I got really into like improv in high school and I was really obsessed with like watching different sketch groups like on Kids in the Hall and Mr. Show and The State and I was like kind of my thing I really liked all that stuff. So I always knew that I wanted to go to New York and study at the UCB theater.

But yeah, I don’t know, and I was always you know like just like a weird person.

Eric: Like many comedic actresses miss Plaza has extensive training in improvisation including at UCB, the Upright Citizens Brigade. However, even after all these years she still finds herself intimidated by the form.

Aubrey: I still suck at improv. I really do improv long-form improv is so hard and I still get asked to do shows at UCB and like sometimes I lie and I say I’m busy because I’m so scared. Still.

So yeah but I make myself do it because it’s so good for your brain to like get onstage and just make stuff up in front of people. But yeah, I mean, I don’t know. I learned from really good people.

Eric: She found that her training and improvisation also enriched her dramatic work.

Aubrey: If you’re not familiar with UCB the thing that stands out with training at UCB is that they focus on finding the truth you know, in every scene. Like, when you’re doing a scene there, it’s not about trying to make jokes and being funny. Like, you’re not supposed to try to be funny because people that try to be funny never are funny. But people that commit to their characters like 200 percent and are just being really really truthful and reactive are always the funniest. So, I think that applies with drama too. And nowadays improv. I feel like everything that I go out for or like things that I work on they almost expect you to improvise drama too. So I think it’s really good training for both for sure.

Eric: Her time at UCB came in especially handy when working with one of the godmothers of modern improv., Amy Poehler.

Aubrey: Amy Poehler being on Parks was a really big learning experience too because I got to work with Amy who literally started the theater. So, when I was in college I interned at SNL. Amy was, she was in the cast when I worked there but I worked in the design office and I was just like in the shadows lurking.

And I didn’t like, to talk to anyone. You know I was like, an intern. I wasn’t like talking to anybody in the cast so no I didn’t know her.

I met her -Day one – they had us do these like Olympic promos for the Olympics before we even shot the show. And I showed up and that’s when I met her. They put us together on a swing set and we just started playing our characters.

— What do kids like more than a playground? Candy. No, no. Nothing is better for kids than a playground.

You know I know I know because I am – a virgin – expert at playgrounds. —

Eric: She’s worked with many of her favorite performers but only one of them consistently made her break character

Aubrey: I have a pretty good poker face so I can keep it together. The hardest person I’ve ever had to work with that would make me laugh is Fred Armisen. Hands down. I cannot keep a straight face around him. When I did Portlandia I couldn’t say my line for like 45 minutes I couldn’t do it.

— We have classes here. Abby D’s queer question why don’t you take that? I have pole dancing class that day. Excuse me? Pole dancing. Pole dancing? Exercise. We’re about to freak out right now we’re about two seconds away from jumping up on this table and kicking everything in sight which by the way is our own property. So I…Guess I’ll go somewhere else. No, let’s find these books for you. —

And I ended up having to pinch myself so hard that I started bleeding and so, I learned to just hurt myself.

That’s only one way that I can not laugh is if I physically hurt myself. Yeah.

Eric: Despite working with some of Hollywood’s biggest names she still occasionally finds herself starstruck.

Aubrey: Yeah it is weird to work on things like such famous people but I don’t know, there’s like always like a couple of people that I’ll get nervous around and surprise me like one time I met Jeff Goldblum.

And I don’t know why that made me really nervous. Oh God. I don’t know. Yeah, I get nervous. I’m nervous now.

Eric: For Miss Plaza a small role on a small web series led to so many big things.

Aubrey: As an actor, there’s so many different ways to get in and everyone has a different story. There’s no – that’s why it’s so hard to be an actor there’s no set thing that you can do. But I can kind of pinpoint what happened to me because I was training at UCB and it was right around the time when Internet videos like web series and all that stuff started like that was becoming a thing. Now it’s like you know, that’s all it is. But at that time it was like sketch groups were like just starting to like put out videos. And I got asked to be in a web series called The Jeannie Tate Show which was written and directed by Maggie Carey who is Bill Hader’s wife. And it was about a soccer mom who is running a talk show from her minivan while she is running errands.

— It’s The Jeannie Tate Show —

She cast me as I heard delinquent teenage daughter who’s like always in and out of rehab and I would harass all the guests that would come on and stuff.

— Jeannie’s stepdaughter, Tina Tate.

This is my chemically dependent teenage stepdaughter. I have a name and so does your illness. Dr. Gustavo says we have to label our problems before we can solve them. If I label you queen of the lame-o’s can you solve that? Zip it. Shut. Your.

Mouth hole. Don’t look at me. Keep it shut. —

And then, then went on to direct this movie I was in called the To Do list. She wrote and directed that. But this was back when I was like I think I was like 19-20 ish and I was in one of her improv classes. Maggie and I from that some agent saw it because there were other people like on SNL in it and they noticed me and made contact with me and then I just was like harassing that person, sending them emails, sending them links to you know invitations to shows or whatever, and then a while later that agent who wasn’t working with me who was just like being nice to me was like Judd Apatow is having this you know, wide casting search for his movie he’s trying to find a stand up comedian to play this part. You should put yourself on tape for it. So I did that. You know I was really lucky to be in the right time and the right place and I wasn’t a standup comedian at the time. I was just doing like live shows and stuff but he really liked my tape. And then they told me like well, we can’t hire you because we have to hire a standup because they have to write their own jokes and there’s going to be a lot of live shows and stuff in the movie. So then I just started doing standup and like taping myself and just pretending I was a standup comedian and then sending those tapes, and then I did it so much that he finally was like “OK I’ll bring you in to read with Seth Rogen.”

It was mostly like just really you know like small, small shows in like Queens or in a bar you know just really little things.

And I would just have my friend tape them and they were really unofficial and I did it. And then I – they cast me in the part and then Judd called me and was like you got the part. In two weeks you’re going to come to L.A. and we’re going to do like two months of shows just in pre-production and then start shooting the movie. So I came to LA and like literally like the fourth or fifth time I ever did stand up, I followed Adam Sandler. He made me do it. He was like torturing me. And he just made me get up there. So I – yeah I kept doing it for the movie. And then after we shot the movie I still kept doing it but I haven’t done it in a long time. And every time I did it I always like wanted to run away and I always had a meltdown backstage and I was like “Why am I doing this?” This is the worse. This is a nightmare. The reason I bring up the Jeannie Tate show is because that day that I did that show like I actually had a thing in my head I was like I don’t want to wake up on Saturday like 6:00 in the morning go to Hoboken. Like I went to sleep in and not do that but I just did it.

And if I hadn’t done that I really don’t think that I would have ended up getting Funny People because I can see how all that stuff led to it and I feel like I learned from UCB to always have like a, you know – their mission is “Yes, and” – you say “yes” and then you add to it. And that’s kind of like how I try to like approach life and just – it’s true: the more you say yes and the more stuff you – just never know who’s going to connect you to who or what you know what’s going to happen.

Eric: Ms Plaza it feels that it was her diligence even more so than her talent that enabled her to break into the industry.

Aubrey: I literally went from nothing to being in Funny People which making that jump is crazy that this doesn’t happen, ever. But I just wanted it so bad. I believed that it would happen too. You know you have to be delusional. You have to really. I grew up in Delaware. I didn’t grow up around any you know, Hollywood people. I was just like you know watching like you guys just watching stuff on TV watching movies and just like thinking like that’s what I want to do. And so I just believed it really strongly and then I wouldn’t back down. I would really harass people. You know? I would – not in a bad way but like the agent that I was saying that saw me in the web series like instead of not pursuing her I would just be really diligent about just sending her anything you know. And I would just try to meet as many people as I can. And I think I always was myself. I think that’s one thing as actors that people forget early on is that the reason Judd hired me in Funny People – I mean he really hired me because of my personality. I was playing a character a lot of people didn’t know that at the time like because it was really close to what I – you know like my humor and what I was doing onstage and stuff so it was because of my unique personality that he was like I want that personality in my movie you know.

So I wasn’t trying to be someone else at that time which I think it’s helpful and I think people forget in auditions you know when you’re auditioning and stuff like you just have to be yourself and be individual and like believe in that because people respond to that if you try to be someone else then there’s a million people doing that. So I think that’s one thing that I was always just being true to like my own sense of humor and what the kinds of things that I was interested in.

Eric: Despite growing up 3000 miles from Hollywood, Miss Plaza fully believed she would find her place in the entertainment industry.

Aubrey: When I was in high school I took some acting classes in Philadelphia because I grew up like 25 minutes outside of Philly and I had an acting teacher who was a professor at the University of the arts and she told me she was someone that helped me a lot with acting and she’s a very important person for me.

You know when I was like your age and she told me something really early on where she was like if you want to be an actor you don’t have to study theater necessarily. I mean you can cause. Which I also did I took many theater classes but she kind of told me like you could also major in film and learn other skills. And then also at night or whatever. So I kind of just decided that I wanted to go to New York and in school I wanted to study film production so that I could learn cameras and do writing and stuff but that I would always keep doing the acting thing on the side so I don’t know I just like tried to do both because I always knew I wanted to be an actor but I didn’t know how was going to happen. And I don’t think anyone does as an actor you just kind of like do as much stuff as you can and then you see what happens.

I didn’t have a plan. I was just like going to New York just hustlin’ you know. I really really hustled. That’s all I can say. I just try to do as much stuff as I could.

Eric: Even when she hit a rough patch early in her career Ms Plaza refused to consider a backup plan.

Aubrey: Even though it did happen really fast for me and I was young I had a stretch of time in New York where I wasn’t acting and I had graduated and I was broke and I was living in Queens and I was waiting tables and even though mine was small but I had it. So yeah. During that time I was always questioning what I was doing and you know my family was very supportive but they were always telling me like you got to have a backup plan you got a backup plan was your backup plan. And I would always quote Rosie O’Donnell because I was really Rosie O’Donnell was another big person for me when I was in high school I read her autobiography Rosie and in her autobiography she like has this whole thing where it’s like she says if you have a net you will fall into it. So don’t have a net because you’ll end up being a dentist or whatever your backup plan is. So I just always have that in my mind. And so whenever I was doubting myself I would always be like no. Like I’m just this is the only thing that can happen. So it’s going to happen. Which is crazy. So you have to be a crazy person.

Eric: All this paid off with possibly the greatest single week of any actor’s life.

Aubrey: It’s interesting like when I got cast in Funny People Scott pilgrim and parks and recreation I got all of those jobs in one week.

Wow. One week which is like insane. And it doesn’t happen to anyone. Which is why again I was in like the right place at the right time. I don’t know how it happened it just happened.

All of those characters were kind of similar. And I think parks especially because I drew on so much of my personality and they basically wrote that part for me. It wasn’t in the original idea of the show. They wrote it based on a meeting that I had with their creators. So April Ludgate is me.

You know it’s not me but it is me and yes because of that you’re put in a box and people don’t believe that you can do anything else.

But I try all the time to play different characters. This year I have two movies that are going to come out where I play really different characters like not sarcastic or whatever you know. But I had to really fight for them really hard. And hopefully those things will show people that I can do other things.

But it’s something that I’m always fighting against. But I welcome it. I used to get really like annoyed when people be like you’re always doing the same thing and I’d always be like well those are the parts that people are giving me I can’t control anything.

I’m auditioning you know like if someone offers you a part as an actor you’re like yeah I’ll do it. I’ll do anything like i’m just trying to work. So you know you only have so much control so it’s hard but you just got to like keep hustling.

Eric: Despite Hollywood’s attempt to typecast her as the queen of sarcasm. Ms Plaza continues to expand her repertoire of characters jumping from TV to film and back again.

Aubrey: I think the biggest difference between I mean being on a web series that to me is like television. Those kind of things feel the same. A little bit to me but it depends on what kind of web series you’re in. I think because some of those also feel like movies so I don’t know about that. But the biggest difference between TV and movies for me is like the pacing is so different because when you’re working on a film as you know there’s so much time that goes into like lighting a shot and you’re just like waiting for your moment.

And for me the hardest thing on set in a movie is to conserve my energy because if you know like you’ve got this like monologue to deliver or whatever and they’re like setting it up for an hour you know like maybe you feel ready to do it now.

But then in an hour you’re like I just ate like four cookies and I’m like crying I don’t know how this happened and then and then you’re supposed to do it then. So like it’s like yeah it’s like a weird film is so weird like that it’s like you really have to be able to just like bring it when the moment is there and when the film is rolling especially if it’s film because you can’t waste film. And so it’s like intense because you’re just like —- I got to like deliver. Now all these people and then in television it’s like you can do it a million times over and over again like on parks like there’s so many outtakes of like especially Aziz Aziz was like the king of this is where he would just reset himself over and over again in movies you can’t really go like let me take that again. And then you do it. Let me say you know. Like we were just reset ourselves like we were like robots because there was no lighting setups at least when we shot our thing. It was just like we had three cameras.

Also the amount of cameras is a thing like on television you have multiple cameras so like you’re able to just kind of like do whatever but in movies you’re like always like you’ve got to be on your mark and you’ve got to know exactly like where the light is hitting you there’s just like things like that that affect you.

You know that you have to like figure out how to not think about when you’re working. I don’t know.

Eric: Before he directed the velociraptors and Jurassic World Colin Trevorrow directed miss plaza in the low budget indie film Safety Not Guaranteed.

Do you sell guns here something sexy and affordable with killing power what exactly is the intended use.

If your ad had been written properly and they have a better idea of what I need I hope you worked harder on your calibrations.

My calibrations are flippin pinpoint ok you ever face certain death If it was so certain I wouldn’t be here would I. You come to that launch site.

You take my hand and I’ll show who can’t time travel.

Aubrey: That movie was the first movie I was ever really like the lead in so it was a really scary experience for me and I was definitely worried at every step. I was like so worried about it because I had never really had to take a character from the beginning to the end and have like a transformation you know.

But Colin was great and I think that’s why he ended up being plucked out of indie zone and taken into this Spielberg land because he’s so interested in the acting process and in really like having those discussions about characters how they’re feeling at every moment why they’re doing what they’re doing and not all directors are like that especially first time directors I find because first time directors are so preoccupied with everything that’s going on it’s so crazy to be a director for a film you have eight departments that you’re running and it’s hard to remember that really when all is said and done and people are sitting in the theaters and they’re watching the movie all they’re going to see is the performances and so much goes into making a movie.

But I think one quality in a director that I really like is when directors are really able to take a step back from all of the chaos and then look an actor in the face and go like Let’s talk about what the truth of what is happening right now is. And that’s something that Colin and I always did that’s why I really liked working with him and I think that’s why he’s who he is now.

Eric: Ms Plaza also has fond memories of working with Chris Pratt who played her goofy husband Andy on Parks Recreation. Long before he went on to save “Jurrasic World” and guard the galaxy.

Aubrey: I got my ankles microwaved x rayed. They took my blood away to use for science. Cholesterol test. April had her sinuses removed look at some guy looked at my wiener touched it.

That was weird. And that guy wasn’t even a doctor.

What Pratt is like the most fun guy ever. He’s like Andy except he’s smart. He’s a very special guy and he’s a really good actor and comedian.

So I loved working with him because also on TV sometimes you feel really robotic because you’re just doing so many episodes and you can’t help but feel like I’ve said this before I’m doing the same thing whatever in every scene it’s like the same. But with Chris it was never the same.

I got it I got it. Nice I also got some dude’s briefcase. I believed in you buddy but you should put that back. You shattered you shattered it not only well that’s a wrap. That’s not something that props can fix that’s going to be a little harder to fix. Sorry I’m out.

He was always really interested in finding new discoveries and surprising me with different things. You know he’s like a really special dude. That’s why he’s like the most famous person in the world right now.

Eric: When dealing with the publicity that comes with their fame. Miss Plaza approaches it like she’s portraying another character the publicity media.

Aubrey: All that stuff is not something I ever thought about when I was trying to be an actor. You don’t think like oh like what’s that part of it going to be like going on talk shows and doing stuff like that. It’s been a journey for me to figure out how to deal with that stuff. I can say that when I do like publicity when I’m promoting like a movie or something and I have to go on talk show I don’t have to do any of it. First of all no one does it’s not. I mean maybe some people have to alright you’re right. Well I don’t have to alright. Yeah I have to do some of it. But so I try to just have fun with it because I think that one thing about the publicity stuff is for me is like once people start taking themselves too seriously and letting all of the fame and that stuff you know like believing the hype about you know I think it starts messing with people’s minds. Not everyone is capable of handling fame and those kind of things so it’s tricky because you know it’s like weird to have a lot of people know who you are. So I try to in those situations I try to just always have fun and try to approach it from like what would my high school version of myself think about me going on like Letterman. Right now I’d probably be like that’s crazy where a hot dog costume do something weird.

It doesn’t always work out for me because people you know it’s hard to like be a version of yourself or whatever on those kind of things but I just try to have fun and have truthful moments happen and not do anything too stupid. But I fail at that too sometimes.

Even after all her success M Plaza still has one role that she is dying to play.

I really want to be Catwoman. Like so bad.

I do really want to remake Catwoman like the Halle Berry movie. I think i give me a really weird and funny like Guardians of the galaxy funny but still like badass.

That’s what I really want to do.

I would do any franchise.

Eric: A big thank you to Aubrey Plaza. And thanks to all of you for listening. This episode was written by me, Eric Conner, based on the Guest Speaker Series produced and moderated by Tova Laiter. edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden; produced by David Andrew Nelson Kristian Hayden and myself; executive produced by Jean Sherlock, Dan Mackler and Tova Laiter; associate produced by Vinny Sisson. Special thanks to Anne Moore for co-moderating, and to Robert Cosnahan, Sajja Johnson and the entire staff and crew who made this possible. To Learn more about our programs check us out at Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review on Apply Podcasts. See you next time.

See Kretz stole from the pens.

You know the song already. Of course I do. Everyone knows the song is amazing. The drum beats out of time last year.

Good luck and you will find me time after time. I love the way you describe it.

So after time.

It’s never happened.


— Say hello to my little friend!

Attica! Attica! Attica! Attica!

I show you out of order!

You’re my prisoner. You do what I tell you to do.

It’s not personal Sonny. It’s strictly business.

Keep your friends close -If I were the man I was five years ago – But your enemies closer. – I’d take a flamethrower to this place!

I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse. —

Eric: Hi, and welcome to “The Backlot,” a discussion with the entertainment industry’s top talent. My name is Eric Conner senior instructor at the New York Film Academy, and this week we have one of the all-time greats a true Hollywood legend Al Pacino.

For the students at New York Film Academy in Los Angeles getting a chance to watch Al Pacino speak about his craft was like hearing Joe DiMaggio talk about swinging the baseball bat or Paul McCartney discuss writing “Hey Jude.” So ladies and gentlemen, Al Pacino.

Al Pacino: Thank you all so much for that. Wow.

Eric: But as Mr. Pacino explained he’s also still a student himself to the craft. He was asked about his technique and for him stepping up to the plate is a new adventure with every role.

Al Pacino: You develop that thing known as technique. I love the line that Michelangelo said in a poem when he was doing the Sistine Chapel. He said Lord free me of myself that I may please you, meaning get to that place in us where we’re not censoring ourselves or trying to do it good or right but rather, connect to whatever it is we’re trying to say become, absorb it, and become it, and let it come out, and let the unconscious free and that’s what, well I strive for that. And I rarely, rarely get it. If I do it’s for a moment or two. I sometimes – I’m given a role and then I’m in trouble because then I got to look at the empty canvas and I got to say, “Wow! I don’t know anything about acting. I don’t know anything about anything and just do. What am I going to do?”  And you start.

And the hope is that that that instead of figuring it out you find it.

Eric: When you look at Mr. Pacino’s body of work you notice he’s drawn a lot to the underworld to characters on the wrong side of the law. Don Corleone in The Godfather, Tony Montana in Scarface, Carlito, the aged gangster he plays in Donnie Brasco, heck, Big Boy in Dick Tracy; it’s reminiscent of the great gangster films from the 20s and the 30s.

I’m gonna write my name all over this town in big letters. Get out of my way Johnny I’m gonna spit.

A big guy now ain’t ya, shooting your mouth off in the papers. So I ran out when it got hot. You think I can’t take it no more. Well, listen you crummy flat-footed copper, I’ll show you whether I lost my nerve and my brains.

Eric: Mr. Pacino doesn’t gravitate to just any part.

Al Pacino: I had trouble with that word “gravitate” the roles I gravitate mostly, I go home and gravitate about them. You know what it is? Primarily it’s the story and the script. If I see the script has this-this light, I can really like it. But if there’s no role in it that I feel I can identify with – Sometimes I’ve seen parts and in the theater and somebody did that I really thought I want to do that. Hey, I did Scarface because I was here on Sunset and went into the Tiffany movie house it was a movie house in those days. So I went into the movie “The Tiffany” and playing up on that big screen there was Paul Muni as Scarface

Next time I catch you in a place like that again I’ll kill you.

And after it was over I just said I want to do this. I want to imitate him. I want to do it just the way he does it.

I catch you here again. You hear me?! I catch you here again. I’m going to wipe you all over the — place.

Eric: He’s worked with some of the masters of the craft legendary artists like Stanislavski, Brecht, Strassburg.

Al Pacino: You know I’ve known a lot of great people in my life and you know, I would ask some of these people who I’ve known myself, some of the people you mentioned – I just would say, “What do you think about the price of eggs?” Or, “What do you think about what’s going on now in Peterson?” because they were the kind of thinkers and people that no matter what was going on, they have their own way of seeing it. That was what was inspiring about them. That’s what great people have. They say something different. That’s usually what I – what I’ve noticed in my life. And about acting I sort of know that they would say that they don’t know because it’s about experience. Stanislavski started with the theater and that was the style at the time. Things change all the time. They’re moving and going, and the times change, the fashions change. What works doesn’t work. This is really what it is and most of the of the acting you see is that we have today comes from those people but it’s a – it’s sort of a potpourri of all those things.

Eric: Before he was ever involved in the Corleone family business. Al Pacino was a successful stage actor, including winning a Tony Award for “Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?” Over the years Mr. Pacino has bounced back and forth from stage to screen from big screen to small screen and he understands that each medium has its own requirements for shaping a performance.

Al Pacino: I was doing a play in New York. They were coming in to do this thing I really don’t like, which is take motion pictures of the play because they’re going to show it on TV in the reviews or something. And every time you see a poor actors on a stage in a play and they’re on television all of a sudden and you say, “Why would I want to go see that?! They’re screaming!” You know? And they’re all animated and you’re saying why the — where are we? So they were there, and I was doing a scene, and I thought, “Wait a minute! They were way back shooting me in the scene and I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel how to do it.” So I asked the camera man to come close here, right here with the camera.

And then what happens is automatically after you’ve done it a while you start to acclimate to the camera and you start to know that, that it’s here. So your position because the difference between an audience and a camera –  the camera is your audience the camera is what you play to.

But when you have the audience you play to the audience so your performance is somewhat changed by that but nothing changes except a sense of where you are in relation to the camera, so that you can think more with the camera. You can bring it down you can make it less. The camera picks everything up.

Eric:For instance take this moment from The Godfather and notice how Mr. Pacino is subtly performing for the camera.

Let’s set the meeting. Get our informers to find out where it’s going to be held. Now we insist it’s a public place, a bar, a restaurant, someplace where there’s people so I feel safe. They’re going to search me when I first meet them. All right? So I can’t have a weapon on me then but if Clemenza can figure a way to have a weapon planted there for me then I’ll kill them both.

Eric: In contrast here’s a moment from his performance in the stage production of The Merchant of Venice.

If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Eric: As you noticed in the clip Mr. Pacino modified his performance for the stage playing to not just the front row but the back of the House as well. It may seem bigger it might even seem over the top. But when you’re in the audience especially if you’re in row ZZ, you appreciate what Mr. Pacino’s bring into that part. Adding that grandeur to the scene. But as thrilling as stage work can be it also presents its own challenges.

Al Pacino: I was doing a play in New York many years ago, a Shakespeare play, and I was exhausted and I was young, relatively. I was – I was – I had a hard time doing eight shows a week, and on the weekends we had like five shows.

So you have a show and you did the play at three, four, or five o’clock you were done. At 7:00 you were doing it again.

Right. And I’m doing this soliloquy. And it’s it’s long and it’s arduous and I think to myself I said that line before. And then I thought wait a minute I’m saying my lines twice. I’m repeating myself. I say a line and I say it again. And the audience is looking at me.

And they’re being very, very kind because they know I’m losing my mind and they don’t know what to do. And I’m really, really scared. Really scared. It’s not like I’m hearing echoes. It’s like I think I’m saying it again. I’m so tired that I’m just you know. And then I realized I wasn’t saying it I don’t know how I realized that mercifully.

And the audience didn’t know that was going on with me.

One of the strangest hijacks attempts to date began yesterday when two gunmen held up a bank in Brooklyn New York. The gunman got twenty-nine thousand dollars. But before they could leave police moved in and the bank robbers seized eight hostages. It all ended fifteen hours later at New York’s Kennedy Airport. ABC’s Carol Burke has the story.

Eric: That long hot summer day in Brooklyn in 1972 turned out to be the inspiration for one of Mr. Pacino’s greatest films, “Dog Day Afternoon.” But that’s not the only time he’s played a real life character. He’s portrayed Jack Kevorkian, Phil Spector and of course, Frank Serpico.

— Hey! It’s me, Serpico! Hey! I’m a police officer. Police officer. I’m an officer. I’m a police officer. —

I worked with Frank Serpico when I made a movie called “Serpico,”  and the real Serpico and I became friends. And it was a real it was very important to be around this man because he’s- he stimulated me – his imagination – and I was very taken with that. So, that’s really something to access if you have a real person. I’m also maybe going to play Napoleon, you know. So I’ve been seeing him a lot lately.

Eric: But when you’re acting it’s not enough just to be a mimic of a real life character. It’s also about the script the interpretation of the character that the writer has already created.

I mean it’s – so much too is the screenwriter who gives you the role. That’s the person you’re really in contact with. When I did Roy Cohn in “Angels in America” it wasn’t really Roy Cohn. It was Tony Kushner’s rendering of Roy Cohn; his interpretation of that character which is a great character.

AIDS, homosexual, gay, lesbian, you think these are names that tell you who someone sleeps with? They don’t tell you that. – No? – No like all labels. They tell you one thing, and one thing only. Where does an individual so identified fit in the food chain? in the pecking order? not ideology or sexual taste, but something much simpler. Clout! Not who I — or who — me but who will pick up the phone when I call?

Eric: Just as important for an actor to collaborate with the writer’s vision of a character. He also has to collaborate with the director’s vision as well. One student asked about Mr. Pacino experiences working with directors.

Student: What in your opinion makes a director great?

Al Pacino: I wish I knew. You know?! I wish I knew because then I would direct.

But I have no – I was talking to Barry Levinson about this today. It’s very hard to understand. A lot has to do with where they can place a camera. Like for instance, Brian De Palma is a great director. So I was doing Scarface with him – He directed Scarface. I woke up at the Fountain Blue Hotel in Florida. I remember being outside and there’s the beach and the water, and look out and I see all these people sort of facing the ocean in a kind of semicircle about a hundred of them looking and I thought, “What happened?” You know? You – did some sort of a large whale get washed up on shore? And I looked and I stood up on the thing to look out. And I realized at the surf standing there was Brian DePalma and all these people were just looking at him, and all he was doing was trying to figure out where to put the camera. And I said I’m not doing that.

Imagine all these people waiting for you every decision on a movie. It’s the director. And there’s an appetite to do that, and also likes to get people around and likes to tell stories.

Eric: If Al Pacino says it it must be true no matter what your role is on a film, it all goes back to story. This episode was written by me, Eric Conner, based on the Guest Lecture Series produced and moderated by Tova Laiter. The episode was edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden. Produced by David Andrew Nelson, Kristian Hayden, and myself. Executive produced by Tova Laiter, Jean Sherlock, and Dan Mackler. Associate produced by Vinny Sisson, with a special thanks to and Robert Cosnahan, Sajja Johnson and the entire crew and staff who made this possible. To learn more about our programs check us out at Be sure to subscribe and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. See you next time!


— I am McLovin. McLovin?! That’s bad ass.

I’m not going to punch her in the head. She’s really sweet. – No I mean you punch her in the — head emotionally.

I swear to god. I want to see Breathless at the LACMA!

I remember thinking how much food could $20 possibly buy you at Taco Bell, and the answer is infinite.

Love, the most beautiful shiny warmy thing in the world, you can’t accept it?! —

Eric: Seth Rogen started his career before he was even old enough to drive honing his stand-up skills in Vancouver during his freshman year of high school.

Seth Rogen: You know when I did stand up comedy I was actually very like reluctant to talk about my age at first because I didn’t want to be viewed as like a gimmick. I didn’t want to be like known as the 15-year-old comedian. So I would tell jokes that were like Seinfeld-esque like kind of observational humor like, “What’s the deal with crazy glue? What’s so crazy about it?”

And then I remember another comic pulled me aside and was like, “Dude! Like, you’re — 16 years old. Like you’re trying to get a hand job for the first time right now.” Like that is like, a remarkable perspective to have comedically as a writer, as an actor. Whatever you’re trying to do that is like, a remarkable perspective to have, and you shouldn’t deny that. That was like a very interesting lesson for me: was to accept my age and not deny it, but at the same time to never try to use my age as like a gimmick and be like the young comedian you know? That –  I always like – I hated that idea. And writing “Superbad” was really that: like finding the balance between doing work that I thought was adult and transcended the fact that I was a teenager. But at the same time do work that could only be done by a teenager and offer a perspective that you could only have if you were in high school. And literally, like “Superbad” was on TV the other day and I was watching and I was like “I could never write this movie today because I’m too old and I don’t know what the — kids do in high school.”

I’m terrified of high school kids. So I think that is just something that I thought a lot about when I was younger is, “How do I use my age?” And at the same time not use my age because people will just always hate the guy who seems like he’s using his age.

But you just aren’t using all your tools if you are not using your perspective which is entirely based on your age.

Eric: His stand-up and unique perspective caught the attention of Judd Apatow and Paul Feig who are casting their seminal comedy-drama “Freaks and Geeks.” Possibly the best show ever made about high school life.

— Disco sucks.

What’s up your butt princess? – Sorry, it’s hard to pick up on the subtlety of your wit.

You know, I had a friend that used to smoke. You know what he’s doing now? He’s dead. —

Eric: Freaks and Geeks and Apatow’s follow-up “Undeclared” also introduced Mr. Rogen to many of his favorite collaborators.

Seth Rogen: Most of the people I work with I’ve known since before I was 20 years old, like Judd, and Franco, and Jason Segel, and Martin Starr, and Jay Baruchel, and you know, a lot of the writers and directors I work with. I met them all through work except for the people that I grew up with Kyle R, the people who wrote this movie, basically, those are the only ones I’ve known. Like from growing up and being like, a child.

I met Evan in bar mitzvah class. So I’ve known him since I was 12. I met Ariel at summer camp. I met Kyle at home ec. class in eighth grade. And we all wanted to be writers and so we just kept working together over the years.

Everyone else I met through work and what originally drew us together was each other’s work. And I think beyond that it’s what made us take the time to get to know one another and then become personally good friends with one another over the years. But when you’re working it’s really hard to do something that feels good a lot of the time. So when you find people that are around whom it feels good you desperately want that. You know, it’s like an insulation. Like nothing makes me more secure feeling creatively than seeing basically all the people who are in this movie in close vicinity to me if I’m on set. Like, I feel so much better if Jonah, or Franco, or Craig, or Danny, are there because I’m just like, they’re just incredible at their jobs. Of the hundred things I have to worry about being a producer-writer-director, that is not — one of them. Like, they’ll just destroy it. And in a lot of ways, they are the most visible element of the film. So it just is a huge stress relief. It makes you not have to worry about it. And on top of that, we just like each other. But if I — hate these people I would still work with them all the time honestly, because they’re great at their jobs.

Eric: His career could not have started on a better note but it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Seth Rogen: I was very lucky in that I got on TV show very young, but then I went years without working and I did for sure, start to think that like, “Freaks and Geeks” was like, an anomaly and I was only cast because I was a — weird looking Canadian guy. And once that was over no one would ever want to put me in anything again. And that wasn’t that far from the truth, honestly. You know “Undeclared” was canceled in like 2001, and I didn’t act again until “40-Year-Old Virgin” which came out in 2005.

— It all makes sense. You’re a virgin. – I am not. Shut up. –  How does that happen?! – I knew it! That makes so much sense! Look he’s a virgin! – You guys are hilarious. —

Seth Rogen: There was four years where I did absolutely nothing. And it was really during that time that I definitively learned that if I wanted to have a career as an actor I first had to get a career as a writer and a producer and then I had to cast myself as an actor essentially, which is basically what I did. The only reason I was cast in “Knocked Up” is because I had been working with Judd as a writer

— I’m pregnant. – — off! – What? – What? – I’m pregnant. – With emotion? – With a baby. You’re the father. —

Seth Rogen: And I had been helping him rewrite his movies, so I was just a guy who was around him, you know? And “40-Year-Old Virgin,” I was cast in that because I was a producer on it first. Then, the movies we wrote, we wrote for myself to star in. There was probably better people we could have gotten honestly, but it just seemed again like the only way to perpetuate my career as an actor was to provide myself with that work, and if I didn’t do that I would have acted in like two — movies in the last decade, literally. I did not think there was like a room full of Hollywood people being like, “You know what we need is like, a stoned, Jewish, Canadian guy?” Like, I just knew that that conversation wasn’t happening.

And so I had to be the one creating the material that required a stoned, Jewish, Canadian guy.

And I knew that was my only way to do it, basically. And if you’re only an actor and can’t write for yourself or create your own material otherwise, then I always just tell people like then become friends with a writer because they always need actors for their —, and become friends of the director because they always need actors for their —. And so just link up with someone who’s has a job you can’t do.

-singing- His friends would say stop whining. They’ve had enough of that. His friends would say stop pining, there’s other girls to look at. But there’s something about Mary that they don’t know. —

Seth Rogen: To me like, “There’s Something About Mary” who is one of those movies that I watched in high school.

And to me, that shifted the parameters of comedy and then the “South Park” movie came out when I was in high school.

— All those times I said you were a big, dumb, Jew I didn’t mean it. You’re not a Jew. – Yes, I am. I am a Jew, Cartman. – No, no Kyle, don’t be so hard on yourself. —

Seth Rogen: It was like one of those moments like, “Oh! Like, movies can be so much more than I thought they could be like.” It was like the most shocking thing I’d ever – I could not believe what I was seeing. And so we’re standing on the d— of giants.


Eric: Much of Mr. Rogan’s inspiration comes directly from his parents’ love for all types of movies.

Seth Rogen: My parents were just into movies like they liked movies they would go to a lot of movies. We had like a big VHS collection that my parents would like tape off of television so it’s funny because lots of them were like — up not the right versions of movies like I didn’t know they smoked weed in “The Breakfast Club” till like three years ago because like that was edited out for television. But I really look at the movies that my parents had growing up and it is like a direct reflection of the stuff that I now make. There was like Woody Allen movies, and Robert Zemeckis movies, and some incredibly violent Paul Verhoeven my mom was like a huge Paul Verhoeven fan, and she loved “Die Hard” and she was big Steven Seagal fan, and it had big Jean-Claude Van Damme fan. So I was inundated with like incredibly violent movies from a very young age and incredibly like, intellectual comedic movies from a very young age. And my friends we just had like a disgusting sensibility and I think the combination of those three things are why I make the types of movies I make but I really think it’s just because I watched a lot of movies when I was a kid and I loved movies.

Eric: Mr. Rogen also acknowledges that growing up in Canada gave him a unique perspective on American comedies.

Seth Rogen: What I honestly think it is is because I’ve also worked with like British comedians before and they’re hilarious. But they don’t quite understand like, American culture to the degree they probably need to in order to like really infiltrate it. You know what I mean? But Canadians grow up with American culture but it’s not our culture. So we view it as though it’s like this other thing kind of. But we know it all we get the grind all that MTV —. I grew up watching, you know? So we grew up with all this American — but we didn’t view it as our —. And so we probably were a little more inclined to make fun of it. Well, and to comment on it well because I think when you’re like outside of something you’re in a slightly better position to comment on it. And so I think that’s why a lot of Canadians do well in American comedy because they comment well on American culture and it’s not their culture so they’re not as you know attached to it. They’re a little more objective about it I guess.

Eric: If there’s a hallmark to Mr. Rogan’s work it’s finding the heart within the crudest of moments.

Seth Rogen: I think it’s different things for different people. For us, it’s having a very simple emotional story that through all the insanity is very clear and identifiable and articulatable (I don’t know if that’s a word) By the people who saw the movie, afterward. And “Superbad” is very similar in that we really learn the lesson. It’s really about like two friends who don’t know how to say they miss each other. And because of that is allows us to like get period blood on one of their legs and do all sorts of crazy —.

That like would otherwise be appalling. Were it not surrounding what is like, a very sweet emotional center.

And so for us, we talk a lot about balance and balancing emotion with crudeness and balancing intelligence with stupidity and I think balance is the most important thing in making a comedy. And finding the elements that you want to balance and striking that balance between what genres you’re trying to mix which is something we’ve done in our work before and I think that is the most important thing because that’s what makes the movie unpredictable is when you don’t know which one of those things it’s going to be.

But it’s all those things. What’s wrong. I’m just I’m a little nervous. I just found out we have to play Hail to the Chief when Bush arrives I can see it now.

The FBI announced today that North Korea.

Had the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio. Because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Franco.

I love Seth and I love James but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about.

Here. Oh no my wife must have put them in there because I have never heard this before in my life I love Katy Perry. You know Dave Sometimes I feel like a plastic bag. Drifting through the wind wanting to start again.

Eric: In 2013 his twisted sensibility attracted some unwanted attention with the release of his film. The interview on the eve of the movie’s premiere Sony experienced a massive hack in response to the movie’s satirical themes. One student asked about how this incident affected Mr. Rogan’s approach to filmmaking.

Seth Rogen:I don’t know I don’t think reshaped.

If anything I guess it told me that if you make a movie about something then the subject of that something could really react to it in a very strong way. And so in a way I guess it reinforced what I always thought was the power of filmmaking which was if you antagonize a worthy subject then that is something that people will probably get behind and what I didn’t predict is that subject perhaps attacking the movie studio that was releasing the film. But honestly I don’t — know if North Korea hacked into sony I don’t even know. And no one does.

And so.

So it’s hard to really learn that many lessons from something that you don’t even quite know what the — happens. One lesson I could have learned was to like tone down what could be considered controversial filmmaking and I clearly did not do that.

So I guess I didn’t learn any lessons.

I think as a movie when I look at it there are some things storywise that we could have tightened and I think honestly like on a narrative level there was some filmmaking lessons I learned. It was the second movie we directed. So you just learn a lot from that. So just as a filmmaker there was a lot I learned just from making my second movie in the kind of things that worked and the things that didn’t. But I don’t know if I really learned a lot from what happened because again I don’t really know what happened.

Eric: Fortunately, most of Mr. Rogan’s projects have gone much more smoothly. As a producer Mr. Rogen never loses sight of the bottom line no matter the scale of the production.

We made movies very different ways spanning from the most studio of ways to the most independent of ways and part of you know what we think is like a big part of the question is like budgeting the movies properly like we’ve never had the philosophy that we should just get like as much money for every movie as humanly possible we’ll look at the movie and think like realistically how much does a movie like this make. We probably shouldn’t make it for that much more than that because we just want to keep making movies like 50/50 is an example of a movie that we’d made completely independently. But then we sold it to a studio before it came out.

I would like to present to you what I have grown to call exhibit whore look at it.

That’s Rachel and that’s a filthy Jesus looking —.

And they’re kissing I did it. I — nailed you I’ve hated you for months and now I have evidence that you suck as a person.

It’s all different. They all have their ups and downs. I have never liked financed a movie myself. I put money into our movies for little things here and there but I’ve never like fully like paid for something because other assholes are willing to do that.

Eric: After 70 something roles, he’s now enjoying his work more behind the camera acting.

Seth Rogen: I probably like the least to be totally honest it just like is not the most engaging of all the jobs on set. To me, you’re like kind of not doing — like 80 percent of the time. To me that is very frustrating and I don’t like it. Directing ,on the other hand, is probably the most active job you can have on set you’re literally doing something one hundred percent of the time. I really like that and I like being hyper-engaged.

Directing has probably become the most enjoyable thing to me. And writing is also very fun because it’s kind of like the most familiar thing and it’s kind of the thing we’re always doing amidst all of it as producers, is constantly reading other people’s scripts and helping with them and having meetings with the writers of those scripts and talking to them about it. And at the same time we’re generally writing one of our own movies but on a day to day basis directing has been incredibly fun and it’s very engaging and so I think right now that is is our favorite thing to do.

Eric: A student asked Mr. Rogen about how he approaches working with a variety of actors.

Seth Rogen: I think you just do your thing honestly like I’ve noticed no consistency between how these actors work and as a director I’ve noticed actually incredible inconsistencies in what different actors respond to like some actors I realized solely if I was in the scene with them they just wouldn’t listen to my direction. Like it just they just wouldn’t listen. Just something happened you know and I would literally have to tell my partner like tell him this and other actors are completely unlike that. And so you know when I was in that Steve Jobs movie I honestly was worried like is is what I do as an actor in any way going to mesh with how this movie is expected to be made.

I’m talking about you guys designed and chipped a little box of garbage Well while I was gone I’m talking about the Apple 2 which is not just a crucial part of this company’s history it is a crucial part of the history of personal computing for a time. The least you could do if you’re going to downsize these people they’re going to live in the biggest houses of anyone on the unemployment to acknowledge them.

And I instantly found that everyone working on the movie worked completely differently in and of themselves and that there is no correct way to do it. There’s only what makes you feel like you’re confident in what you’re doing and so I’ve guess I don’t know if that’s good advice. Just do you I think feeling confident in what you’re doing is the most important thing and whatever makes you feel confident in your performance because that’s the one thing that is bad is when actors start losing confidence in themselves on set.

It’s like babysitting a lot of the time honestly.

You discern what each person needs to be the best version of themselves I guess. And then you just do it.

When dealing with some of his more sensitive material Mr. Rogen has learned that honesty is the best policy.

I recently found the email I sent to Channing Tatum when I asked him to be the gimp in this is the end.

This is my gimp. Channing, introduce yourself.

Hey what’s up guys that’s. Channing Tatum dude what the — Channing — Tatum. Tatum I found him wandering on the freeway. I collected him made him my bitch get off my dick. I call him and Channing Tate-yum.

And what I was amazed by was how like plain it was because I was very concerned that he would show up and in some way be expecting something different so I was literally like this is the movie you are playing Danny McBride’s sexual gimp it will require you to be at the end of a leash.

He yanks you around. He talks about how your his —- how you’re an idiot.

Like like I was like if you have a problem with any of this just don’t do it because thats like the nightmare is if they show up and they’re like 99 percent on board then that 1 percent is like a — real chasm to navigate.

At times I get very nervous around actors honestly.

I don’t like like as a director like talking to actors is like by far my least favorite thing to do because I get nervous I’m like what if they ask me a question I don’t know the answer to like. I just don’t like talking to them.

And so even if I’m friends with them I don’t like talking to them. I’m more comfortable talking to them if I’m friends with them which is probably a reason I work with my friends so much because I’m for sure I’m more comfortable talking to my friends. But like when you like tell like give like Eminem direction like it’s — horrifying.

You know when I say things about gay people or people think that my lyrics are homophobic You know it’s because I’m gay. When I rap about violence or let’s just back it up a moment you just said that you were gay. I mean I’m gay. I am a homosexual meaning I like men.

What the — just happened. Eminem just said he was gay four times. That’s what the — just happened. Holy —.

And again the only thing that makes it slightly less horrifying is because I’ve made it incredibly clear that types of things I was going to ask him to do before he showed up that day because again like I would so much rather have my second choice who is 100 percent committed than my first choice who’s ninety-nine point nine percent committed because the last thing you need is on set having to navigate a sudden difference in sensibilities or a lack of understanding over what the movie or TV show or whatever it was was going to entail. That’s kind of like the philosophy for everything is like you don’t want to have to be convincing people to do things on set. You want them to be psyched on set you want that to be the most joyous experience for everyone possible and you know that’s when everything is hypothetical. When you’re filming the movie it’s not till you’re editing it that you actually have to deal with all the — that happened like set. There’s like no reason to ever be unhappy. It should only be a pleasant creative experience where you’re just getting as much as you humanly can that you think you might need. And the only way to do that again is if everyone is fully trusting and fully on board and the only way to do that is if you’ve really gone out of your way to explain to them that you know you don’t want them surprised at the premiere even after his many successes it still took a decade to get this sausage party started.

Once you see that — it’ll — you up for life.

There was a lot of hard parts.

It was.

Writing it was not the hardest part. Clearly these jokes write themselves.

Getting it made was incredibly hard. Finding someone to agree to pay for it was very difficult. It took us literally years and years and years of going on meetings and being told no by independent financing companies by major studios. Every basic way you could be told no is how we were told no. And then someone named Megan Ellison was the coolest person ever and basically like made it her thing to like make movies that no one else wanted to make and ours was for sure that and so she co-financed the movie with Sony. So that was really difficult. The actual process of making it was very difficult. We never made an animated movie it was very different than anything we’d done. There was a moment in the process were like — if we’re like kind of making fun of a Pixar movie it kind of has to be around as smart as a Pixar movie. And I remember that moment we’re like — and. There was a definitive moment like halfway through the process where we realized we had to make the movie significantly better than it seemed like it was going to be.

And that was a very difficult time as well.

Eric: As Mr. Rogan’s work shows he marches to the beat of his own drum.

Seth Rogen: When I was younger I didn’t give a —. I like I was so confident and I was like 18 or 19 when I moved to L.A. and I was just like — everyone they wrong I’m right. Like I was really aggressive and confident and it’s over the years as I’ve read like thousands of articles just saying what an idiot I am I’m like — maybe I should just stop. When I was younger Honestly I look back and marvel at how little I thought about whether or not other people thought I was funny when I was first starting.

It was all. I think I’m good at this. I’m just going to do it. And I think I can do something different in movies so I’m just going to try to write movies. I was very angry. I would get bitter and angry a lot but I just was like the more I didn’t succeed I would just get more angry and try even harder to do my —. I mean this movie like we’ve been trying to make for ten years. And like we were successful when that happened. Like it’s not like like when we tried to make it was like after Pineapple Express and Superbad and all of like our big hit movies had come out and still nobody wanted to — make it. And so we just whenever that happens you just have to really make sure that it’s a good idea and that’s by trusting the people around you and making sure you’ve surrounded yourself by people who will be honest with you and give you good constructive criticism. And if the consensus is it’s a good idea then you just do it until it occurs and you do other things. Meanwhile like we make like six movies that aren’t as good as this while we were trying to make this. But you know you got to keep going. Just in some way. But the whole time we were trying to make this as well just never stop. That’s the idea I guess.

Eric: As he was wrapping up Mr. Rogen reminded our students to be original and bold with their own work.

Seth Rogen: This movie was our craziest idea and most people who were told this idea to looked at us like we were — idiots and like it wouldn’t work. And our best movies are always the ideas that are the craziest ones. And if I see like a lack of one thing in movies I don’t see a ton of people making stuff where you’re just like what the —. Like how did they do that. And that is like all I ever want to go see in movie theaters is movies were like I’m literally wondering how it got made. You know those are like as a kid. The best experiences I had. I think like if I hope any of you take anything from this that I’m sitting in a movie theater in a few years watching a movie where I’m thinking like how the — did people make this. Please make those movies make movies that people are like. How did they do it.

Eric: Thanks to Seth Rogen for coming to our school and thanks to all of you for listening. This episode was written by me, Eric Conner. Edited and mixed by Kristian Hayden. Produced by David Andrew, Nelson Kristian Hayden, and myself. Executive produced by Tova Laiter, Jean Sherlock, and Dan Mackler. Associate produced by Vinny Sisson. A special thanks to Sajja Johnson and the entire staff and crew who made this possible. This is a production of New York Film Academy’s media content department in always beautiful Los Angeles. To learn more about our programs check us out at Be sure to subscribe. And if you can leave us a review on iTunes. We’ll see you next time!