When you have a cult comedy hit like Arrested Development to your credit, it’s not easy to live up to it. Just ask Will Arnett, who has tried with mixed success to match his role as Gob Bluth on that sitcom, which was revived on Netflix briefly last year. While he scored with commercials and animated movie voiceovers (Ratatouille, Monsters Vs Aliens, Despicable Me, The Lego Movie), plus an Emmy-nominated 30 Rock guest arc, recent sitcoms Running Wilde, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and Up All Night flopped.
But Arnett has found a more stable home in CBS’ The Millers, which was renewed for the fall 2014 season. And you can look for him in August’s big screen reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We asked the Canadian funnyman about work, his boys and the rewards of being a jackass.
“I was a smartass. Detention. I was never thrown out but asked to not return.”
The Millers is a departure from Arrested Development. What drew you to it?
I really wanted to do something fun and different from what I’ve been doing the last few years. I’ve worked on a bunch of single‑camera shows, some more successful than others. And those can be a real grind and not ultimately as fun. I really welcome the opportunity to do a multi‑cam show. It seemed like doing a play. I do feel like I spend a lot of time, whether it was Gob or other things that I’ve done, playing these characters who are much more extreme, dysfunctional or messed up, and I was always attracted to that because it seemed like a lot more fun at the time. I’ve never played a part like this, and I was very intrigued by it. It’s a lot more grounded, and it’s probably much more reflective of where I am as a person right now, too. So, I’m welcoming it. I’m just as happy as I could possibly be working on this show.
Why do you think it’s a hit?
It’s very accessible and people can relate to it, in a real way. I certainly can.
Were you funny growing up?
I was a fairly quiet kid when I was little. And then I was probably 10 when my brother was born and I came out of my shell. I was kind of a class clown. I was a jackass.
Did you get in trouble for it?
A lot. I was a smartass. Detention. I was never thrown out but asked to not return. I went to a few schools. I remember when The Millers had been on the air a couple of weeks and it was doing pretty well, I said to my dad, “Who knew that acting like a jackass would pay off so well?”
How do you stay fit?
I go to the gym, hiking—I’ll go even if the weather’s bad. I enjoy getting outside. But the weather’s never really that bad out here. I have a couple places that I go that I won’t mention so people won’t find them. I avoid junk food as much as possible. I like sweets but I try to eat stuff that’s actual, whole food. If I’m going to have a cookie I have something that’s made with real sugar, not the fake stuff. I do drink coffee but in the afternoon I’ll switch to an Arnold Palmer.
Do your sons go hiking with you?
They’ve gone a couple times but they get tired early on, and I end up having to carry one or both of them back. We love to get outside, though, drive out to the beach—another great California thing.
Are they playing sports yet?
We just finished T-ball season, with my older son, which was a great success. I was assistant coach. I like to get out there. I think I’m more upset about it being over than he is. The kids really love it so it’s been a great thing.
You’re Canadian—do you play hockey?
I’m too old. I feel like when I fall things are gonna break, i.e. bones.