‘Bridesmaids’ actor switches gears in ‘Get Shorty’
LOS ANGELES - Those looking to spend quality time with Chris O’Dowd, who made a splash as the endearingly patient cop in “Bridesmaids,” have plenty of chances now and later.
There’s his role as hit man and aspiring movie producer Miles Daly in Epix’s critically acclaimed “Get Shorty,” (10 p.m. EDT Sunday), which gives O’Dowd the chance to be trademark funny as well as tough. It’s already renewed for season two.
He’s shooting the film “Juliet, Naked” with Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke for producer Judd Apatow. O’Dowd’s upcoming movies include indies “Love After Love” and “Loving Vincent”; J.J. Abrams’ next chapter in the “Cloverfield” franchise; and Aaron Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game.”
In other words, the Irish-born actor who’s adopted Los Angeles as his home base is in demand and moving in impressive creative circles.
But he’s modestly low-key in a recent conversation over a smoothie at a cafe near his home. (In-person checklist: charming accent and charmingly tousled hair, sweet-eyed smile and lanky frame, all accounted for.)
O’Dowd also demonstrates an impressive sense of perspective. His family - his wife, journalist Dawn O’Porter, a baby and a toddler - get precedence over his career.
“I’m looking for jobs closer to home. It’s definitely a scenario where I would have once been really excited about a project filming in Bulgaria, and now I don’t even read it,” he said. “I know that creatively it’s not really ideal, but I just don’t care.”
O’Dowd’s decision to leave steady work in England to break into Hollywood was made as an unencumbered single man. He’d enjoyed success on Irish and then British TV, including with the nerd comedy “The IT Crowd,” but liked American entertainment and, besides, was just off a big breakup.
“I felt like I needed to leave the country,” he said, drolly. It was a move he considered risk-free and reversible.
“What’s the vision of failure in that scenario? So low,” he said, especially if you don’t make a fuss about venturing across the pond.
“I always roll my eyes when I see people are having [farewell] parties,” O’Dowd said. “Talk about tempting fate. I didn’t tell anyone I was going anywhere. I would reply to texts as if I was still down the road.”
That decision prompts this query: What advice can he pass on about what he did right, or wrong, as a Hollywood newcomer? O’Dowd mulls the question, attempting to be helpful.
“Even if I wasn’t doing a great audition, I felt like I always did a very good meeting,” he said. “It’s not about the job you’re going in for, it’s about the job that’s coming after that. But you only learn by doing it.”
He takes a step back and offers a broader take on the industry he’s immersed in, using his “Get Shorty” character as illustration.
“The reason it works out for Miles in the show is that honesty and straightforwardness goes a long way in this town, because it’s such a rare commodity,” O’Dowd said. “There is a lot of [bull] as everybody knows, but people are very happy to not be [lied] to.”
“Get Shorty,” a new take on the Elmore Leonard tale brought to the big screen in 1995 with John Travolta, pairs O’Dowd with Ray Romano, another performer adroit at balancing darkness and light.
“We’ve got two very funny actors, [and] part of what is so wonderful about watching them be funny is they bring seriousness under that,” said series creator Davey Holmes.
O’Dowd is also a writer - on the warmly funny 2012-15 TV series “Moone Boy,” about an eccentric Irish family - and has stage cred, with his Broadway debut in “Of Mice and Men” opposite James Franco in 2014 earning him a Tony nomination. He’s eyeing a London play next year.
The ideal scenario, he said, is three months in England and the rest of the year in Los Angeles. He’s an unabashed fan of LA, appreciating the weather, the neighborhood friends he’s made and the city’s relative lack of oppressive skyscrapers.
“I’m a country boy, as well. You can see blue sky, all the time,” said O’Dowd, courteously ignoring the pall of smog hanging on the horizon.
Just as important, said the family man, “it’s great for the kids.”