Off Camera with Sam Jones

Off Camera with Sam Jones Podcast

Off Camera is a podcast hosted by photographer/director Sam Jones, who created the show out of his passion for the long form conversational interview, and as a way to share his conversations with a myriad of artists, actors, musicians, directors, skateboarders, photographers, and writers that pique his interest. Because the best conversations happen Off Camera.

Ep 7. Dave Grohl
Being a bona fide badass is the price of entry for a career in rock and roll; and if you ask Dave Grohl, it’s the key ingredient for just about anything worth doing. His approach to life has fueled the Foo Fighters’ 20 year,11 album career and garnered him a following of very stoked rock fans, many of who gathered at this year’s SXSW music conference to hear Grohl’s keynote address. The hipsters, rockers, start-uppers and next-big-thing developers packing the room were no doubt curious to hear how one goes...

Ep 156. Awkwafina
Awkwafina (also known as Nora Lum) is having quite a moment. She’s a part of the impressive cast of female icons (Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and more) in Ocean’s 8, and she’s so hilarious in Crazy Rich Asians that you’ll barely hear her next line over the sound of your own laughter. What does this moment in the spotlight feel like? Awkwafina likens it to this: “I compare it to a wall opening up and transporting you to an alternate dimension where there is no gravity, and everything is weird.” ...

Ep 140. John Goodman
John Goodman wasn’t always the imposing presence he is today, but he’s always had his charisma. As an eighth grader in Missouri, John charmed the “hard guys” in school with a spot-on Gomer Pyle impression so they would protect him. As he explains, “I was a little fat kid. I had the glasses with the tape in the middle. I was nerdy, man.” Heavily influenced by Marlon Brando and captivated by the language of Shakespeare, John discovered his dream to become an actor and left the Midwest to make it happen. Afte...


Ep 50. Aubrey Plaza
When the notoriously poker-faced Aubrey Plaza says that she’s wanted to be an actor since she was 13 and thus isn’t surprised it’s happening, or that perhaps the universe responded to her acting daydreams, you have to wonder, does she really mean that? Understandably, Aubrey Plaza used to hate the word “deadpan,” as associated as it’s become with the detached, almost unreadable delivery she’s cultivated as characters like Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed and perh...

Ep 134. Common
Common is a man who is anything but, and he’s been evolving as an artist since the start of his three-decade-and-counting career when he was a young musician rapping about his love for hip-hop. These days, in addition to being a Grammy-winning artist, Common is an established actor, known for his work on AMC’s Hell on Wheels and films like American Gangster, Selma, and Just Wright. Common is what you’d call a conscious artist—someone who uses his platform to encourage social and political change. He believ...

Ep 25. Jessica Chastain
What does it take to feel confident that you’ve made it in Hollywood? “Coming from nowhere with no connections” and going almost overnight to A-list status with leads in a string of the most highly acclaimed films in recent history would do the trick. So would a modest but steely belief that acting is what you’re meant to do, and always will do. Jessica Chastain wasn’t always certain of her path, but she never questioned her destination. That helps when you find yourself going to audition after audition wit...


Ep 46. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
One of best ways to enter and appreciate the original, prolific brain of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is through the lens of hitRECord, the open, collaborative production company he founded in 2005, and one of the most creative and inspiring uses of the Internet ever. Its nearly 100,000 members submit projects – films, stories, songs, drawings, you name it – for other members to edit, build on and evolve. Gordon-Levitt credits directing short films on hitRECord with teaching him what he needed to know to make Don ...

Ep 72. Mindy Kaling
Much has been made–justifiably so–about the anemic diversity represented in film and television, most problematically when roles originally written for people of color are rewritten for white actors. So consider if you will the concept of a 5’ 4” woman of Indian descent writing and playing the part of a famously strapping white male actor – in 2002, no less. The off-Broadway play (that would be Matt & Ben, in case you were wondering) hardly seems like the breakout opportunity of a lifetime for anyone. But V...

Ep 96. Courteney Cox
So no one told her life was going to be this way. Except Friends director Jimmy Burrows, who took Courteney Cox and her fellow cast members to dinner in Vegas, telling them to enjoy the last time they'd ever be able to go out together in public without causing total pandemonium. For Cox, who never had a master plan, it was the start of what was arguably the most successful 18-year run on series television, after which some actors might welcome a break and a margarita or two. Others might freak out just a bi...


Ep 168. Matt Damon 2
For those of you watching this week’s Off Camera episode, do not adjust your sets…that is me sitting across from Matt, humiliatingly dressed head to toe in a Red Sox uniform, having lost a bet to Matt when my beloved Dodgers lost in the world series for the second year in a row. And for those of you listening or reading, well, just imagine my shame. For as long as Matt Damon can remember, he wanted to be an actor. So much so that he started his college essay with those very words. But before all the accola...

Ep 164. Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s first true love was the ballet, but her body had other plans, and she grew a bit too tall for the grande jeté. Luckily, her favorite parts about ballet—performing, telling a story, playing different characters—are all essential tenets of acting, and Mary found herself in love anew. Her early experiences acting reinforced her love of the craft, but as she got older, she struggled to find her artistic place in an industry where women are often saddled with objectification and unwant...

Ep 89. David Oyelowo
David Oyelowo has a favorite phrase from St. Francis of Assisi. “Preach the gospel, and every now and again use words.” You could see why. One of the most remarkably talented film and stage actors working today, he employs words to stunning effect, but it’s between syllables that one sees his real power. There’s something in his being that telegraphs a certain dignity, a deep human awareness and an underlying joy that he seems incapable of turning off, on screen or in person. “He’s kind of an amazing balanc...


Ep 138. Bill Hader
As a high school kid growing up in Oklahoma, Bill Hader received a progress report from his French teacher that had remarkable foresight: “Bill is very funny in class. He’ll probably be on Saturday Night Live one day. He has a 37% in class though. He will not be speaking French.” Bill had a natural gift for doing voices and impressions, and years later, he would indeed join SNL. For eight years, he brought memorable characters to life, including fan-favorites like his exasperated Vincent Price, the lechero...

Ep 160. Elizabeth Olsen
It’s safe to say that Elizabeth Olsen didn’t have a normal childhood. As the other sister to the Olsen twins, Elizabeth Olsen had a front row seat to her sisters’ experience in the spotlight, media circus included, and she also witnessed what it was like to be a working actor—something she wanted to be but was embarrassed to admit. “I had this fear that people would think I didn’t earn or deserve the things I worked for because of who I was naturally associated with.” The nepotism critique motivated her to...

Ep 76. Mark Duplass
Our talk with Mark Duplass will take you about an hour to absorb, and we sincerely hope you will. But say you only have about seven minutes, 13 seconds, and access to YouTube. Watch his 2003 short This Is John and you’ll have the CliffsNotes on who he is as a filmmaker: A genius at distilling our most towering personal fears, frustrations and joys into one seemingly inconsequential or silly event. The simple task of recording an outgoing phone message becomes a study of existential loneliness and self-doubt...


Ep 127. Octavia Spencer
You can almost time it. When a hometown kid arrives, the “we knew her when” pieces aren’t far behind. Shortly after The Help made Octavia Spencer famous, The Birmingham News interviewed Jefferson Davis High School guidance counselor Mrs. Evelyn Moore. “Whatever she did, she did it well and she was never shy. You knew she just had it…there was something about Octavia that stood out and everyone knew she would be something.” Evelyn Moore knew it. The Help writer/director Tate Taylor knew it. What took the res...

Ep 167. Rosamund Pike
Early on, the stage was set for Rosamund Pike to pursue a career in the performing arts. Born to two opera singers, Rosamund had a front row seat to familial emoting. She tried her hand at both music and acting, but a bout of stage fright while playing the cello forced Rosamund to recognize that she really didn’t want to play herself on stage—she was much more interested in playing other people, where her imagination was free to roam and explore. “Acting was like diving into a place where you actually felt ...

Ep 51. Tim Robbins
At 6’ 5”, Tim Robbins is the tallest actor ever to win an Academy Award, but until they start handing out statuettes for height alone, he’ll have to be content with a regular old Oscar and slew of Golden Globes recognizing his talent. Cutting such an imposing figure could’ve made it easy for Hollywood to serve him up time and again as the loveable, lumbering galoot he played so successfully in his breakout role as Bull Durham’s “Nuke” LaLoosh. But even a passing glance at his long filmography is a startling...


Ep 51. Tim Robbins
At 6’ 5”, Tim Robbins is the tallest actor ever to win an Academy Award, but until they start handing out statuettes for height alone, he’ll have to be content with a regular old Oscar and slew of Golden Globes recognizing his talent. Cutting such an imposing figure could’ve made it easy for Hollywood to serve him up time and again as the loveable, lumbering galoot he played so successfully in his breakout role as Bull Durham’s “Nuke” LaLoosh. But even a passing glance at his long filmography is a startling...

Ep 65. Kathryn Hahn
Who is my character? Why does she say this line? What’s my motivation? These are valid, if not typical, Acting 101 probings. But as a certain actor so simply puts it, “Sometimes, you just need to walk in the door.” That actor is Kathryn Hahn, who is a great example of someone who does just that; she steps into frame and before she utters a line, you’re watching, just waiting for what she’s going to say or do. That takes a rare kind of presence, one that for too long seemed to be hiding in plain sight. Hahn...

Ep 65. Kathryn Hahn
Who is my character? Why does she say this line? What’s my motivation? These are valid, if not typical, Acting 101 probings. But as a certain actor so simply puts it, “Sometimes, you just need to walk in the door.” That actor is Kathryn Hahn, who is a great example of someone who does just that; she steps into frame and before she utters a line, you’re watching, just waiting for what she’s going to say or do. That takes a rare kind of presence, one that for too long seemed to be hiding in plain sight. Hahn...


Ep 84. Greta Gerwig
In “No Method to Her Madness,” a review of the Noah Baumbach film Greenberg that could’ve also been titled “Ode to Greta Gerwig,” A.O. Scott wrote that the actress, “most likely without intending to be anything of the kind, may well be the definitive screen actress of her generation.” He goes on (at length) to praise her performance, or lack thereof. “She comes across as pretty, smart, hesitant, insecure, confused, determined — all at once or in no particular order. Which is to say that she is bracingly, wi...

Ep 64. Keagan-Michael Key
Did you see the 2013 comedy-horror movie Hell Baby? No? Well, film critic Devin Faraci did, and what stood out for him about the otherwise “silly” film was a supporting actor who “walks into Hell Baby, picks it up and walks directly out of the theater with it.” That was Keegan-Michael Key. In his write up, Faraci said, “I’m not sure why this guy isn’t one of the biggest comedy stars in the universe, but we still have time to correct this oversight, and Hell Baby will help.” Maybe, maybe not, but Key & Peel...

Ep 95. Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria’s relationship to the most iconic cartoon of a generation is a question of prepositions. He is indisputably on The Simpsons (his voice work on the show has won him four Emmys); also, he is The Simpsons – or at least a good percentage of the regulars that populate their world: Moe the Bartender, Apu the Kwik-E-Mart proprietor, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, The Sea Captain, Carl Carlson, as well as a one-man army of walk-ons like Cletus Spuckler, Professor Frink, Dr. Nick Riviera, Lou, Snake Jailb...


Ep 137. Andie MacDowell
When Andie MacDowell was a curious and wide-eyed 8-year-old, a trip to the university theater with her mother planted a seed. The adults on stage were playing make believe, her most favorite game in the world, and she was mesmerized. Add a penchant for prank calls and some improv with unsuspecting barkeeps, and the seed that was planted would later grow into her passion for acting. And Andie is nothing if not passionate. Over 30 years in the industry and she’s still chomping at the bit to stretch and grow ...

Ep 61. Glen Hansard
All artists are essentially storytellers, and the Irish are legendary storytellers (if you disagree, go immerse yourself in some Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, Neil Jordan, or Christy Moore, and get back to us). For three decades, musician and sometimes-actor Glen Hansard has told his tales through song: first as a street busker, then as frontman for Irish band The Frames, next as half of folk rock duo The Swell Season, and now as a solo artist. If his early family life was a bit difficult and alcohol-dampene...

Ep 36. Dax Shepard
Philip Larkin drolly made parents the scapegoats of our generation with his observation “They f*** you up, your mum and dad…” And true enough, but with a bit of perspective and hard work, you can also come to see they’ve given you some tremendous gifts in the process. Dax Shepard grew up poor in Detroit with an absentee alcoholic father, and several stepfathers who weren’t necessarily an improvement on the original. Dax grew from an often-expelled trouble-making daredevil to become an alcoholic himself, all...


Ep 34. Rashida Jones
Our news feeds these days are pretty reliably littered with examples of how easily kids of celebrities can be overshadowed, crushed or otherwise damaged by the weight of their parents’ fame. Rashida Jones, daughter of legendary and artistic force Quincy Jones and iconic actress Peggy Lipton rebelled from day one, becoming an avid reader, puzzle geek and serious student who declared her intention to attend Harvard at age six. Her status as a Mathlete also bears mention, just because, “Mathlete”. Once at Harv...

Ep 119. Chadwick Boseman
Not much in Chadwick Boseman’s early life would lead you to think he would become an actor. Not his birthplace (Anderson, South Carolina), not his family (his mom was a nurse, his dad an upholstery business owner), not his interests (he was the quiet one who played sports). Not one thing, it seems, except he just decided. A sad incident in his last years of high school prompted him to write and then direct his first play, after which he simply decided that’s what he’d do. He studied at Howard University an...

Ep 23. Jason Sudeikis
As a high school sophomore, Jason Sudeikis switched schools in pursuit of serious basketball dreams and, of course, a girl. Instead, he discovered classes in radio and TV and debate – and a new career option. Soon after swapping Final Four tickets for a video camera, he gave up on college hoops and eventually college itself to go pro in the improv leagues. He honed his chops at ComedySportz, the Annoyance and ImprovOlympic before getting drafted by Second City and eventually Saturday Night Live, where some ...


Ep 100. Ron Howard
When a 16-year old Ron Howard was hanging out on set with Henry Fonda (as one does), Fonda gave the young actor a bit of advice: If he loved acting, he should focus on theater, but, "If you love movies, become a director.” Ron Howard loved movies. The Oklahoma-born son of two actors, his earliest memories are of memorizing dialog from his dad’s summer stock plays as a 3-year old. Walking unaware into an MGM kids’ casting call in 1959, Howard senior mentioned he had a son who was a fine actor. They called y...

Ep 162. Javier Bardem
Acclaimed Spanish actor Javier Bardem comes from a long line of artists and filmmakers, but his love of cinema officially took shape when his mother, a working actress herself, snuck him into a movie theater to see Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz when he was 6 years old. It wasn’t exactly a Disney movie, but that didn’t matter—Javier was in awe. He wondered, “What is this mechanism of people, feelings, dance, music, colors, drama, and comedy? I want to be a part of that.” His passion and dedication to the craft ...

Ep 82. Riz Ahmed
You keep up on things. You know what’s going on in arts and culture. Then inevitably, it happens. Someone who wasn’t even on your radar is suddenly everywhere, making you question not where they’ve been, but where you’ve been. Meet Riz Ahmed. By now, you probably recognize him from HBO’s The Night Of, but for years, Ahmed’s been busy making wide-ranging, significant, and accomplished work. In person, he’s not some frenetic perpetual motion machine, but he does seem to function at a brisk and constant clip,...


Ep 149. Sarah Paulson
From the outside, it would appear that Sarah Paulson, after her Emmy award-winning performance as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, has "made it." She's got a role in Ocean's 8, her first "big sh**-kicker, popcorn movie,” and has the luxury of sifting through multiple film and television offers to choose a part that “sparks something inside of her.” What more could an actor want? But that's exactly the problem for Sarah. She wants the want. Without it, she finds herself in a bit of an ...

Ep 67. Thomas Middleditch
If your impression of Thomas Middleditch is that of a somewhat befuddled, bumbling, awkward-bordering-on-geeky misfit, we won’t blame you... yet. He has personified that type in films such as Splinterheads, The Bronze, The Final Girls, and even The Wolf of Wall Street. So neither can we blame Silicon Valley co-creator/director Mike Judge for writing the role of socially discombobulated Richard Hendricks specifically with Middleditch in mind. And now, Hendricks’ wide-eyed, stammering bewilderment seems to st...

Ep 81. Michael Shannon
If you’re an actor who’s signed on to share scenes with Michael Shannon, you’ve got yourself a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, you can count on people watching; on the other, you can be pretty certain they won’t be watching you. To be fair, nothing could be further from Shannon’s intent; co-stars and directors routinely praise his generosity and dedication to the success of any project he’s in. It’s just that the guy is – inherently, chronically and helplessly – riveting. Evidence of this seemingly hypnotic...


Ep 81. Michael Shannon
If you’re an actor who’s signed on to share scenes with Michael Shannon, you’ve got yourself a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, you can count on people watching; on the other, you can be pretty certain they won’t be watching you. To be fair, nothing could be further from Shannon’s intent; co-stars and directors routinely praise his generosity and dedication to the success of any project he’s in. It’s just that the guy is – inherently, chronically and helplessly – riveting. Evidence of this seemingly hypnotic...

Ep 108. Kumail Nanjiani
In 2009 The New York Times ran a story about the New York Comedy Festival and the independent standup community that had become a hunting ground for late night shows looking for the next round of potential talent, citing Jenny Slate, Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari and Zach Galifianakis as formerly unknown comics lifted from the cramped rooms of obscure bars in hidden basements to a larger stage. The article’s new reference was a guy named Kumail Nanjiani, who “could be poised to follow… Or not.” On circumstanc...

Ep 108. Kumail Nanjiani
In 2009 The New York Times ran a story about the New York Comedy Festival and the independent standup community that had become a hunting ground for late night shows looking for the next round of potential talent, citing Jenny Slate, Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari and Zach Galifianakis as formerly unknown comics lifted from the cramped rooms of obscure bars in hidden basements to a larger stage. The article’s new reference was a guy named Kumail Nanjiani, who “could be poised to follow… Or not.” On circumstanc...


Ep 170. Carey Mulligan
When Carey Mulligan first stepped foot on set of 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, she was convinced she won the lottery. It was her first professional job and her first time acting in front of a camera, but there she was, acting alongside Judi Dench, Keira Knightly, and Jena Malone. “The entire experience was like summer camp; it didn’t feel like work at all.” Carey was living her dream, but she was still convinced it was all a fluke. “I remember thinking, ‘After this, I’ll reapply to drama school.’” In reality, h...

Ep 42. Jack Black
Thanks to movie posters and pull-quote “reviews”, we’ve heard “electric” used to describe a performance so often that it barely registers as an adjective. But think back for a moment to the first time you saw High Fidelity. Now, think about the first moment Jack Black appeared on screen and jolted that film alive. It’s a great movie with a great cast, but let’s face it – his very presence flipped the switch. And that movie flipped the switch on Black’s film career, though it was a part he came within inches...

Ep 13. Michael B. Jordan
Drug dealer, football player, alcoholic, shooting victim. In his first decade of acting, Michael B. Jordan has found ways to humanize characters that, on the page, may seem stereotypically what he dubs “the black guy.” In The Wire, a young and very sheltered Jordan asked fellow actors to help him understand how to simulate a cocaine high onscreen, and through that surreal experience discovered his unfettered love of acting.  In Friday Night Lights, Jordan started journaling as an acting exercise, and amasse...


Ep 2. John Krasinski
As Jim Halpert, John Krasinski embodies The Office’s most beloved Everyguy, but his middle-achiever alter ego belies the actor’s impressive and accomplished resume. At just 33, he has written, directed and produced both television and feature films with some of the industry’s most talented heavy-hitters. Krasinski shares his own version of the waiter-to A-list story and talks about staying true to his artistic path despite periods of self-doubt. An avid and humble student of experience, he discusses what h...

Ep 2. John Krasinski - Rerun
As Jim Halpert, John Krasinski embodies The Office’s most beloved Everyguy, but his middle-achiever alter ego belies the actor’s impressive and accomplished resume. At just 33, he has written, directed and produced both television and feature films with some of the industry’s most talented heavy-hitters. Krasinski shares his own version of the waiter-to A-list story and talks about staying true to his artistic path despite periods of self-doubt. An avid and humble student of experience, he discusses what h...

Ep 102. Elisabeth Moss
Watching Elisabeth Moss as Mad Men’s sec-turned-exec Peggy Olson (as millions did for 88 addictive episodes) and in recent projects like Top of the Lake, High Rise and Queen of Earth, you’d be forgiven for assuming she’s a capital-S Serious or capital-M Method artist. Even director Jane Campion might’ve drawn the same conclusion from Moss’ Top of Lake audition tape. “It was remarkable…I just found myself really interested in watching this gentle, quiet, obviously interior performance. At the end of about si...


Ep 37. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal has become somewhat synonymous with beyond-brutal physical transformations for movies like Nightcrawler, and more recently (and even more brutally), for the role of boxer Billy Hope. But after crying three times over a first-draft script for Southpaw, he knew it was worth taking some punches for. He’s no masochist, but calls any work needed to tell the story of characters that fascinate him a joy. Gyllenhaal is the kind of actor who knows not only that his character bears a certain scar or w...

Ep 26. Will Ferrell
Just mention Will Ferrell’s name or glance at a picture of him and chances are you’re already smiling (or smirking or laughing out loud). But the really funny thing is that it’s not necessarily because his best-known characters are so gosh-darn loveable. See, Ferrell never bought the conventional movie truism that comedic leads have to be likeable, and went on to prove it, perhaps most pointedly with the iconic Ron Burgundy. In fact, he doesn’t even think comedy has to be particularly funny to be hysterical...

Ep 26. Will Ferrell - Rerun
Just mention Will Ferrell’s name or glance at a picture of him and chances are you’re already smiling (or smirking or laughing out loud). But the really funny thing is that it’s not necessarily because his best-known characters are so gosh-darn loveable. See, Ferrell never bought the conventional movie truism that comedic leads have to be likeable, and went on to prove it, perhaps most pointedly with the iconic Ron Burgundy. In fact, he doesn’t even think comedy has to be particularly funny to be hysterical...


Ep 56. Don Cheadle
We expect actors to dramatize a range of emotions as the characters they play; even, to some extent, when they’re playing a version of themselves on The Tonight Show or E! News. That’s what actors do, after all; they “act”—tearing up, raging, clowning, and otherwise emoting. So what secret magnetic field does Don Cheadle tap that allows him to convey all that with no detectable effort and a virtually unreadable face? He sits back, unruffled and self-possessed, while we do the work of reading into his perfor...

Ep 57. Kristen Bell
If souls or psyches can be compared to houses, Kristen Bell’s would be one with few dark corners. It would probably also be lavender scented, with a nice breeze blowing through. Delightfully real and candid, she’s become one of the most relatable and loved personalities on TV, that personality often being herself: Her Samsung commercials and goofy personal videos with husband Dax Shepard are some of YouTube’s most popular. No word on how many high-tech home appliances they’ve sold, but the Toto cover video ...

Ep 27. Ethan Hawke
Success came to Ethan Hawke when he was young, and across a wide spectrum. He landed a major motion picture, “The Explorers,” at 13, off his first audition. His second film, at 18, under Robin Williams’ tutelage on and off screen, was the now-classic “Dead Poets Society.” He’s been an established star ever since. At age 24, In the midst of his early film successes, he published “The Hottest State.” Hawke admits that adding “novelist” to his resume made him an easy target for ridicule. The word “pretentious”...


Liz Phair
Liz Phair introduced herself to the music industry in the 1990s with her bold first record Exile in Guyville. Rock and roll was traditionally dominated by men, but Liz forged her own path to success despite the loneliness it entailed. She used her art to express her feelings about sexuality, gender, and politics. As she says, “I had a sense that if I wanted to make my artistic dreams comes true, I was going to be on my own. I knew I would be going against the grain.”To this day, Liz unapologetically speaks ...


Mike McGill and Steve Caballero
Well folks, you are in for a treat this week, especially if you are a skateboarder. Mike McGill and Steve Caballero were two of the founding members of the most famous skateboard team in history, the Bones Brigade, founded by legendary skater Stacy Peralta, who had a knack for scouting young talent. As a kid growing up in Fullerton, California, skateboarding was my passion, and I witnessed both of these guys change the sport I loved from a street corner pursuit to a worldwide phenomenon that has influenced ...

Jenny Slate 2
I’m really happy to have Jenny Slate back again. She’s smart, funny, and charming, and she’s refreshingly honest about her struggles as an artist and human being. Every time I find myself in conversation with her, I feel inspired and joyful. She’s just released a Netflix special called Stage Fright, which is part standup, part documentary, part confessional, and wholly original. And she’s also released a new memoir called Little Weirds, which is probably the most esoteric and private book to ever land on Th...

Tracy Letts
The first time Tracy Letts participated in a community theater play, he knew he found something special. At school, Tracy was shy and had a hard time connecting with his peers, so when he discovered the comradery surrounding the theater, he finally felt embraced by a community. His talent for acting came later, when his father, also an actor, taught him the power of speaking simply rather than proclaiming. As Tracy says, “I went onstage, and I said my lines simply and truthfully. It was my first real acting...


Josh Gad
Josh Gad was drawn to acting ever since he took the stage as The Simcha Machine in Beth Shalom Academy’s kindergarten play. Onstage, Josh felt euphoria, but at home, he struggled with his parents’ divorce. Luckily, he found an escape through watching and performing in theater. Josh vividly remembers the first time he saw a professional play, sitting in the nosebleeds, and watching breathlessly. “What finally took me over the edge was going to New York City and seeing Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. I was sold...

214. Josh Gad
Josh Gad was drawn to acting ever since he took the stage as The Simcha Machine in Beth Shalom Academy’s kindergarten play. Onstage, Josh felt euphoria, but at home, he struggled with his parents’ divorce. Luckily, he found an escape through watching and performing in theater. Josh vividly remembers the first time he saw a professional play, sitting in the nosebleeds, and watching breathlessly. “What finally took me over the edge was going to New York City and seeing Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. I was sold...

Noomi Rapace
When Swedish born Noomi Rapace booked the lead in the original film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it changed her life, both personally and professionally. It was a role she deeply related to, and her striking performance as the hard-edged, androgynous Lisbeth Salander garnered international praise and attention. That success brought her from Sweden to Hollywood, where she brought her intensity and fragility to Prometheus, What Happened to Monday?, Bright, and many more. She’s now in the new...


213. Noomi Rapace
When Swedish born Noomi Rapace booked the lead in the original film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, it changed her life, both personally and professionally. It was a role she deeply related to, and her striking performance as the hard-edged, androgynous Lisbeth Salander garnered international praise and attention. That success brought her from Sweden to Hollywood, where she brought her intensity and fragility to Prometheus, What Happened to Monday?, Bright, and many more. She’s now in the new...

Lance Reddick
When Lance Reddick was growing up, he was a shy and introverted kid. He was one of a handful of African-Americans at his school, so he never felt like he fit in, and his introverted nature made him an easy target for bullies. In the face of these struggles, Lance had to confront his own self-perception at an early age. As he says, “In order to escape the trap of trying to fit into places where people tried to define me or how they defined being black, I had to find a sense of myself that was independent of ...

Edward Norton
For the past 25 years, Edward Norton has established himself as one of the greatest actors in his generation. His legacy includes roles in films like Primal Fear, American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman to name a few, and he’s the type of artist who constantly seeks to challenge himself. Take his new film Motherless Brooklyn, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. The noir-esque film is an incredible achievement for Edward, and it’s a direct product of all of his years of hard work and experience in th...


211. Edward Norton
For the past 25 years, Edward Norton has established himself as one of the greatest actors in his generation. His legacy includes roles in films like Primal Fear, American History X, Fight Club, and Birdman to name a few, and he’s the type of artist who constantly seeks to challenge himself. Take his new film Motherless Brooklyn, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. The noir-esque film is an incredible achievement for Edward, and it’s a direct product of all of his years of hard work and experience in th...

Jeff Bridges 2
Jeff Bridges is back again, and this time, the legendary multi-hyphenate is joining me because he’s just released a new photography book titled Jeff Bridges: Pictures, Volume Two. Composed of behind-the-scenes photos taken throughout his career, the book is a wonderful representation of the magic and mystery of filmmaking.Despite so many years of experience, Jeff approaches every new artistic project with a "beginner’s mind." Whether he’s prepping for a new role, writing songs, painting, or taking photos, g...

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson’s made a career out of acting next to some of the top names in the business, and that’s exactly how he likes it. From his vantage point, he’s got the best seat in the house, watching people like Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Tom Cruise (The Mummy), and Cobie Smulders (Stumptown) do their thing. All the while, he’s living out a dream that started when he was a kid, watching shows like Cheers and Roseanne and desperately wanting to be in them.Jake and his two siblings were brought up by their mothe...


209. Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson’s made a career out of acting next to some of the top names in the business, and that’s exactly how he likes it. From his vantage point, he’s got the best seat in the house, watching people like Zooey Deschanel (New Girl), Tom Cruise (The Mummy), and Cobie Smulders (Stumptown) do their thing. All the while, he’s living out a dream that started when he was a kid, watching shows like Cheers and Roseanne and desperately wanting to be in them.Jake and his two siblings were brought up by their mothe...

Adam Devine
When Adam Devine was in fourth grade, a bully turned the entire class against him, and it took Adam nailing his performance in that year’s school play for his social prospects to start looking up. One great scene made the entire audience laugh, and after the play, he was greeted by praise. “From that moment on, I realized that no matter what was happening in my life, I could be good at acting and that can be my thing.”The following year, Adam suffered a near fatal collision with a cement truck which broke m...

Beth Behrs
Ever since three-year-old Beth Behrs saw Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, she knew she wanted to become an actor. Beth’s perfectionist nature and her professional approach to the craft resulted in a driving ambition that got her into UCLA’s acting program and eventually led to her first role on network television as the co-star of the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls.Success wasn't the answer to everything though, and it brought its own set of challenges, like navigating the gauntlet that is being an actress in...


Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis had his big moment of success a bit later than most. Zach was a stand-up comedian with a small but loyal following, but when the massive hit comedy The Hangover came out, his life drastically changed. At 40 years old, Zach was unaccustomed to throngs of fans and perplexed by the attention brought by fame. As he says, “No one wanted to hear me speak or ask my opinion until I got into the movies. That doesn’t make any sense.”Zach’s down to earth approach to life likely originated with his fa...

206. Zach Galifianakis
Zach Galifianakis had his big moment of success a bit later than most. Zach was a stand-up comedian with a small but loyal following, but when the massive hit comedy The Hangover came out, his life drastically changed. At 40 years old, Zach was unaccustomed to throngs of fans and perplexed by the attention brought by fame. As he says, “No one wanted to hear me speak or ask my opinion until I got into the movies. That doesn’t make any sense.”Zach’s down to earth approach to life likely originated with his fa...

Scott Aukerman
Writer, director, comedian and podcast host Scott Aukerman is a very busy man. He is perhaps best known for his hit podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! which has been introducing audiences to the most talented comedians and improv artists for the last ten years. And that’s just Scott’s “side gig.” He’s written for movies and television shows, like Mr. Show, and more recently, Between Two Ferns, a wonderfully awkward talk show hosted by Zach Galifianakis which is now a full length Netflix movie. Even with all of his ...


205. Scott Aukerman
Writer, director, comedian and podcast host Scott Aukerman is a very busy man. He is perhaps best known for his hit podcast Comedy Bang! Bang! which has been introducing audiences to the most talented comedians and improv artists for the last ten years. And that’s just Scott’s “side gig.” He’s written for movies and television shows, like Mr. Show, and more recently, Between Two Ferns, a wonderfully awkward talk show hosted by Zach Galifianakis which is now a full length Netflix movie. Even with all of his ...

Andrea Savage
If you haven’t seen Andrea Savage’s comedy series I’m Sorry, you should…just be prepared to laugh your butt off. As the creator, writer, and star of the series, Andrea does it all—which makes sense since the show is based on her own experiences being a comedian, wife and mom. But it is also a show about us. Andrea has found the universal truths of being a parent while being a working artist, and her observational powers reveal the absurdity and pathos in our own lives.For years, Andrea was stuck in developm...

Andrea Savage
If you haven’t seen Andrea Savage’s comedy series I’m Sorry, you should…just be prepared to laugh your butt off. As the creator, writer, and star of the series, Andrea does it all—which makes sense since the show is based on her own experiences being a comedian, wife and mom. But it is also a show about us. Andrea has found the universal truths of being a parent while being a working artist, and her observational powers reveal the absurdity and pathos in our own lives.For years, Andrea was stuck in developm...


Constance Wu
Before she became a household name from her work in projects like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu was a full-time waitress in credit card debt who was trying to break into the TV and film industry.Despite her BFA in acting, Constance struggled to get steady acting work for nearly a decade. Her love of the craft never wavered—no matter how tough it was to deal with the rejection. But times got so tough she finally had to ask herself, “Are you okay if you’re still waiting tables at 50 i...

203. Constance Wu
Before she became a household name from her work in projects like Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, Constance Wu was a full-time waitress in credit card debt who was trying to break into the TV and film industry.Despite her BFA in acting, Constance struggled to get steady acting work for nearly a decade. Her love of the craft never wavered—no matter how tough it was to deal with the rejection. But times got so tough she finally had to ask herself, “Are you okay if you’re still waiting tables at 50 i...

Wyatt Russell
Wyatt Russell was born into the film business as the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, which can be a difficult way to grow up. But despite their massive success, Wyatt’s parents were a grounding presence who emphasized hard work. “They did a really good job of making us understand that what you get is earned, not given, and that there’s reward in earning it,” Wyatt told me. In light of that lesson and after an eye-opening trip to a hockey rink, Wyatt decided to deviate from the family way and forge his ...


Sam Jones 2
Off Camera is back after a short summer break with all new episodes, and we’re kicking off the new season with a game of musical chairs. Writer, actor, and Saturday Night Live alum Jason Sudeikis takes over as host, and I take the hot seat for a change.The idea came to Jason while he was running on the treadmill a couple of months ago. Mid-exercise, he texted me to see if I was interested in celebrating 200 episodes of Off Camera by allowing him to interview me. I was incredibly flattered by the offer, but ...

Robert Downey Jr. 2
Good old Robert Downey Jr. is back for a second time, and his career has gone quite well since his last appearance, on episode 5 of Off Camera. It is now our 200th episode, and Robert is here to remind us that great conversations should be unconventional, surprising, and sometimes just downright weird. Check, check, and check.Since the last time he was here, Robert’s Iron Man legend has grown exponentially—thanks to the massive success of Marvel’s Avengers franchise and the recent release of the final insta...

Scoot McNairy
If Scoot McNairy hadn’t found acting, it’s possible he’d be mowing lawns for a living. Scoot grew up relishing the outdoors of his native Texas, and started his own landscaping company at age 13 to make some spending money. Towards the end of high school, he had some thinking to do about his future. Since he was dyslexic, college seemed out of the question, so one day, his father asked, “What is the one thing that you could do every single day, that would get you up and out of bed, that would make you want ...


Ramy Youssef
As the child of first-generation Muslim immigrants, Ramy Youssef grew up with a sense of practicality about his future. He was drawn to comedy and performing, but he saw no one who looked like him on TV. Add to that the fact that acting isn’t exactly a pragmatic career path in the first place. “I had parents who gave up everything to move to America, and I’m supposed to call them and say, ‘Hey, can you pay a bunch of money for me to study the Meisner technique?’ I didn’t have the balls to ask that question....

David Tennant
When David Tennant was a child in Scotland, he spent his free time running around the back garden pretending to be characters from the TV shows he loved. In honor of his favorite show, Doctor Who, his grandmother knit him a multi-colored scarf to wear, just like his favorite Doctor, as he let his imagination run wild.During that time, David realized he wanted to become an actor—he just happened to live in a place devoid of actors. His parents were pushing him towards a more practical, stable career, but Dav...

Sienna Miller
When Sienna Miller got her first big acting job on the short-lived FOX television show Keen Eddie, she had no grand plans for her career. Surrounded by a bustling crew and a shiny, big-budget production, she was simply happy to be there, and as a 19-year-old with zero drama school experience, she had no idea about the competitive side of the industry, which instilled in her a naïve confidence in auditions that led to early success.Although Keen Eddie was abruptly cancelled, Sienna’s film career was taking o...


Olivia Wilde 2
It’s been four years since Olivia Wilde last visited Off Camera, and a lot has changed—she’s had another child, taken a step back from acting, and embarked on a completely different career path as a director. “I almost feel like someone who’s come out of the closet. There’s this feeling of honesty about what I really want to do, and it's a level of comfort that comes from being true to yourself that I haven’t felt in a long time.” Booksmart, her first feature film, offers a unique perspective on friendship ...

Fred Armisen
Fred Armisen is known as one of the funniest and most memorable Saturday Night Live cast members, but surprisingly, a career in comedy wasn’t something he originally envisioned. As a kid, he was obsessed with becoming a musician. Punk—his first love—was perfectly suited to his self-described “weirdo” sensibility. He and his band Trenchmouth had some success, but it paled in comparison to the record deals and acclaim his peers were getting. “The hardest part about watching all the bands around us get famous ...

Ian McShane
Acting wasn’t really on the radar of young Ian McShane, who grew up in Manchester, England in the 1950s. Even though his father was a professional footballer for Manchester United, Ian had a normal, working class upbringing. He liked to play sports with his friends, but when a broken leg sidelined him from the field, his geography/drama teacher asked Ian to audition for the play. “I walked on the stage, and suddenly, I thought, ‘I know what I’m doing.’” After nailing the ambitious part of Cyrano in Cyrano d...


Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird grew up no stranger to music, and he started playing the violin was he was four, using the Suzuki method. But Andrew argues he wasn’t “prodigy material.” Yes, he was naturally musical, but classical training requires strict adherence to rules and technique, and that just wasn’t his thing. “I always had this rebellious response to my teachers. I was trying to bust out of it before I had the basics. They would say, “Just learn what we’re trying to teach you, and then you can do that other stuff.” ...

Jason Mantzoukas
Growing up on a little island off the coast of Massachusetts didn’t afford Jason Mantzoukas, an aspiring performer, much room to interact with the outside world, but it was a good place for Jason to hone his comedic skills. “I was a little Greek kid in a very WASP-y town. I very much felt like ‘the other’ and was subjected to lots of name calling and threats, but that’s where I came into being as a funny person—I diffused situations by making people laugh, and I never got into fights.”Jason’s world started ...

Sarah Goldberg
All it took for Canadian-born actress Sarah Goldberg to realize she wanted to become an actor was a preschool production of The Owl and the Pussycat. And as she got older, the joy of acting in plays only intensified: “I discovered that being on stage is this point in time where everything goes quiet, and you’re completely free.” With that passion for the craft driving her, Sarah headed off for London to hit the boards as soon as she could leave home.After graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dram...


'Weird Al' Yankovic
For years, Weird Al Yankovic was dismissed as a novelty musician—here today, gone tomorrow—but it’s been 40 years, and his weird and wonderful career shows no signs of slowing down. “People often think that if something is funny, it has lesser value and doesn’t deserve respect. Obviously, not me. I embrace it, and I encourage the people I work with to let their freak flag fly.”Al developed his “freak flag” pretty early on. “I was always a little outside the norm. Even in elementary school when everyone was ...

Seth Rogen
Believe it or not, the origin of Seth Rogen’s incredible acting, writing, and producing career traces all the way back to Bar Mitzvah class in Vancouver. That’s where twelve-year-old Seth met Evan Goldberg, a fellow movie enthusiast who loved writing just as much as Seth did. A creative partnership between the two began instantaneously, and they started writing what would become Superbad, inspired by their own high school escapades, by the time they were thirteen. “We always wondered if our very specific hi...

Busy Philipps
For over 20 years, Busy Philipps has been navigating the highs and lows of a being an actress in Hollywood. With unrivaled determination and a strong belief in herself, Busy left her home in Arizona at 18 years old for Los Angeles to pursue acting and briefly, college. Her dream came true sophomore year, when she was cast in the cult TV show Freaks & Geeks, and since that time, Busy’s been a staple of American television, with roles in popular shows like Dawson’s Creek, Cougar Town, and Vice Principals.Desp...


David Harbour
When David Harbour was growing up in the suburbs of Westchester County, he was an outcast. A self-described nerdy and intense weirdo who preferred to march to the beat of his own drum over assimilating with the popular crowd, David explains, “I basically felt like an alien growing up.” But his isolation from the group and things like team sports led him to pursue more solitary, artistic, and creative endeavors, and along the way, he discovered acting.On stage, David’s socially off-putting intensity was an a...

Joey King
When Joey King went to the premiere of her upcoming Hulu show The Act, she didn’t anticipate watching the entire thing through her fingers, but the role was so personally and professionally momentous that she couldn’t bear to watch herself with clear, open eyes. “I was sitting in a room full of people that I knew, but I was sweating the entire time. I was so nervous—I’d never felt so vulnerable about a performance before.” The show, based on a real-life story of Gypsy Rose (played by Joey) and Dee Dee Blanc...

Brit Marling
Brit Marling has created one of the most original, mind-bending, and creative shows on television with Netflix’s The OA; an exploration of near death experiences, inter-dimensional travel, modern dance, and much, much more. But the thing the sticks with you, and the thing that underlies all of the sci-fi excitement, is a very human yearning for connection and community. Between The OA and her films Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, Brit’s talent for tapping into her childhood imagination to create unique...


Lauren Cohan
If you look at Lauren Cohan’s acting career, it’s clear she has a knack for playing strong and feisty women. She’s played a zombie killing badass in The Walking Dead, a secret agent in Peter Berg’s thriller Mile 22, and now, she’s chasing down international baddies in the action-packed ABC series Whiskey Cavalier. Rolling on the ground, shooting guns, and doing stunts can be exhausting work, but for Lauren it’s the opposite. “I naturally gravitate towards action. As soon as I started doing it, I felt exhila...

Ray Romano
Before Ray Romano graced our television sets with Everybody Loves Raymond, he was a hustling stand-up comedian, hoping to break into television like his peers Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and Rosanne. He followed all the proper steps—performing on late night television, selling out road gigs, and getting featured in HBO comedy specials—but radio silence was all he got from the powers that be. After eleven years as a full-time stand-up, Ray realized, “Maybe this acting thing just isn’t meant to be.” But that’s...

Patton Oswalt
I was excited to have Patton Oswalt on the show, because I have been following his career ever since I first saw him on stage at the legendary Los Angeles club, The Largo in the mid-nineties, where he made me laugh harder than perhaps I have ever laughed before or since. But as I learned in this conversation, the road to that kind of insight and humor is a long uncertain one. As Patton says: “I worked for years doing very uncreative jobs, and for some people that’s fine, but for me, it felt deadly. It felt ...


Norman Reedus
Over the last ten years, Norman Reedus has been kicking zombie butt and endearing himself to audiences around the world in the massively successful AMC series The Walking Dead. Ten years is a long time for someone who grew up with a serious case of wanderlust and a “day-to-day” philosophy on life, but Norman wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m so invested in The Walking Dead that I can’t imagine leaving on my own. I want to bookend it. I want to see it to its conclusion.” Norman came to acting relativel...

Daniel Radcliffe
Before Daniel Radcliffe became the face of the global phenomenon that was Harry Potter, he was just a typical kid struggling to get through his schoolwork and get along with his teachers. Back then, his only acting credential was the BBC miniseries David Copperfield, but he made a good impression on fellow cast member Maggie Smith, who recommended him for the role that would change his life. Despite his parents’ initial reluctance, Dan was allowed to audition, and once they started filming, he discovered hi...

Stephen Merchant
When Stephen Merchant grew to 6’7” as a teenager, he had a hard time blending in with the crowd, which was something he longed for. “Lots of kids in school would dye their hair pink, get lots of piercings, or do things to stand out, whereas I spent all my time trying not to stand out, trying to seem shorter, to be one of the crowd.” Despite the unwanted attention, being tall helped Stephen develop his comedic sense—“If people were just going to point at me for being tall, they might as well point and go,...


Regina Hall
Ever since Regina Hall showed up on screen as the hilarious, sex-craven Brenda in Scary Movie, she’s never had to worry about getting work. But what she did struggle with was getting the right kind of work, especially after discovering the flip side to success—typecasting. “I wanted great parts and interesting work. And as a woman, a black woman, I wondered if that was even possible.” Despite her concerns about a career ceiling, she continued to push for roles that were more nuanced, and less broad. Luck...

Dax Shepard 2
It’s been 140 episodes since Dax Shepard last sat down with me, and a lot has changed since—he directed a film (ChiPs), started Armchair Expert, which is one of the best and most popular podcasts of 2018 (after stealing all of my secrets, of course), and learned a lot about what truly makes him happy in the process. In fact, his entire podcast is inspired by his fascination with true happiness.  “A lot of us go through life thinking, ‘I would be happy, if…’ ‘I would have self-esteem, if…’ ‘I would know c...

D'Arcy Carden
You may know D’Arcy Carden as the lovable, all-knowing, not-quite-robot-not-quite-human entity Janet on The Good Place, and while she may not know everything in real life, she certainly knew she wanted to act from the moment she saw her father in a local production of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. By the time she was nine, D’Arcy had her mind set on child acting, and she tried to make her case to her father. But he didn’t buy her “I can handle it” argument, and instead, she was forced to pursue acting at sc...


174. Ron Livingston
When Ron Livingston was a kid growing up in Iowa, he watched movies with the belief that being an actor meant you were transported to and fully immersed in the environment of the film. “I watched Star Wars and thought the actors were actually going into space and flying the Millennium Falcon.” Ron eventually discovered this thing called a “green screen,” but his desire to act and be fully immersed in the experience didn’t go away. A combination of talent and hard work, fueled by a (mostly) healthy dose o...

173. Steve Coogan
British actor, writer, and comedian Steve Coogan was first drawn to the magic and wonder of performing when he was a kid, sitting around the television with his family and watching comedies like Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. It was before the era of VCRs, so the only way to record something you loved was to memorize it in your head and talk about it afterwards. The whole experience left young Steve in awe: “Wow, how great would it be to do a comedy character who people had such affection for and made ever...

172. Emily Mortimer
It’s hard to believe that a person who chooses to be an actor, a profession ripe with exposure and vulnerability, can also be painfully shy at the same time, but that was the reality for a young Emily Mortimer, who couldn’t even raise her hand in class without blushing. However, Emily handles fear different than most—instead of avoiding the things she’s most afraid of, she dives in head first. “I couldn’t just be a little less shy; I had to do the bravest possible thing in front of the most amount of people...


171. Ted Danson
Ted Danson, first known to most as Cheers’ charismatic bartender Sam Malone, is now in his seventies—yet even after nearly 50 years in the business, the passion that fuels Ted’s love of his craft shows no signs of subsiding. “I think the thing that has given me any degree of career longevity comes from the fact that I love going to work. When I started acting, I didn’t think, ‘Am I going to make it? Can I support myself? Will I have a career? Will I be famous?’ I just wanted to do the next scene with the ne...

170. Carey Mulligan
When Carey Mulligan first stepped foot on set of 2005’s Pride & Prejudice, she was convinced she won the lottery. It was her first professional job and her first time acting in front of a camera, but there she was, acting alongside Judi Dench, Keira Knightly, and Jena Malone. “The entire experience was like summer camp; it didn’t feel like work at all.” Carey was living her dream, but she was still convinced it was all a fluke. “I remember thinking, ‘After this, I’ll reapply to drama school.’” In reality, h...

169. Bo Burnham
Before YouTube became a ubiquitous and unavoidable black hole of viral cat videos, self-aggrandizing entertainment, and misinformation, it used to be a place to share your homemade videos with family and friends. That’s how the origin story of comedian, writer, and director Bo Burnham begins, anyway. It was 2006, and 16-year-old Bo—a lover of the performing arts—wanted to share his creations, musical bits, and jokes with his brother in college. That’s where YouTube, an easy place to upload and share videos,...


168. Matt Damon
For those of you watching this week’s Off Camera episode, do not adjust your sets…that is me sitting across from Matt, humiliatingly dressed head to toe in a Red Sox uniform, having lost a bet to Matt when my beloved Dodgers lost in the world series for the second year in a row. And for those of you listening or reading, well, just imagine my shame. For as long as Matt Damon can remember, he wanted to be an actor. So much so that he started his college essay with those very words. But before all the acco...

167. Rosamund Pike
Early on, the stage was set for Rosamund Pike to pursue a career in the performing arts. Born to two opera singers, Rosamund had a front row seat to familial emoting. She tried her hand at both music and acting, but a bout of stage fright while playing the cello forced Rosamund to recognize that she really didn’t want to play herself on stage—she was much more interested in playing other people, where her imagination was free to roam and explore. “Acting was like diving into a place where you actually felt ...

166. Hasan Minhaj
Ten years ago, a timid and fearful Hasan Minhaj turned down the opportunity to go to his dream school, UCLA, and instead made the safe choice: to live at home and commute to UC Davis. A year after making this decision, Hasan sat under the Michael Jordan poster in his childhood bedroom despondently wondering, “What have I done? I had the golden ticket, and I just chucked it out the window.” As he watched his childhood friends spread their wings and grow, Hasan made an important decision—he would never hed...


165. Ryan Bingham
If you ask award-winning musician Ryan Bingham where he’s from, he’ll tell you that there really isn’t one right answer. Ryan spent most of his childhood bouncing from one small Texas town to another because his father had a hard time keeping a job for longer than six months at a time. Ryan kept a half-packed cardboard box by his bedside, just in case they had to leave at a moment’s notice. “We always knew it was time to move when we’d come home, and the lights wouldn’t come on.” “Home” was less about th...

164. Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s first true love was the ballet, but her body had other plans, and she grew a bit too tall for the grande jeté. Luckily, her favorite parts about ballet—performing, telling a story, playing different characters—are all essential tenets of acting, and Mary found herself in love anew. Her early experiences acting reinforced her love of the craft, but as she got older, she struggled to find her artistic place in an industry where women are often saddled with objectification and unwa...

163. Sissy Spacek
Growing up, award-winning actress Sissy Spacek sang and danced her way through small town Texas talent shows, eventually realizing she was too big a fish for her small pond. By the time she was a teenager, Sissy set her sights on the music industry in New York City at the expense of a college education. “I went on a trip to New York, and I made friends who, at 14 years old, were top models and already working. I thought, ‘Oh god, I’m missing the boat! I’m getting old—I’ve got to get started.’” Sissy was ...


162. Javier Bardem
Acclaimed Spanish actor Javier Bardem comes from a long line of artists and filmmakers, but his love of cinema officially took shape when his mother, a working actress herself, snuck him into a movie theater to see Bob Fosse’s All that Jazz when he was 6 years old. It wasn’t exactly a Disney movie, but that didn’t matter—Javier was in awe. He wondered, “What is this mechanism of people, feelings, dance, music, colors, drama, and comedy? I want to be a part of that.” His passion and dedication to the craf...

161. Eric Idle
With Monty Python’s 50th anniversary coming up, Eric Idle thought it would be nice to put things in perspective for himself by writing a memoir, so he did, and the result, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography, is a comprehensive history of his life in comedy, and also a beautiful snapshot into the creative zeitgeist of London in the 1960s and 70s. But it also details the incredible hardships he overcame as a child and the double-edged sword that fame can be. Enlightenment came at a price...

160. Elizabeth Olsen
It’s safe to say that Elizabeth Olsen didn’t have a normal childhood. As the other sister to the Olsen twins, Elizabeth Olsen had a front row seat to her sisters’ experience in the spotlight, media circus included, and she also witnessed what it was like to be a working actor—something she wanted to be but was embarrassed to admit. “I had this fear that people would think I didn’t earn or deserve the things I worked for because of who I was naturally associated with.” The nepotism critique motivated her ...


159. Chris Messina
If things turned out differently, Chris Messina might have been the next Baryshnikov. But growing up, the other kids in his small Long Island town wouldn’t let him dance without a fight—the ensuing nickname “Ballerina Boy” and other more graphic homophobic slurs followed him around for most of his adolescence, as did a persistent questioning of his own identity. By the time Chris was asked to be in his school’s rendition of the musical Pippin, he almost didn’t do it. As he explains, “I was so scared to b...

158. Paul Feig
Writer and director Paul Feig has an uncanny ability to reflect humanity. He showed us the cringe-y and torturous moments of adolescence in the cult television show Freaks and Geeks, and in his female-centric, hit comedies Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters, and Spy, his characters are honest and realistic, in addition to hilarious. Paul’s at it again with his newest foray into the art of self-examination in A Simple Favor, a film starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively that examines the unsettling, dark underpinnin...

157. Uzo Aduba
After a particularly disheartening audition, Uzo Aduba sat on the NYC subway in tears, resigning herself to the fact that she’d never be a working television actor. “Uzo, acting is not for you. This is the universe telling you that this will never be yours,” she said to herself. So, with sushi takeout and a bottle of wine in hand, Uzo made her decision to quit, praying, “God, if you can figure out a way for me to go back to school and become a lawyer, I will go.” Of course, the universe had other plans. For...


156. Awkwafina
Awkwafina (also known as Nora Lum) is having quite a moment. She's a part of the impressive cast of female icons (Sandra Bullock, Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, and more) in Ocean’s 8, and she’s so hilarious in Crazy Rich Asians that you’ll barely hear her next line over the sound of your own laughter. What does this moment in the spotlight feel like? Awkwafina likens it to this: “I compare it to a wall opening up and transporting you to an alternate dimension where there is no gravity, and everything is weird.” ...

155. Chris O'Dowd
Since his role in Bridesmaids as the charming and lovable cop who really hates littering and broken taillights, Irish-born actor Chris O’Dowd has taken audiences by storm. There was his captivating Tony award-winning performance on Broadway as Lenny in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Moone Boy, a show about his upbringing that he wrote, produced, and starred in. Most recently, he’s kicking butt and taking names (and scripts and meetings) as an Irish-mobster-turned-Hollywood-producer alongside Ray Roma...

154. Rose Byrne
Even with all of her success, Rose Byrne still spent years of her career wailing and breaking down in audition rooms. As she says, “Women often have to start with a break down scene in auditions. Do guys have to do this? No. It’s such a cliché, but it’s always crying…or she’s got her top off. The classic hits of what the female character’s doing.” Luckily, Rose hasn’t been limited to those “classic hits.” Her break out performance in America came opposite Glenn Close in FX’s thrilling legal drama ser...


153. Betty Gilpin
Before she was body slamming opponents as her wrestling alter-ego Liberty Belle in GLOW, Betty Gilpin was coming to terms with her own self-perception—the beta personality who sat with the bugs and observed human behavior as a kid wasn’t matching with what the industry saw on the outside. They noticed her beauty and her body, but failed to notice her “monster soup.” She pulls no punches about her own career, describing many of the parts she got as one-dimensional female stereotypes, or “Voldemort Drag Bimbo...

152. Keri Russell
After an exhausting 16-hour workday on the set of Felicity, Keri Russell treated herself to a matinée at a movie theater in Santa Monica, and a group of girls her age caught her eye. She remembers, "They were just a group of friends going on a fun road trip together, and I cried because I wanted that life. I just wanted to be a teenager." Fame and the responsibilities of work are not without their challenges, especially for a girl whose childhood was put on hold after being cast in Disney's Mickey Mouse ...

151. Alison Brie
After spending seven years on AMC’s Mad Men and NBC’s Community, Alison Brie decided to take some time off from television. It wasn’t until she read a script based on the 80’s female wrestling show G.L.O.W. (“Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”), that Alison decided to dive back into TV. Problem was—even with her past success, the show’s executives just weren’t convinced she could do it. Alison had to fight for the role of Ruth and endure a drawn out, emotional rollercoaster ride of an audition process. As she sa...


150. Rachel Brosnahan
Ever since she was a little girl traveling back and forth between Chicago and London with a carry-on bag filled with books, Rachel Brosnahan has been a lover of storytelling. Eventually, the joy of entering the world of fantasy and exploring her imagination opened Rachel’s eyes to the performing arts. By the time she applied to college, becoming an actress was her goal, despite the concerns of her parents. As Rachel says, “Nobody wants their kid to come home and say, ‘Mom, Dad, I’m going to be an actor.’ My...

149. Sarah Paulson
From the outside, it would appear that Sarah Paulson, after her Emmy award-winning performance as prosecutor Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, has "made it." She's got a role in Ocean's 8, her first "big sh**-kicker, popcorn movie,” and has the luxury of sifting through multiple film and television offers to choose a part that “sparks something inside of her.” What more could an actor want? But that's exactly the problem for Sarah. She wants the want. Without it, she finds herself in a bit of a...

148. Natasha Leggero
How long can you continue to hear the word “no” before you lose confidence in your dream? If you’re Natasha Leggero, the answer is never. Rockford, Illinois was not a kind place for the aspiring actress. There was the art teacher who told her she’d never be an artist, the English teacher who told her she’d never be a writer, and her mother, who told her not to go to New York City. As Natasha says, “They aren’t looking at the big picture in a small town. They’re raising people to work at Walmart.” When sh...


147. Peter Krause
Peter Krause has been a fixture on quality television for the past 20 years, starting with Aaron Sorkin’s critically acclaimed and gone too soon debut, Sports Night. Soon after, Peter played Nate Fisher in HBO's Six Feet Under, exploring the concept of death in a way that was deeply moving to both the audience and to Peter personally. Then came Parenthood, another deeply moving series, in which his character Adam Braverman became the benchmark for being a good husband and father.  These days, Peter's trying...

146. John Mulaney
It all started with Ricky Ricardo and I Love Lucy. That's when young John Mulaney discovered the appeal of life in show business. Add his love of "everything funny" and some outrageous childhood experiences to the mix, and it's no wonder John became a comedian, even if it's an unexpected choice for the son of two lawyers. John had a knack for wordplay and joke rhythms as a kid, but he started fleshing out his skills when he joined Georgetown's improv troupe, a breeding ground for comics like Nick Kroll a...

145. Jason Isbell
Growing up poor to parents barely past their own adolescence was not without its struggles, but luckily for Jason Isbell, familial bonds run deep in rural Alabama. Unable to afford daycare, Jason's parents often dropped him at his grandparent’s, where he spent the day playing music. As Jason says, "From the time I was seven years old, I would take this huge Dreadnought guitar and play old gospel rhythms and country with my grandad. It was bluegrass all day long, and that was my first real interaction with a...

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144. Christina Hendricks
If there's one thing Christina Hendricks thought she would never be, it's a professional actor. It took years for her to realize that getting paid to be an actor was an actual thing ("I don't know how it passed me by. I was a real bozo."). But if there's one thing Christina always wanted to be, it's an artist. And a suffering one at that. Ever since she saw 1980's Fame, Christina was sold on a life in the arts. As she says, "I wanted to be a suffering artist when I was like nine. There was something very ro...

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143. Josh Radnor
"I will never do a sitcom. Never. You hear that universe?” That's what Josh Radnor said to himself after some early rejections in Los Angeles. Little did he know that a few years later, he'd star in How I Met Your Mother, one of the most successful sitcoms in the history of television. Josh learned quickly that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be. The more successful the show got, the unhappier he became. But as Josh says, "The gift of my discontent with fame was that it punctured the illusion that a hit s...

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142. Mae Whitman
Mae Whitman started her career in tears. As a two-year-old, Mae accompanied her mother, a successful voice actress, to one of her auditions which was cut short when Mae burst into the room crying. The casting folks were sold and said, “Hey, she’s really cute. Does she want to be in a commercial?” Within a few years, Mae had landed a role in the blockbuster action film Independence Day and was witnessing the magic of moviemaking for herself. Though she had an early start as an actor, her life wasn’t always e...


141. Zach Woods
We all know that adolescence is rife with tumultuous changes, puberty, pimples and braces, but those are also our formative years, and our artistic identities begin to take shape. And no one I know took more of a left turn, post-orthodontist, than Zach Woods. You see, Zach really wanted to be a jazz musician, and as a highly motivated kid, he would force himself to practice trumpet for hours a day with a “spartan-like, self-inflicted discipline” (complete with a fedora!). But things changed when Zach got br...

140. John Goodman
John Goodman wasn’t always the imposing presence he is today, but he’s always had his charisma. As an eighth grader in Missouri, John charmed the “hard guys” in school with a spot-on Gomer Pyle impression so they would protect him. As he explains, “I was a little fat kid. I had the glasses with the tape in the middle. I was nerdy, man.” Heavily influenced by Marlon Brando and captivated by the language of Shakespeare, John discovered his dream to become an actor and left the Midwest to make it happen. After...

139. Dan Stevens
Dan Stevens rose to fame in the popular British period drama Downton Abbey. And don’t say you didn’t get a little weepy when good old Matthew Crawley met his untimely death due to a lack of seatbelts and a desire to leave British costume drama behind. Dan had this crazy idea to move to America and test his mettle in roles and environs as far from Highclere Castle as possible. You might think he was mad for leaving a show at the height of its popularity, but Dan’s pretty comfortable with madness. As he expla...


138. Bill Hader
As a high school kid growing up in Oklahoma, Bill Hader received a progress report from his French teacher that had remarkable foresight: “Bill is very funny in class. He’ll probably be on Saturday Night Live one day. He has a 37% in class though. He will not be speaking French.” Bill had a natural gift for doing voices and impressions, and years later, he would indeed join SNL. For eight years, he brought memorable characters to life, including fan-favorites like his exasperated Vincent Price, the lecherou...

137. Andie MacDowell
When Andie MacDowell was a curious and wide-eyed 8-year-old, a trip to the university theater with her mother planted a seed. The adults on stage were playing make believe, her most favorite game in the world, and she was mesmerized. Add a penchant for prank calls and some improv with unsuspecting barkeeps, and the seed that was planted would later grow into her passion for acting. And Andie is nothing if not passionate. Over 30 years in the industry and she’s still chomping at the bit to stretch and grow d...

136. Jason Katims
Jason Katims, like many kids growing up on the east coast in the early 80’s, wanted to be Bruce Springsteen.  But with some encouragement from an English teacher, Jason discovered that he was a born storyteller, if not quite not born to run. So instead he became Jason Katims—writer and producer of some of the most successful dramatic shows on television. From Friday Night Lights, to Parenthood, and now, to Rise, Jason’s been creating characters and stories that resonate in powerful and often tearful ways. T...


135. Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch has come a long way from cleaning the toilets on Buntzen Lake in British Colombia, and if it weren't for a knee injury that ended his dream of becoming a professional hockey player, he might never have graced our screens as the beloved Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights. Despite not having a backup plan post-hockey, Taylor found his way into an acting class in NYC that changed his life—after his tough, no-nonsense acting teacher forced him to ditch the cocky attitude. It was through that proce...

134. Common
Common is a man who is anything but, and he’s been evolving as an artist since the start of his three-decade-and-counting career when he was a young musician rapping about his love for hip-hop. These days, in addition to being a Grammy-winning artist, Common is an established actor, known for his work on AMC's Hell on Wheels and films like American Gangster, Selma, and Just Wright. Common is what you’d call a conscious artist—someone who uses his platform to encourage social and political change. He believe...

133. Danai Gurira
The talented and worldly Danai Gurira has been bridging the gap between disparate worlds ever since her family moved from Grinnell, IA to Africa when she was a toddler. In school, the self-described Zimerican (Zimbabwean-American) was the “African kid with a twangy American accent” who got along with everybody regardless of race and class. That ability to cross borders both artistic and geographic has defined Danai’s career. On the blockbuster side, Danai inhabits the character of Okoye in the highly antici...


132. Jenna Fischer
As Pam Beesly on The Office, Jenna Fischer worked her way into the homes and hearts of Americans for nine seasons. As herself, Jenna charmed her way into the hearts and minds of the entire staff here at Off Camera with her endearing humility and self-deprecating nature. Born and bred in St. Louis, Missouri, Jenna grew up far away from Hollywood or New York City. But from the moment she took the stage as Toto (the dog) in The Wizard of Oz, she knew she wanted to be an actor—everything else be damned! There w...

131. Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger is the prototypical international actor. She's trilingual and has a career that spans across the globe—from France to Germany to the United States. In America, she's known for roles such as Helen of Troy in the the big-budget, star-studded film Troy (2004) and her role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) as Bridget von Hammersmark, the glamorous German movie-star-turned-spy-for-the-Allies in Nazi Germany. Once dubbed to be "too beautiful for a role of substance" by The New York T...

130. Pete Holmes
You may know Pete Holmes as the creator, writer, and star of the Judd Apatow-produced HBO series Crashing—the semi-autobiographical series about an aspiring standup comedian whose life turns upside-down when he discovers his wife cheating on him. As someone who wears his vulnerabilities on his sleeve, Holmes isn't phased by exposing his personal life to scrutiny: "It feels really good to make jokes, find the lighter side, and share some of the wisdom that comes through painful experiences by bringing them i...


129. Neil Patrick Harris
Step right up to the Neil Patrick Harris Show! He acts! He sings! He dances! He writes! He hosts! He magics! But the showman behind the curtain is… pretty much the guy you’ll meet here. And that’s okay – now. In the public eye since age 15 and saddled with an unshakeable teenage M.D. alter ego, he was unsure of who he was, and unable to stop worrying whether people thought whoever that might be was a jerk. He sought help in a forum most celebrities would do anything to avoid, but NPH likes challenges. And o...

128. John Doe
To many, John Doe and his L.A. band X represented music and fans that were scary and unknowable. To others, punk was poetry set to a visceral sound that connected way beyond words. Before we talk to one of the most influential poets of the punk movement, we offer some context from Kierkegaard: “What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. And people flock around the poet and say: 'S...

127. Octavia Spencer
If you have debilitating stage fright and dyslexia, good luck becoming an actor or a writer. Octavia Spencer had both, and became both, and luck was not involved. What was: A strong work ethic (thanks, mom), a love of mysteries (thanks, Ms. Bradford), and unshakeable faith in her own talent. She looked at what people told her she was, and saw something different. It took awhile for others to see it. The Help helped (thanks, Academy) – and in some ways, didn’t – same with Hidden Figures. Now she’s after role...


126. Sam Rockwell
Sam Rockwell will tell you it’s not good enough to be good in a movie, and it’s not good enough to be good in a good movie. You’ve got to be good in a good movie that people see. After years of being good in good movies that enjoyed most of their success in the afterlife, he’s hit the jackpot with this month’s buzz-generating Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. As a cop who goes “from Barney Fife to Travis Bickle” before we know what’s hit us. Rockwell reminds us that “professional actor” is not an o...

125. Jeff Daniels
It’s been said that seeing ourselves clearly is the project of a lifetime. Coming from Michigan might be a shortcut. Jeff Daniels grew up in a small town playing basketball. Now he lives in a small town, playing guitar. In between, he played roles from The Squid and the Whale to Dumb and Dumber, creating a range he hoped would let him remain in his hometown both physically and spiritually. Daniels didn’t buy Hollywood, never saw himself as a star. He was just a good actor who could be finished at any moment...

124. Pamela Adlon
FX’s brilliant Better Things premiered just over a year ago, but Pamela Adlon’s been writing it for the last 20. She hoarded her experiences as an actor (hirings, firings, countless pilot seasons), and a single mom (three kids, untold fights, guilt and joy) –and wondered how she’d fictionalize it. The answer? Barely. Better Things resonates hard because Adlon doesn’t glamorize, force or standardize her stories, so they unfold on screen much as they do in your house. With the determination she’s had since fi...


123. Michael Connelly
It was a dark and stormy night… Okay, so it was a dark and sticky-floored movie theater, but the story’s just as good. It’s where Michael Connelly first saw The Long Goodbye, and where he first fell in love – with Raymond Chandler, Phillip Marlowe, and most of all, with Los Angeles. He didn’t make it there for another 12 years, but when you come as a reporter, you see places – and things – most of us don’t. His beat became the beat of one Harry Bosch, the cynical, hopeful hero of Connelly’s best-selling cri...

122. Emmy Rossum
Emmy Rossum has come a long way from singing for hot dogs at the local butcher shop. Of course her voice made her famous at 18 in The Phantom of the Opera, and she could’ve played Princess of the High E for years to come. But her decision to stretch, while difficult, landed her a surprising role on a surprising TV show. The Gallagher clan has done America a favor by demonstrating that you can screw up – really screw up – and the world doesn’t implode. Fiona Gallagher has done Rossum herself a solid or two. ...

121. Rebecca Hall
Night after night, a five-year-old Rebecca Hall witnessed her mother losing her s**t, ripping off her clothes and wailing operatically while holding a severed head. What could’ve been a scarring experience instead underscored the beauty of committing to a role. And from about that age, Hall’s been certain about what she was meant to do, and how deeply she loves doing it. The proof is in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Please Give, Christine, and now Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, a lush piece of period e...


120. Willem Dafoe
Willem Dafoe is an actor who often seems a million miles from Hollywood, no matter where he is. It’s apparent in the roles he’s chosen, and how he’s chosen to play them. He’ll take Tanzania or a desolate Florida motel strip over a sound stage any day. He’ll show you the good side of a bad guy. And once he falls in love with an idea or a world, he’s all in. “There’s a pleasure to having someone tell me what they want to express or what they’re interested in, and then sending me in there like an explorer.” An...

119. Chadwick Boseman
When Chadwick Boseman got the call about Marshall, he was worried. Where’s the hard part, he wondered? The screaming muscles, bone-deep exhaustion and verbal abuse he endured to play Jackie Robinson (42), Vontae Mack (Draft Day) and James Brown (Get on Up) didn’t seem required to play future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. He found it soon enough – you try leading a courtroom drama when your character is silenced at the opening gavel. For Boseman, the hard part is always the best part. “If I can sh...

118. Nick Kroll
Any number of things can fuel success. There’s talent and ambition, the usual suspects. But don’t discount fear, insecurity or being a wise ass, either. Check all of the above for Nick Kroll, but also add the belief that a career you love can’t be handed to you by anyone other than yourself. He’s created some of the funniest characters in modern sketch comedy for Kroll Show, two of which escaped to the surprise hit Oh, Hello on Broadway. Not all his ideas are brilliant (kale lollipop, anyone?), but Big Mout...


117. Tom Papa
Tom Papa is a happy, well-adjusted, family guy who's fine with being labeled clean. So how the hell did he ever become a comedian? He had no idea if he could make it in standup, and no roadmap to get there. What he did have was the certainty that nothing else felt right. It took a lot of observation, a lot of hard work and a certain comedy chiropractor, but mostly it took learning to be himself. He's now a successful standup, show host and actor. What keeps him going? The possibility of more success, yeah, ...

116. Alan Tudyk
When you think about how many brilliantly wacky characters have sprung from Alan Tudyk's imagination to the screen for the past two decades, and then factor in his history of prank calls and high school improv competitions, it's a bit hard to fathom that his early career plan was to be a hotel manager. Sure, if Basil Fawlty is your idea of a hotel manager, but he was actually serious. Sometimes, the path not taken is a good thing. Alan's path has led him to Broadway, too many film and TV roles to count, and...

115. Jay Duplass
Here's a question: How many years do you have to spend watching actors through a camera before you realize maybe that's what you were meant to be doing all along? If you're Jay Duplass, you might also wonder why your brother Mark didn't let you in on how fun and freeing it can be a little sooner. But no matter. At a time in life when most actors are rushing the directors chair, the elder Duplass brother is running in the opposite direction on Transparent, and killing it. It's the second time he missed the o...


114. Mike White
If you've always thought of Hollywood as a competitive, jealousy-ridden place where success is watched, compared and envied, Mike White is not here to disillusion you. And his latest film suggests the world inside your own head might not be so different. Few writers understand our inner dialogs better, and that can be embarrassing. Not to mention touching, depressing and yes, funny. We talk to one of the business's most talented screenwriters (and directors, and actors) about why he feels more alive the fur...

The Call-in Show 2
Hi Folks! Well, summer is almost over. Kids are shuffling back to school, the sun is setting a bit earlier, and over here at the Off Camera studios, we are hard at work on our fall season. To kick things off, we proudly present our second annual Call In Podcast, chock full of conversations with listeners like you, as we touch on a multitude of creative and show related topics.That podcast is available right now, right here. Opening up the phone lines is a lot of fun for us over here, and we were flattered b...

113. Holly Hunter
It's ironic Holly Hunter won an Oscar for The Piano, in which she did her own playing. If she'd had the chops she wanted, we'd never have seen her in that movie, Raising Arizona, Broadcast News or so many others that made us swear she was born to act. Fortunately, she found acting almost as sacred and transportive as music, her original dream. Working with a string of the best directors in the business right out of the gate helped - and led to some later-career disillusionment. But Hunter's not as ambitious...


112. Lauren Lapkus
The woman huffing in impotent rage in a frozen Marshalls' checkout line with an armful of bras. The jubilant loudmouth barely able to articulate the awesomeness of a Monster! Truck! Rally! The lady blithely terrorizing passengers with her wheelie as she pushes up to the boarding gate. Nobody wants to be these people. Except Lauren Lapkus. She loves them. She wants to inhabit them. If it means being odd or ugly, it's also license to say and do anything she wants without repercussion. Oh, to be free of self-a...

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111. Michaela Watkins
We all have one or two turning points in life, but Michaela Watkins' life seems like an endless string of them. There was the classical music camp that unleashed her inner comic. The spontaneous road trip that became five years of regional theater. There was the backstage decision that doing Shakespeare actually kinda sucked. And then the double epiphany: she should be on a TV show in Los Angeles and join The Groundlings. Getting cast on Saturday Night Live and then inexplicably dropped after one season was...

110. Zoe Kazan
What makes a kid cry on her birthday? The occasional cake-induced stomachache or bouncy-house bruise, sure. For Zoe Kazan, it was a sense of what she was leaving farther behind, and she cried every year. A direct and unselfconscious view of our imagination and its creative expression gets harder and harder to find in the rearview mirror unless you cultivate and protect it. Kazan tries hard to do just that through work that she loves, in a business she often doesn't. Acting is a joyful challenge (just watch ...


109. Zoe Lister-Jones
Struggle is just how Zoe Lister-Jones rolls. She watched her parents struggle to make a living from their art, and tussled with her own decision to pursue acting versus stability. She struggled to break into film, finally deciding that instead of fighting the system, she'd create one, co-writing and acting in her own projects. The biggest yet is Band Aid, which just happened to help women battling for a place on a film crew. It's a comedy about artistic and personal failure, and our struggle to understand e...

108. Kumail Nanjiani
When you don't know who you are or what you want to do, and you have no real intention of doing what your family wants you to do, and then you decide you have to do something you have no idea you can do, what should you do? First, avoid thinking about it. Lie to your loved ones a little. Then, write a movie about it. So far, so good. But how do you know if your life is entertaining enough to be a movie? If Judd Apatow tells you it is, that's a start. Standup-turned-leading man Kumail Nanjiani puts a face on...

107. Sam Elliott
With a slew of acclaimed films and several TV series in the last two years alone, it seems Hollywood's come gunning for Sam Elliott. Fair enough; four decades ago, Elliott came gunning for Hollywood. But not for stardom or money. "It wasn't about anything but making film, and I knew the kind I wanted to make." He admired Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne - and the dudes who wrangled their horses. Guys who stood for simple, honest acting; guys we didn't want to watch being anyone but themselves. That le...


106. Jim Jefferies
Jim Jefferies is an Australian comic who found success in America by mocking our laws, hypocrisy and leaders - and don't get him started on actors. But before you take offense, know that he's an equal-opportunity berator. The most patriotic thing you can do, whether youre British, Australian, American, South African, whatever the fuck you are, is speak out about things you don't agree with. Also, know that he loves the country that gave him both a permanent home and In-N-Out. It's just that he points out ou...

105. Danny McBride
As a film-obsessed 10-year old stranded in a rural suburb of Virginia, Danny McBride went with his parents to pay the cable bill so he could see where all those movies were made. Maybe the magic didn't happen in that small strip mall office, but a film he made in a small strip mall 20 years later launched a career he never imagined. He made it with friends he still works with today, a group with the hubris to think they were just as talented as the guys they saw working in Hollywood. When you're right, you'...

104. Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup's post-theater school plans for a steady, workmanlike, and hopefully long career spent perfecting his craft were jackhammered by Almost Famous. Suddenly he was Hollywood's Next Big Thing, and completely unprepared for the dubious responsibility that comes with that crown. In fact, he was pretty sure he didnt even want the crown. "It throws you into some confusion about yourself and what you do and how each next move could affect that." Going with his gut and opting instead for interesting, "wei...


103. Chris Shiflett
From the this-just-in file: "Being in a band is not a normal job." Chris Shiflett knows it's a laughable understatement, especially when the band in question is the Foo Fighters, one of the few remaining rock acts that can record, tour and provide a (very) nice living for it's members. So why does he still take guitar lessons, humble himself in songwriting workshops and log 14-hour days in the back of a van? The answer is love, friends - an all-consuming passion for making, discovering and understanding mus...

102. Elisabeth Moss
Listen closely to Elisabeth Moss' monologue in Queen of Earth and underneath it, you'll hear her heartbeat. It's not nerves; it's love. When Moss loves a scene, or hits her groove in it, her heart pounds so hard her mic has to be adjusted. She can't remember ever not loving acting, something she's done with confounding brilliance since the age of eight, but most recognizably since 17 in The West Wing, Mad Men, countless films and now to devastating effect in The Handmaids Tale. But if you're here for tips, ...

101. Colin Hanks
Colin Hanks was just looking to fill time between acting jobs when he decided a documentary about Tower Records might be interesting. He had no idea how much it would change his outlook, his approach to acting, and essentially, his whole career. He also had no idea how to make a documentary. But that's what he loves about his trade "you're never done learning it. Anyone who says they're done learning is really saying they're done trying to learn." Here, he shares just a few of the lessons he's picked up so ...


100. Ron Howard
Yep, it's our 100th episode - or issue, in magazine speak - and we can't think of a better guest to mark the occasion than Ron Howard. He hit his 100th episode at 10, but hey, he had a head start, acting on some of the most iconic shows of our time. But from about that same age, he knew his future as an artist was behind the camera, and once he saw it might happen, "The only rule I gave myself was that I loved the medium, and I wanted to explore it." And he has, in many genres and subjects. A self-described...

99. Matt Walsh
Do you suspect you might be an improv geek? If you're not sure, let us help. Symptoms include - but aren't limited to regular interjection of the phrase, "Yes, and" in dinner table conversation, no discernible fear of ASSCATs, and a strange feeling of dejà vu when watching Veeps feckless press secretary Mike McLintock hand out another doleful "No comment." If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you are likely a) already beyond help and b) a big fan of Matt Walsh. The improv legend and Upright Citize...

98. Freida Pinto
Remember Slumdog Millionaire? "It's about an underdog who has a dream and goes gunning for it, refusing to stop. You struggle and fall on your face and you pick yourself up and get what you want." Freida Pinto was describing her first film, and perhaps unwittingly, foreshadowing her own career. In the eight short years since, she managed to work with some of the best (and most baffling) directors in the business. But she didn't always manage to get them to see beyond her looks. If finding substantive roles ...


97. Jenny Slate
If you want to know about Jenny Slate, you could see her standup, TV shows (Married, Girls, Bored to Death), or movies (Obvious Child, Gifted, My Blind Brother). But at the heart of her work and her identity as an artist is a child - a beautiful, eccentric, wounded, wishful girl who saw a garden and wanted to live in it. Slate knows its a metaphor, but like all good allegories, it carries a lesson: Find what is precious to you and about you, then guard and cultivate it with everything you have. Water your g...

96. Courteney Cox
So no one told her life was going to be this way. Except Friends director Jimmy Burrows, who took Courteney Cox and her fellow cast members to dinner in Vegas, telling them to enjoy the last time they'd ever be able to go out together in public without causing total pandemonium. For Cox, who never had a master plan, it was the start of what was arguably the most successful 18-year run on series television, after which some actors might welcome a break and a margarita or two. Others might freak out just a bi...

95. Hank Azaria
Hank Azaria became a character actor because With this face, I had no choice. But it's the plastic voice that really gave him no alternative, along with whatever mysterious, uncanny power has allowed him since childhood to hear someone once and mimic them for the rest of his life. What sets him apart even further is an innate emotional connection that makes characters out of what would otherwise be just caricatures. He never understood his ability, but he was grateful for it, because all he ever wanted was ...


94. Maggie Siff
For as long as she can remember, Maggie Siff has been measuring herself. It wasn't vanity or self-obsession; she was after honest self-assessment in the name of getting better at her craft. It's why she entered NYU grad school at 27, where the most important lesson she learned was how to deal with criticism, especially her own. Her unexpected television success since then has erased a lot of doubts, but not the eternal question of artistic fulfillment versus commercial success. Thankfully for Siff and her o...

93. Jerrod Carmicheal
Jerrod Carmichael grew up in Morningside Manor, which lest there be any confusion, is a far cry from Wayne Manor. His mom's goal was just that he graduate high school. Carmichael's goal was to have an HBO special and an NBC Thursday night TV show. Check, check and check, and he hadn't yet exited his 20's. You could question whether primetime is ready for a standup who cites Richard Pryor, Mark Twain and Socrates as references and builds his 30-minute "The Carmichael Show" around transgender issues, prayer, ...

92. Gillian Jacobs
It took a minute or 92 for people who watched Gillian Jacobs' stunning performance in Don't Think Twice to connect her with Community's Britta Perry. That she could inhabit such different roles so believably without ever having trained in comedy or improv is a tribute to her talent. Whether it's a tribute to Julliard is up for debate. A quirky, independent kid jettisoned by friends who saw her as a drag on their popularity, Jacobs threw herself into theater; later, Julliard almost threw her back out. It too...


91. Sam Richardson
If youve seen Veep, you likely know Richard Splett, which could mean you know Sam Richardson. It more likely means you know what it is to be so convinced by a performance that youre unsure where the actor stops and the character begins. How does an artist make that happen, especially when hes the newcomer to one of the most talent-packed comedies on TV? Well, it might be a stretch to say Richardson grew up on the mean streets of Detroit, but growing up on the citys tough comedy stages taught him a thing or ...

90. Kenneth Lonergan
Let's face it, Kenneth Lonergan will never be the Mr. Rogers of Hollywood. He's learned (kind of) to placate studio brass, but mourns the days when writers and directors had more artistic control (Nobody told John Ford to make Grapes of Wrath less depressing), and wishes he could just be left alone, trusted to deliver great films on his own timeline. After Manchester By the Sea, maybe that will finally happen. He's proven three times now that no writer possesses a keener ear for dialogue, no director a bett...

89. David Oyelowo
It has been said that David Oyelowo makes film stardom look as easy as laughter, and it is a joy to watch such a truthful and talented artist find success. But friends, it was not easy. He had to stand up to a much-loved father who had different ideas for his career. When he tried to build on his UK success with the fascinating real-life story of an unknown boxer, he was told viewers wouldn't be interested in people they knew nothing about (that would be black people). Feeling his only chance to move forwar...


88. Elijah Wood
When you start acting - and very successfully - at eight, its easy to be jaded, obnoxious, or in rehab by the time you're say, 12. Elijah Wood ran the gauntlet of childhood fame unscathed (thanks, Mom), only to sign on at 18 to what no one, including Peter Jackson, knew would be one of the most massively successful cinema franchises ever. He could've gone a number of ways from there, the most obvious being spending the rest of his career trying to top The Lord of the Rings. But that's not really Wood's deal...

87. Ricky Carmichael
Ricky Carmichael would like to be able to explain what made him The GOAT. The work - figuratively and often literally backbreaking - is a given. But how do you explain split-second instinct, something that you just do? You can't. So motocross fans and riders everywhere just sat back and watched in awe as he won race after race. It was, after all, what he was expected to do - and did do - from the age of six. He might've made it look easy, but it wasn't. Nor was it always happy. Carmichael talks about his mo...

86. Aaron Paul
If you'd happened to be skulking the seamier alleyways of Albuquerque around 2008, looking to bum a 3:00 a.m. cigarette - or perhaps a more powerful stimulant - you might've encountered a guy who looked a lot like Aaron Paul. He was looking to score an understanding of the role that changed his life. It was one he'd fought ten Ramen-fueled years for, and he was going to give it everything he had. Extreme research, maybe, but the connection he forges to each character he embodies is so deep, we not only beli...


85. Rachel Bloom
Rachel Bloom remembers it all. The childhood neuroses, her first taste of humiliation at the hands of a stranger, the awkward locker room glances and every middle-school taunt. She also remembers how her talent and love of theater could erase so much of it. As they say, its all material. Material, as it turned out, for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, one of the most original, subversive and strangely uplifting shows on network TV. Her rollercoaster journey there can be traced from a copy of The Martian Chronicles thro...

84. Greta Gerwig
Fortunately, Greta Gerwig was never comfortable being the charming, likeable ingenue who exists (in Hollywood, anyway) to be adored and/or saved by a male lead. When she came to the realization that she probably couldn't sit by the pool and wait for the scripts to roll in, she decided she had the power to write them herself. Creating your own destiny can be a lot of work, but there's comfort in knowing the result will ring true not only to you, but also to the artists whose work you find most exciting. It's...

83. Andrew Garfield
It's hard to come by any better example of a true artist-and split personality-than Andrew Garfield. He came out of the womb as "a lunatic, a wild animal, a clown," who couldn't hang with rules, threatened to tear up our studio, and regularly butted heads with a father who wanted him to choose a "safe" career. He's also piled up acclaim for consistently soulful, vulnerable performances in a career full of uncannily successful projects. He admits to having both a Caligula-like ego, and an "inner accountant" ...


82. Riz Ahmed
When you grow up ping-ponging between three very different worlds on one very small island, you learn a lot about your place - or lack thereof - in life. Turns out you also learn a lot about acting. Not that Riz Ahmed ever assumed that was an option; despite the joy he found in school plays, he took a look at the entertainment cultural complex and just didn't see playing Taxi Driver Number Three as a feasible way to make a living. Then again, he didn't see much future as a desk jockey either, and over the l...

81. Michael Shannon
Michael Shannon is not here to entertain you or amaze you with the awesomeness of his performances (though that's usually what winds up happening). So why go into acting, let alone do ten films this calendar year? In the beginning, theater was a way to get a few things off his chest without being told to shut up. Even though he maintains that it's a mystery how anyone acts, time and experience have taught him why: Plain and simple, he's here to help somebody tell a story; and if that story can provide a ful...

80. Mackenzie Davis
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be actors. At least not until they've had a nice chat with Mackenzie Davis. A late bloomer who was always "too loud, too tall and unable to figure out the secret potion of femininity" would seem a ready-made victim for an industry that tells aspiring actors they should be "grateful for whatever garbage role we give you, until you become famous." Instead, Davis has managed to become famous (and rather quickly) in roles that crush the Bechdel Test, and in the process, s...


79. Rob Lowe
If you've watched Rob Lowe in St. Elmo's Fire, About Last Night, The West Wing and Parks and Recreation, you know he's got some acting chops. As it turns out, he's also a skilled writer with an intimate voice and a gift for setting a scene. Maybe that shouldn't have surprised me, coming from a guy who cites David Niven as his model memoirist. A raconteur without good stories is just a guy who talks a lot, but Rob's whole life is made of tales that you'll inhale like Häagen-Dazs - some with disbelief, some w...

78. Mike Colter
Like a lot of superpowers, the chip on Mike Colter's shoulder isn't visible, but it's there when he needs it. Cursed with a stable home and supportive parents, he often manufactured his own chips to keep himself motivated as an actor (which he planned on being from the age of eight). But later, the chips got real: Acting teachers who told him he wouldn't make it. Years of broke-ass struggle pursuing his art. Agents who said he could only play one kind of role. Well, throw obstacles at a guy like Colter and ...

77. Thandie Newton
One of the most joyful and rewarding experiences we can have as humans is the discovery of something we passionately love to do-- and even better, the discovery that we're really good at it. For Thandie Newton, that revelation came as a naïve 16-year-old on her first film set. It also came with a horrific experience of abuse. Unfortunately, and incredibly, it was not the last one dealt her by the business she loved. So she had a choice. Be a victim, or do something about it. Newton fought hard for herself, ...


76. Mark Duplass
Mark Duplass says that early on, he and his brother Jay wanted to be the Coen brothers. After 10 painful years of failure and self-doubt, he realized they were much better off being the Duplass brothers. Sticking to their shared gut got them promoted to Hollywood, where Mark found that success came with too many strings-and meetings-attached. That's when his creative genius (he calls it "fear of making a bad movie") turned to the business itself. What emerged was a model for making films exactly the way he ...

75. Ewan McGregor
You might not have recognized Ewan McGregor in his very first stage role, since he was in blackface and a turban, but it likely thrilled him as much as any role he has embodied since. The chance to do anything on a stage in front of people-even if it was just moving a chair-was magical. Some (okay, most) would say dropping out of school at 16 with no prospects or training to pursue acting was a risk. But audiences worldwide witnessed the payoff as he quickly became one of the most successful and versatile a...

74. Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman will never, ever, have enough time. But then, he's not much inclined to put his feet up. Like most creatively restless artists, his interests abound. But for Offerman, they're not hobbies; they'e disciplines to be studied, mastered and revered for the values they represent. Juggling it all requires defining your priorities and being clear on who you are. Parks and Recreation's comedic secret weapon has built a career, canoes, and a soapbox for sharing lessons so simple we seem to have forgotte...


73. Kate Beckinsale
There are a few things people forgot to tell young Kate Beckinsale about being an actor: Not every film experience is Much Ado About Nothing; most minors working in foreign countries have chaperones; and, don a pair of rubber trousers at your own risk. Oh well, you learn. And keep learning, if you view yourself as a life-long artistic apprentice. Beckinsale talks to us about the impact of sudden family loss on her life and career, why she chose Russian and French over drama school, and what made her decide ...

72. Mindy Kaling
Ever since banging out plays on her mom's typewriter at age six, Mindy Kaling wanted to be a comedy writer. That line of study wasn't on offer at her college, but Dartmouth taught her at least two things: If you hole up in your dorm and deconstruct Woody Allen films, you discover what works. And, in a town where there's nothing to do but drink and sled, almost any crazy play you writer can pack a theater. It can also launch your Hollywood dream career quicker than you ever imagined. But when the first show ...

71. Vince Vaughn
It's a funny thing, how we're taught from a young age to wait for permission-to be excused, to have a cookie, even to pursue a dream. But what if there's no one around to grant it? Early on, Vince Vaughn decided not to ask for permission to skip school for auditions, to talk to the ladies, or to move to L.A. to be an actor. That just-do-it approach worked well for creating his breakout in Swingers, and his hilarious turns in films like Old School and Wedding Crashers. Vaughn joined us to share the stories b...


70. Adam Scott
Like a lot of kids, Adam Scott loved movies, but it was a 5-inch black and white TV and David Letterman that really blew his mind and cemented his secret plan to become an actor. When he finally arrived in L.A., it seemed the welcome mat had gone missing. Fifteen years and countless auditions later, roles in Step Brothers, Parks and Recreation and indies like The Vicious Kind have made him one of the busiest and most versatile actors around. Now in a position to choose and make projects that resonate with h...

69. Todd Phillips
Imagine yourself in a cage being pelted with spit and various other disagreeable bio-wastes. That would be a fairly bad day for anyone, except maybe Todd Phillips, who comes from the "by any means necessary" school of filmmaking. Photography was a way into film school, dropping out of film school was a way into documentaries, and documentaries were a way into Sundance, and... Well, if you meet Ivan Reitman on the street and he asks you if you can write, you do what's necessary. After making The Hangover ser...

68. Luke Wilson
Luke Wilson is not an actor who works hard to grab your attention. Maybe his natural screen presence is why he plays "average guy" roles so much better than the average guy. But it's his less mainstream work that reveals him to be a truly nuanced actor who absolutely loves what he does. Wilson's Dallas childhood, populated with cultural figures like Jim Lehrer, writer John Graves, Richard Avedon, and his own parents, was certainly far from average. That tight, idyllic Tenenbaum-esque world included brothers...


67. Thomas Middleditch
We really wanted in, just to see what goes on in there. The quick, pinging pinball machine that is Thomas Middleditch's brain seems a veritable bouncy house of voices, characters and jokes that might spit you out exhausted and a bit queasy, but having thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Long before landing the lead on HBO's Silicon Valley, he paid his dues in improv, sketch and standup, all while writing and making hopeful, hilarious use of the Internet. But Middleditch knows the most effective humor has bass note...

66. Imogen Poots
Imogen Poots has the resume of an actor twice her age and the chops to match. When you've worked with Peter Bogdanovich, Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater, and Cary Fukunaga, all by the time you're 27, your bulb would have to be sputtering pretty badly if you didn't learn a thing or two about your craft. Poots is smart, sure, but more importantly, wise. Smart is trying to choose good projects; wise is knowing the outcome isn't guaranteed and thriving on that uncertainty. (A good tip for surviving not only ...

65. Kathryn Hahn
Kathryn Hahn swears she is horrible at selling herself, but these days, Hollywood sure seems to be buying. With film and TV roles multiplying in both quantity and scope, she's proven herself among the most versatile, funny and increasingly acclaimed actors working today. That has to give you some confidence, right? Well, maybe. It's taken Hahn a minute to find and own herself and her talent, and she says she's still figuring it out; but at this point, she's wise enough to know what she values not only in th...


64. Keegan-Michael Key
Keegan-Michael Key doesn't encourage people to make decisions out of fear, but it did work for him-at least for a while. Fear of being left behind and not accepted made him decide that making people laugh could come in handy some day. And fear of uncharted artistic territory resulted in a U-turn towards a career he never could've imagined for himself. Yet this is a guy who somehow found the confidence to turn down his second shot at Saturday Night Live-most sketch comics' very reason for existence. Now, as ...

63. Krysten Ritter
Though it's probably not what Shakespeare meant when he had Hamlet pondering "...the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," it's a phrase that comes to mind in pondering the fortune of Krysten Ritter. For years, she's patiently taken every small, prescribed, and hard-fought step to acting-mall discovery, modeling, commercials, countless 'friend' roles and a couple of cancelled shows-before landing the lead in Marvel's Jessica Jones on Netflix, a role Rolling Stone called "...the sort of conflicted, damag...

62. The Edge
At least once, and hopefully many times, each of us has experienced the rush of being completely transported by a musical experience - one concert, one song, or even a single riff. For 15-year-old Dave Evans, Moment One was playing guitar (loudly) for his classmates in a high school auditorium with a band of three friends. One of those friends thought maybe the band could become as big as The Beatles. Evans' reaction? "Yeah, right." How U2 struggled out of Dublin's small music scene and actually became the ...


61. Glen Hansard
Despite his promising start as a vendor of illegal fireworks, there was never much question that Glen Hansard's street trade would be anything but busking music-a practice, it's safe to bet, would never be outlawed in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland, where it's also apparently not illegal to leave school at 13 to take it up. He rose to decent acclaim in his rock band The Frames, but it was a no-budget, quickly shot little film called Once that changed the trajectory of his life and fame. At height of that s...

60. Titus Welliver
To quote noir crime master Raymond Chandler, "When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand." Given that Titus Welliver was once put on a "Nastiest Villains of All Time" list, we weren't sure what to expect when the Bosch star stopped by for a visit. Turns out he's a lot less ominous than you might think, not to mention a lovely and intelligent guy. Above all, he's a keen observer of internal and external environments and the people who inhabit them-a trait common to great detective...

59. Bob Odenkirk
It's hard to believe now that Breaking Bad was clinging to life for its first two seasons, but that was just long enough for Bob Odenkirk to be offered a turn as its lawyer-to-the-shady, Saul Goodman. Odenkirk didn't see fit to memorize his lines before starting; he just requested that Saul sport a comb-over. If that seems a flippant approach to a role that wound up changing his career, you can't blame him. Years of "getting my ass kicked in Hollywood" have gifted him with remarkable sangfroid. He just does...


58. Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater’s films have been said to carry “the shock of the real.” Funny, when you think about it. Why should we be jolted to see ourselves reflected in the profoundly mundane moments he’s become a master of capturing? Maybe it’s because he distills them so beautifully and honestly that watching them, we suddenly remember having lived them. Linklater didn’t go to film school, but it never crossed his mind that he couldn’t make movies. Blind confidence helped, especially in standing up to people who ...

57. Kristen Bell
Kristen Bell’s early career dream was not singing or acting. She wanted to be a Disney princess. So tread carefully, karma-deniers. We put her self-described mix of “bubbles and rainbows and sunshine” at a good 90 percent of her DNA, but it’s that little ten percent that may reveal the most about her. A lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety will either stunt you, or help you take a good look at yourself and make some life-defining decisions. It can make you a good actor, too. Coming up, the emotions...

56. Don Cheadle
We’ll let Judith Martin and Martha Stewart debate the merits of starting a poker game at a wedding; but we will argue, however, that any kid who picks “actor” as a profession with “musician” as a backup is already a gambler. Luckily for Don Cheadle, he was really, really good at both. Lucky for us, too, because his work offers increasing proof that his is a voice we sorely need in cinema. We talked to Don about art, music, rodent psychology, and the long and winding road that led to his writing, directing, ...


55. Michelle Monaghan
Michelle Monaghan’s is not a face you want to cover up, though that’s exactly what she was once asked to do. In the 10 years since, she’s learned a lot about her craft. Having no formal training, she gained that knowledge largely on the job, feeling in over her head and questioning her abilities, but persevering anyway. The result is a combination of humility and confidence that’s as rare as it is enviable in an actress—or human. Watch her work sequentially—try Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Trucker, ...

54. Dan Patrick
When SportsCenter icon Dan Patrick said goodbye to ESPN, he had no idea what was next. For someone who never dreamed of anything but being a sportscaster, leaving the network he helped build took more career balls than Nolan Ryan ever threw. But such risks are usually mitigated in direct proportion to how much you love what you do. And Patrick loves to talk about sports, which he decided to do from his attic, and now does on one of the most successful—and unique—shows on national radio (or TV). What he does...

53. Joanne Froggatt
Joanne Froggatt is now quite clear that performing in front of the TV doesn’t mean you’re actually on TV, but when she was three, all she knew was she needed to get in that box and live the exciting lives of its inhabitants. At 16 she did, as an unwed teen mom on Coronation Street, a role that still informs her craft today, but did little to prepare her for the phenomenon of Downton Abbey. Audiences worldwide fell in love with the show, and Froggatt’s Anna Bates, a servant whose kindness, honesty and braver...


52. Matt Berninger
For someone who admits that “relaxed” is not his natural setting, The National frontman Matt Berninger seems pretty okay with himself. What’s more, he seems pretty okay with anyone else seeing him for who he is, even when he’s perhaps not at his best. But more on that later. Berninger and the band came late to careers in indie rock, and without the youth or cool that serves as the usual currency of that scene. He was doing well in his nice desk job as an ad agency creative director, but as he told The Teleg...

51. Tim Robbins
At 6’ 5”, Tim Robbins is the tallest actor ever to win an Academy Award, but until they start handing out statuettes for height alone, he’ll have to be content with a regular old Oscar and slew of Golden Globes recognizing his talent. Cutting such an imposing figure could’ve made it easy for Hollywood to serve him up time and again as the loveable, lumbering galoot he played so successfully in his breakout role as Bull Durham’s “Nuke” LaLoosh. But even a passing glance at his long filmography is a startling...


50. Aubrey Plaza
When the notoriously poker-faced Aubrey Plaza says that she’s wanted to be an actor since she was 13 and thus isn’t surprised it’s happening, or that perhaps the universe responded to her acting daydreams, you have to wonder, does she really mean that? Understandably, Aubrey Plaza used to hate the word “deadpan,” as associated as it’s become with the detached, almost unreadable delivery she’s cultivated as characters like Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Darius in Safety Not Guaranteed and perha...

49. Linda Cardellini
Every successful actor will tell you how lucky they are to do what they get to do; it’s pretty standard actor PR speak, and in most cases, probably true. Still, it’s genuinely refreshing to come across someone who seems to be happier practicing her craft the longer she does it. Linda Cardellini believed her dad when he told her it would be possible to build a rollercoaster in their back yard. Perhaps that’s where she got the “screw-loose optimism” responsible for making her think she could be an actress in ...

48. Bill Lawrence
Have complete confidence in each decision you make. If you’re wrong, have complete confidence in the next one. You could stop reading here and have all the advice you need from one of the most talented, inventive writers and producers in the TV business today. But that would be a mistake, because Bill Lawrence, as you might suspect of one of the most prolific creators of network sitcoms, tells a great story. Many great stories, actually. He was one of the youngest writers ever hired for Friends on its first...


47. Paul Dano
In its review of Love & Mercy, Decider.com simultaneously lauded Paul Dano’s portrayal of the young Brian Wilson, and bemoaned his under-the-radar status. “Despite boasting an impressive list of credits, Dano is frequently left out of the cultural and critical conversation, and doesn’t receive the recognition he deserves for his powerful performances. He’s arguably one of the greatest actors of his generation, but his subtle presence in strong material hasn’t been enough to gain him awards season traction o...

46. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
One of best ways to enter and appreciate the original, prolific brain of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is through the lens of hitRECord, the open, collaborative production company he founded in 2005, and one of the most creative and inspiring uses of the Internet ever. Its nearly 100,000 members submit projects – films, stories, songs, drawings, you name it – for other members to edit, build on and evolve. Gordon-Levitt credits directing short films on hitRECord with teaching him what he needed to know to make Don J...

45. William H. Macy
Ask William H. Macy about any number of the hapless losers, downtrodden everymen and debauched miscreants he’s portrayed over the course of his career, and he’ll tell you he’s played the hero as every one of them. That makes sense if you believe that an actor’s job is to find something worth fighting for in every character he assumes. That doesn’t mean Macy doesn’t judge his alter egos; “There are a lot of stupid assholes in the world, but they don’t think they’re stupid assholes.” They’re simply human, and...


44. Connie Britton
Why is it that even if you haven’t seen more than a few minutes of Connie Britton on screen, you feel like you somehow already know her. And not only know her, but really like her. Maybe we relate so instantly because we get the feeling she’s a lot like us, only maybe just slightly improved. Watching her work in shows like the dearly departed Friday Night Lights, you’re sort of inspired to be a better person. In Hollywood years, Britton is a bit of a late bloomer, having no family or industry connections, a...

43. Carrie Brownstein
“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” – L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz Ol’ L. Frank had it right, and maybe that’s why we all try so hard to find one. And if you never had much of a home to speak of in the first place, you try that much harder. That’s where the story of Carrie Brownstein, or at least her new book, Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl, begins. Brownstein, w...

42. Jack Black
Thanks to movie posters and pull-quote "reviews", we've heard "electric" used to describe a performance so often that it barely registers as an adjective. But think back for a moment to the first time you saw High Fidelity. Now, think about the first moment Jack Black appeared on screen and jolted that film alive. It’s a great movie with a great cast, but let’s face it – his very presence flipped the switch. And that movie flipped the switch on Black’s film career, though it was a part he came within inches...


41. Olivia Wilde
If you could see Olivia Wilde's toes right now, they'd be wiggling. Since you can't, you'll have to take her metaphor for it – she's hit an artistic stride that feels as satisfying and freeing as "taking off an uncomfortable pair of shoes." It shows. In Meadowland, she’s riveting as a mother whose reaction to a tragically random event first seems shocking, then increasingly real. In other words, more human than Hollywood. It's a role she was told she likely wouldn’t get, and one she knew she'd do anything t...

40. Tatiana Maslany
Remember the unquestioned belief and magic of playing pretend as a kid? You were a dinosaur, no, a spy – no, wait, Queen of the Mermaids. You lost yourself for hours, aided and abetted, if you were lucky, by a few props and indulgent adults who agreed you were the Maharaja and became your willing subjects. Then you grow up, abandon make believe and yourself become the indulgent adult, which is a little sad, when you think about it. At the very least, it makes you ponder the “natural” progression of things. ...

39. Ellen Page
In the years since Ellen Page came to wide attention at 20 for her “overnight” success in Juno, a lot has changed in the world, but maybe not enough when it comes to how our increasingly diverse culture is reflected by Hollywood. A lot has certainly changed for Page, who very publicly came out as gay in February 2014 and hopes to see a more realistic and holistic on-screen portrayal of all the groups that comprise our society – including LGBT and other minority communities. No one can accuse her of not doin...


38. Cindy Crawford
In one sense of the word, Becoming seems a woefully inadequate title for a coffee table book full of images of Cindy Crawford, one of the most beautiful women in the world. But in its more Aristotelian definition – “any change involving realization of potentialities” – it’s more than apt. If you’re already rolling your eyes at an introduction that attempts to link models and philosophers, consider this: Crawford was a straight-A student who won a full ride to Northwestern to study chemical engineering (the ...

37. Jake Gyllenhaal
Jake Gyllenhaal has become somewhat synonymous with beyond-brutal physical transformations for movies like Nightcrawler, and more recently (and even more brutally), for the role of boxer Billy Hope. But after crying three times over a first-draft script for Southpaw, he knew it was worth taking some punches for. He’s no masochist, but calls any work needed to tell the story of characters that fascinate him a joy. Gyllenhaal is the kind of actor who knows not only that his character bears a certain scar or w...

The Call-In Show
On this episode of OFF Camera with Sam Jones the guest is YOU! It’s the first ever Off Camera Call In Podcast in the spirit of old timey radio and it stars listeners, viewers, and fans of Off Camera. So pull up a chair and listen in!...


36. Dax Shepard
Actor, writer, director, thrill seeker, and comedian Dax Shepard joins Sam to talk about risk, both the real life kind on a motorcycle and the kinds he took to become the actor, father, and husband he is today. He also shares the gift of perspective and gratitude that he’s learned from his “current wife” Kristen Bell (his words folks). Pull up a chair and listen into this honest and revealing conversation....

35. Kevin Bacon
As someone whose been famous for the majority of his life, Kevin has learned a lot from navigating the ups and downs of a career in the public eye which also made for some interesting conversation. He’s one of the rare artists that bridges the gap between the modern actor and the era of the classic movie star. In this episode, Kevin joins Sam to talk about his early days in a family that valued creativity above else, he shares the unexpected joys of doing a network TV show, and admits to some really awkward...

34. Rashida Jones
Rashida is someone who has always made her own luck in her career. She figured out early on that creating her own projects puts her in the driver’s seat and as a result she has become a multi-hyphenate creator with a unique voice whose made people take notice. She gets personally involved in socially conscious projects that she believes in and isn’t scared to aim high which is probably why she has been handed the keys to one of Pixar’s beloved movie franchises, Toy Story. She wrote a great film called Celes...


33. Chris Moore
You know few jobs demand more skilled straddling of the line between the creative and business sides of an industry than a film producer. And there’s perhaps no one better suited. “Born to” is not a stretch for that unique role than independent producer and independent thinker Chris Moore. After 3 years as a very successful agent, his creative side no longer allowed him to sell scripts he loved. Never to see them until they emerged on screen as almost unrecognizable versions of their former selves. Hooray f...

32. Lizzy Caplan
You know it’s funny and sometimes not so funny how an actor’s earliest role can influence the rest of their career. Lizzy Caplan’s first acting job was convincing everyone around her that she was just fine when her mother passed away. Caplan was 13 at the time and the tough hold it in and laugh it off persona she cultivated as a result landed her a seemingly endless string of flirty funny side kick roles. Caplan was surprised and disappointed when the toughness she brought to her characters didn’t result in...

31. Zach Braff
In one review of Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here,” Sheila O'Malley quoted a T.S. Eliot poem “And indeed there will be time to wonder. Do I dare? and Do I dare?” Well folks, Braff dared. He dared to bring a small passion project to life via crowd-funding. He dared to veer from the standard studio sanction story arc to see the film he wanted to see. He dared to write, direct, and act in it though he lives in a town that prefers ponies of the one trick variety. He dared to share emotional and personal stories th...


30. Jennifer Beals
How does a 17 year-old with one credit as an extra end up in the audition room for the lead of one of the most seminal movies of its decade? And perhaps more importantly, how does an introspective not highly social student deal with the surreal experience of having her privacy go away overnight? For Jennifer Beals, feeling like a equal opportunity outsider due to her mixed race and the one-two punch of losing her dad and discovering her family was shockingly poor at age 9 may have provided the best if uninv...

29. Lake Bell
Lake Bell wasn’t discouraged when her first punchline didn't get a laugh. Granted she was two years old and most toddlers aren't easily discouraged but subsequent events indicate it may have had more to do with her steadfast belief in her destiny as a comedic writer and actress and most admirably her willingness to do the work to get there. Though Hollywood called soon after college, she went to England first to train professionally at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Once in LA, she landed a couple of TV...

28. Jon Hamm
Could you see Jon Hamm on Dawson’s Creek? Neither could he nor anyone else in the youth obsessed Hollywood of the 80s when he drove to LA with $150 in his pocket and no real master plan to make it as an actor. And no, he didn’t