Interview: Jason Schwartzman

On trying another identity in Bored to Death
By RYAN STEWART  |  September 15, 2009


Big sleepy: Bored to Death brings a stoner PI to HBO. By Ryan Stewart.
Jason Schwartzman is an actor who's also a musician — he used to drum for Phantom Planet, and earlier this year he released his second album under his Coconut Records moniker. Given that he's accustomed to inhabiting multiple identities, it's fitting that he's now starring on Bored to Death, a show about one man's quest to find the right identity for himself. Bored to Death was created by Jonathan Ames, a novelist who's also a teacher, and Schwartzman plays a character named Jonathan Ames who's likewise a novelist. But instead of working as a substitute teacher to find happiness, this version of Ames is inspired by his collection of noir novels to become a private detective. "We're all leading double lives," another character tells him at one point. And after noting the number of shows on TV right now about characters who are one thing by day and another during their off-hours, I decided to ask the 29-year-old Schwartzman whether that was true.

Do you think people out there are wishing they could lead double lives?
I can really just speak for myself. In my own life, I wonder what it would be like to break down a door with my shoulder. Or save someone. I feel like, "Gosh, my life is boring. I'm not active. I'm not on someone's tail." Especially when you read these Chandler books — I know they were written way long ago, but still, three seconds into reading one of those books, I want a whiskey and a cigarette, and I want to be tougher and I want to not care as much. I want to be able to have lived a life where trouble is my business. I feel like most people have a moment where they look at themselves in the mirror when they're brushing their teeth at night and think, "I'm not doing this right. I'm not living life totally right. I feel like I'm just playing it safe or doing what's comfortable. I know that I could put myself out there more or live life a bit more. But in order to do that, things about my life now would have to be completely vanquished."

So did you go back and read the Marlowe books?
Oh yeah. Actually, what happened was, I met with Jonathan about this book he had written called Wake Up, Sir. He had adapted it into a script, and we were meeting about that movie. We met in Los Angeles, and it was like a Gilligan's Island meeting — it was supposed to be an hour and it ended up being five hours, just talking about everything. Somewhere in the course of it, I asked him what he was doing in Los Angeles and he said he was there because he was meeting with HBO about a short story he had written that they had optioned. He explained the premise to me, and I felt like a kid at Christmas who opens his present and then looks to his right and sees what his brother gets and is like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I want that, too!"

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