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James Marsden Talks “Walk of Shame,” “30 Rock” & More

We spoke to the actor in advance of his new movie Walk of Shame, which co-stars the beautiful Elizabeth Banks, and hits theaters on May 2.



I’m sure this is the first question everyone is asking you about this movie, but have you personally ever done a walk of shame?

Well, you’re the first person I’ve talked to on this movie at all. So you are literally the first person to ask me that question.

 

Perfect!

Have I ever done the walk of shame? I wasn’t prepared for that! Not really. I guess guys don’t feel as shameful. I mean, I may have when I was in a fraternity in college but that was so long ago…

 

So with this movie can we just get rid of the idea that the morning-after walk home is shameful at all?

I think so. What’s the point? We’re all adults. Things like this happen. It should be an enjoyable experience with nothing to feel bad about. As long as you’re safe, kids!

 

What was it about Walk of Shame that made you want to be part of it?

I love Elizabeth [Banks]. I’ve known her a long time. We did a movie back in 2003 or 2004. She’s been a friend for a long time. I love her comedic abilities and sensibilities. It’s certainly her movie and I got to come in and be a supporting role. Coming in to play around with her was fun. I had just done some more dramatic things and it sounded fun to do something a little lighter.

 

I kept thinking about how I wouldn’t be able to function if I left my phone at someone’s house like Elizabeth’s character does in the movie. It really highlights how screwed we are without constant technology.

Yeah. It’s our lifeline. It’s really sad, isn't it? None of us would be able to do anything in life. God forbid you get a flat tire because no one knows how to do anything. You have to pull out your phone and YouTube “how to change a flat.” But if you don’t have your phone...! It’s pretty true – we’re not only reliant on the technology but we’re obsessed with it too. It used to be a tool, but now we get new phones to text people about our new phones. That’s the conversation. I don’t treat mine very well. I hate that we’re so tied to them. I always drop it and people gasp and I’m like, “I could give a shit.”

Could you survive for a day without it?

I mean, I like to think I could, but I doubt it. I could survive, totally, but I just don’t know if the people who need to contact me could survive. When was the last time you left your phone at home?

 

I leave it at home when I work out.

That’s good. You go work out and leave it at home. But try to leave it at home for a dinner. Once a week or once every two weeks get your friends together for the “No phones dinner.” You’ll have the best dinner of your life.

 

With a movie like Walk of Shame where you play the love interest, do you have to do any sort of preparation?

Not really. Let’s be honest: I’ve done this before. There’s a lot of similarities between this and 27 Dresses, I thought. That was a fun movie to work on. People might want to see you in this role and it’s a good thing for your fans. It’s fun to change things up. I wouldn’t want to only do these sorts of movies but every once in a while they’re really fun to do. But not a lot of preparation. I play a bartender, so the most I had to do was look like I knew what I was doing behind the bar. Other than that, there’s a scene where Elizabeth and I get drunk and go back to my place and have a good time and it was like, “What would be fun?” In the script it said, “They have a good time and then they sleep together.” So Elizabeth and I came up with a bunch of goofy stuff that looked like these two characters enjoyed each other’s company. Movies always turn out good that way, when it looks like everybody’s having a good time.

 

It did look like everyone was having fun.

Good! Although I still want the audience to feel like we put in a lot of work on these things. Get you your money’s worth!

 

How did this compare to playing Liz Lemon’s love interest on 30 Rock?

That was great. I didn’t think that was going to go where it went. I thought 30 Rock was probably the smartest written comedy on TV and represented intelligent comedy. They asked me to come in and I was like, “I gotta do that for sure.” And then I thought it was for one season, a recurring role, and then I was going to go on and do something else. Liz was going to dump me or [my character] was going to screw it up somehow. But they asked me back for another season and I was like, “Are you sure?” They were like, “You guys should end up together.” And I realized it was going well. It was great. You’ve got to be sharp and really on your game. I was pretty lucky to do that. Getting married to Liz Lemon, that’s an accomplishment.

 

It’s a huge honor to be the guy for that character.

Huge! It was a huge pop cultural achievement and honor. I did not see that coming. But maybe she just had to find somebody who would allow her to be the guy in the relationship. I think that’s ultimately what it was.

 

What did you learn about comedy from being on 30 Rock?

That show specifically is so well-written that you’re not really afforded the ability to go in and do loose improv. It’s a well-oiled machine. On that show I solidified the idea that comedy is best played like a drama. As ridiculous as the circumstances may get, you have to be convicted and totally believable in your comedy. In addition to that, not everything has to be improv. We live in this improv world where all the comedies are shooting from the hip but you can get a much smarter, sharper show if you have great writing and stick to it.


Photo: Gemma LaMana / Paramount Pictures / Everett Collection

How much was your role in Anchorman 2 improvised?

That was half and half. The script was really great and based on improv stuff. We would go in and do it as written and then [director] Adam [McKay] would say, “OK, now let’s goof around.” It all depends on the type of project you’re doing. Anchorman really lends itself to a lot of great improv moments. That whole crew is exceptional at it. You get pulled into that world. What I learned there is, “Don’t be the one who’s fighting for the spotlight and fighting for the mic and trying to be the funniest in the room.” Be generous. Watching Steve [Carell] and Will [Ferrell] and those guys set each other up for jokes, when they could so easily come out and try to be the funniest person in the room, was great. They would try to set each other up and it was so much more funny because of it.

 

Are the other movies you have upcoming this year comedies?

The one I’m shooting right now is called Best of Me. It’s a Nicholas Sparks adaptation with Michelle Monaghan. That will be October, I think. It’s a Notebook-ish drama romance. But I also just shot a comedy with Jack Black that should be out next year. It’s all over the place.

 

 

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