Adam Scott is seriously hilarious. Few actors nail the droll deadpan better than he does as sci-fi-loving auditor Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation—soon to take its final bow—or in such films as Our Idiot Brother. But Scott never actually set out to be a comic actor. In fact, prior to his breakthrough role alongside Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers, he was a classically trained dramatic actor whose only improv experience came “as an Upright Citizens Brigade audience member.” Scott struggled— and sweat—his way through his role as ultra-douchey Derek Huff.
“I liken it to learning the high jump at the Olympics in a stadium full of cameras,” he says. “I was terrified.” That is, until he finally kissed his dignity goodbye. It happened in an instant and it changed the course of his career:
“My last day on set was the scene in the car where my family and I are singing ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ a cappella. When I first read the script, I thought that was hilarious: this family professionally singing that song together in the car. But I’m the only person not singing in that scene: I’m lip-synching to a guy who is singing live. Like, he’s standing in front of the car, and he and I are locking eyes through the windshield. In the movie it looks like I’m driving while singing and screaming at my family, but I’m actually looking at this guy. It was bizarre. But that day, I just didn’t feel as freaked. Maybe it was because I didn’t have to keep up with Will and John, but I just decided to go with it. And I remember watching playback after we had done some takes and thinking it was funny. It was as simple as that.”
Photos by Prakash Shroff / Contour