In the low-key comedy "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," Jason Segel plays a 30-year-old slacker who lives in his mom's basement. When he finally ventures out on a mundane errand, he ends up following various signs he believes are guiding him, in a sort of stoner version of the new series "Touch." Driven by a wrong phone call for a guy named Kevin, Jeff begins his quest for meaning and along the way, crosses paths with his estranged brother Pat (Ed Helms), his unfulfilled mother (Susan Sarandon) and a much bigger destiny.
The movie starts off with Jeff's declaration of love for "Signs." Are you a fan as well?
Segel: Yes! I was a huge M. Night Shyamalan fan. Still am. I felt exactly the way my character felt about that movie. That's why I loved this script. The way that that movie ended was so perfectly crafted. It's just great writing.
Are you reacting differently to the name Kevin now?
I am not. (Laughs). It is pretty remarkable the way they crafted that script, how the smallest things come into play. I was flabbergasted when I read it. Even without the ending, I thought it was beautiful. And then you get to that ending and it all comes together in such a remarkable way. And the smallest movie has such a huge ending. It's really cool. It's a very simple and sweet movie. You walk out happier then when you went in and that's pretty nice.
The Duplass brothers (who wrote and directed) said they only want to work with "incredibly nice" people, like you.
Thanks, I try. I was raised right. (Smiles).
Between this and "The Muppets," you seem to be the face of really sweet comedy that isn't mean.
Yeah, I've always thought that you don't need to get laughs at other people's expense. That's easy. That's why I wanted to do "The Muppets." That's why I loved them so much. They never make fun of anybody. Even with their villains, they don't want to destroy them, they want to reform them.
And you're definitely not writing the sequel.
I'm just taking a little "Muppet" break for a minute. I worked on it for half a decade and I know that they're in safe hands with my writing partner and the director. It was such a wonderful experience and it ended with the Academy Award. I just want to sit with that for a minute.
Will we see you again in another Muppet movie down the road?
Yeah, maybe someday. I have no idea. Definitely not the next one.
What was Oscar night like when Bret McKenzie won the Best Song?
It was such a gratifying moment. We just all worked so hard for so long and for that to be the end of the story, that's pretty remarkable.
Back to "Jeff." You do your own stunt there at the end. Was it because there was no budget or you just thought, "Let's do this!"
It was Ed and I very privately challenging each other. Neither of us wanted to look like the weakling, so both of us ended up forcing each other to doing it. And they promised that everyone would know that it was us by the way that they shot it. It's a close-up. They zoom right in on our faces.
Ed was saying that he trusted for some of the more dramatic scenes, because he was outside his comfort zone but he knew you would take care of him.
Aww, that's a real compliment. I felt the same way about Ed. I think we were good partners to go through this with. Neither of us had done anything like it. We both believed in each other.
Do you see more drama for yourself, down the road?
Professionally? (Laughs) Yeah, I'd love to do a little bit of everything. The dramatic scenes in this made me nervous. I didn't get to rely on jokes. You had to do some acting. And that was exciting and scary.
Do you have siblings? Did anything in this movie remind you of them?
Yes, I have an older brother and a younger sister. I think the movie is dealing with what all siblings deal with, which is getting to know each other as adults. Knowing each other as kids is one thing, and there's always sibling rivalry. And then there's that moment when you're adults and you're on your own paths and it's time to shed the dynamic of older brother making fun of the younger brother and younger brother feeling bullied and evaluate, would we be friends if we met at a bar? Do you want to actually be friends, or not? That's sort of one of the big questions of the movie. You're bound by blood, but that doesn't mean you have to hang out. And these guys to some extent are evaluating if they even want to be friends.
What had you heard about the Duplass brothers before you went to work with them?
Jonah [Hill] worked with them on "Cyrus" and he said it was the best experience of his life. They quietly are challenging you to be your best.
Would you work with them again?
I would love to. I serve at the pleasure of the Duplass brothers. They share a brain. I've never seen siblings get along so well. It's a relationship that everyone would envy. I was a big fan of theirs going in. I really enjoyed "Puffy Chair," but "Cyrus" was a step toward the studio version of their movies. Just seeing Jonah give that performance, and John C. [Reilly], it was amazing. That's when I realized they bring the best out of their actors.
So is "Jeff" the best performance you've ever given?
I'm pretty remarkable in everything. (Smiles.) No, I'm incredibly proud of what they got me to do in this and I know Ed would say the same. They pulled something out of us that we didn't know was in us. It was very humbling.
What's going on with "This is 40?"
I basically do a cameo in that. I reprise my role from "Knocked Up." I just pop in. I shot all night for three days. Hopefully, I get a couple of funny scenes.
It'll be fun to see you and Paul Rudd together again.
Yeah, we're besties. (Laughs).
And "The Five-Year Engagement?"
It's awesome. It comes out in April and it's [Nicholas] Stoller ["Forgetting Sarah Marshall" director and "Muppets" co-writer] and I back together again. It's back in the vein of "Sarah Marshall." It's funny and it's also an exploration of the changing dynamic of relationships when you're with someone for a really long time. It's pretty cool and pretty complicated.