Interview: Actor Alan Tudyk Plays a Racist in 42

04/16/2013 08:38 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

Actor Alan Tudyk sounds surprised when I mention that I've been a fan for a while -- pleased, but surprised.

He's a lithe, light-fingered actor who casually steals scenes with impeccable comic timing and unexpectedly rubbery physicality. Tudyk has been good in a lot of bad stuff but he's even better in good (if little-seen) comedies like Frank Oz's original Death at a Funeral (in which he played a nervous potential son-in-law who accidentally takes a hallucinogen before a funeral) and Tucker and Dale Versus Evil, as a backwoods type mistaken for a serial killer. And let's not forget Wash on Firefly -- or Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Arrrrh.

But Tudyk is on the phone to talk about playing Ben Chapman, the Philadelphia Phillies manager who becomes the face of racism in 42, which topped the box-office charts last weekend. In the film about Jackie Robinson's first year in the majors, Chapman shows up spitting one racial epithet after another from in front of the Phillies' dugout at Ebbets Field, a monologue of bitter bigotry that left Tudyk feeling slightly hungover after each day of filming.

"It was like I got wasted at a bad party," Tudyk says. "It would leave a stain on your mood, and put you into a bad mood into the next day."

In fact, according to the film's director Brian Helgeland, the hate-speech that Chapman spewed (and which got laughs from his players) was toned down for the film. But that didn't make it any easier for Tudyk, who had to chant, "Hey, nigger, nigger, nigger," at actor Chadwick Boseman, playing Jackie Robinson.

This interview continues on my website.