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Jason Segel's epiphany: 'The stuff I'm making is not the same stuff I'm watching'

Rooney Mara and Jason Segel in
Rooney Mara and Jason Segel in "The Discovery." It's available on Netflix on March 31st.
Rooney Mara and Jason Segel in
Actor/writer Jason Segel and The Frame host John Horn at The Sundance Film Festival.
Michelle Lanz

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Jason Segel's new movie, “The Discovery,” is a sci-fi love story set in the near future.

Rooney Mara and Robert Redford also star in the Netflix film about a scientist who proves the existence of an afterlife. As a result, millions of people begin commiting suicide:

It’s a film that may sound like a departure for Segel. He’s probably best known for his role as Marshall Eriksen in the CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother," or for writing and starring in big studio comedies like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “The Muppets."

But Segel is also no stranger to independent film. He garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of the late author David Foster Wallace in “The End of the Tour,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. His first visit to Sundance was when he was a 17-year-old starring in the indie film "SLC Punk!"

The Frame's John Horn spoke with Segel back in January when he was in Park City to promote “The Discovery."

Interview highlights:

On the advantages of independent film

I'm trying to choose things now that I have some freedom in my life financially, and as I'm getting older, choosing projects that I feel like are challenging — not only to me as an actor, but also to an audience. And you're really only going to find that these days in independent film. And Sundance is where you're going to see the best of the best, so it's exciting every time I bring a movie here.

On coming to the realization that he wanted to make different kinds of films

I've been with my agent since I was like 20-years-old ... and we did really really well together and worked really really hard and I think at some point we had a conversation where I'm like, I think that I've sort of forgotten why I started doing this in the first place. And I'd like to get back to doing things that are sort of reflective of where I am now in my life. If we're going to ride 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall,' which I wrote when I'm 24 years old, all the way up until now, it's now weird to keep doing those themes. I'm 35. It's starting to get sad ... And I think I just looked around and — you know what a really simple way to put it is?: The stuff that I'm making is not the same stuff I'm watching. And I should start paying more attention to what I'm watching.

On the kinds of films he was watching that he decided he wanted to make himself

I'm really interested in metaphysical, psychological thrillers and things like that. Those are the big questions, right? And that's sort of where you start to arrive, like, What's the point of all this? That's sort of this thing you arrive at after you've been working so hard to get there. And then you arrive there and realize, Oh, this place I've been trying to get doesn't exist. And it brings up all these other questions like, Why am I working so hard? What's the point of all this? You know, that's where I was at ... Listen, if you reduce it and reduce it, all great art comes down to that: What is the point of all this?

On fighting against the negative voice in his head when taking on new roles

Always for me, the challenge is my own voice that's telling me I'm not capable of doing it. So on "The End of the Tour," it was, You are not a good enough actor to take on this part. This is someone who means a lot to a lot of people in myriad ways. This is really important material and you are not a good enough actor to do it. That was the challenge of "The End of the Tour," in my own head, fighting that voice ... And with ["The Discovery"], when I looked at the cast and I was going to be acting against Rooney Mara and Robert Redford, the challenge for me was, Who do you think you are to be acting against these brilliant actors? You know, if I'm being really honest about it, that's an exciting thought to me because it makes you raise your game.

To hear the full interview with Jason Segel, click the blue player above.


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