Being the straight man in a comedy can be a thankless job, but Jason Batemen has no problem with that. His latest, Identity Thief, finds him taking on Melissa McCarthy’s titular con woman. Plus, this spring he gets to reprise his best-loved straight man role, as put-upon Michael Bluth in Arrested Development, when the cult hit returns with new episodes on Netflix. Still, if you’ve got a more outlandish comedy role in mind, he’s willing to listen.
Do you find it at all insulting to be asked how hard it is to keep a straight face opposite someone like Melissa McCarthy?
No, actually, I’ve never taken it that way. That’s tough to do, and I fail miserably at it repeatedly, especially with Melissa. You’ve just got to have the camera on her alone so that when I start laughing you don’t see my shoulders bouncing up and down in the foreground.
You’ve made quite a career of playing the straight man, but have you been looking for parts beyond that type?
Yeah, I mean I would enjoy doing that. Send them. I’ll read them and do them. But I get most of my opportunities doing what people have seen me do before, and I don’t think that’s too dissimilar from most actors. You kind of get offered what people expect to see you in. So it’s up to me to start to steer the ship in another direction if I want some changes. And I do, every once in a while. That was one of the things that really attracted me to a film I did with Ryan Reynolds called the Change-Up. It didn’t really work at the box office or critically, but we had a really good time doing it.
Was it Melissa or writer Craig Mazin who kept adding in jokes about you having mangled junk in Identity Thief?
Well, Craig’s pretty filthy. Craig wrote a script that didn’t need any ad-libbing whatsoever to make it funny, and so we didn’t do a lot of that. We would every once in a while make stuff up to crack each other up and make the crew laugh, but this isn’t one of those movies where it’s, ‘Boy, thank God those actors improvised because otherwise it wouldn’t be funny.’ Craig Mazin did a really, really good job.
So he’s the one obsessed with you having messed-up junk?
He loves my junk. Or he loves my messed-up junk. He wants bad things to happen to it because I won’t give it to him.
True or false: You are the only Bluth family member to appear in each of the new episodes of Arrested Development.
I believe that is true. I haven’t seen them, he’s still editing them, but that was the goal when Mitch (Hurwitz) and I talked about these episodes early on. There was a question as to whether the finances or the scheduling would allow for all of us to be in every episode, and I said, ‘Whatever it takes schedule-wise or finance-wise, I’m your guy.’ So we worked it out and we just made sure that I was done with all of my duties before I had to go off and do something else.
Any word on returning guest stars?
I think Mitch has already said that a few people are coming back. I think he’s mentioned Carl Weathers and Henry Winkler and … who else did he mention? James Lipton and Andy Richter. There’s many more. And then his ideas for the movie are just insane. So hopefully Act II and Act III will happen, which is the movie. I can’t wait to see what he does with all this footage. We still have a little bit of additional stuff to do. I work one more day on it in a week or two.