You’re currently working in New York on Bullets Over Broadway. Can you tell us about how you became interested in musical theatre? Have you always had an important relationship with music?
I inherited my love of musical theatre from my dad. When I was growing up in New Jersey, my trial attorney father loved performing in community theater productions. The first one I remember watching him in was “Hello, Dolly!” and it inspired me. I was never into sports as a kid, so that helped me find my niche in the performing arts. Aside from theater, music has always been a big part of my life. It’s how I celebrate and cope with life's moments. And my only metric is whether or not I like how a song or artist makes me feel.
The Garden State Soundtrack won a Grammy and helped launch the careers of some of the musicians involved. What does it take to put together something so prolific? What were you looking for when you set out to make it?
It wasn’t intentional, and the timing was fortunate. I won a Grammy for making my favorite “mix tape” of all time. At that point, most indie music was slowly discovered through word-of-mouth, and Garden State introduced some lesser-known but amazing artists to a wide audience very quickly. The songs on the soundtrack are ordered chronologically by when they appear in the movie. I think the soundtrack works partly because it's a group of songs that people love and partly because it's a chance to relive the movie according to how you remembered it and how it made you feel.
Can you tell us about the soundtrack for your new movie, Wish I Was Here? What was the process like of creating it, and what are some of the most important points?
I knew I wanted to assemble a lineup of originals, covers, and rarities, along with a few classics. I also knew I wanted to stay true to my indie music preferences, which is the type of music I love and which, I think, best compliments my style of filmmaking. For the originals, I started out with my dream asks: James Mercer (The Shins), Coldplay, and Bon Iver. When they all said yes and their reactions to seeing the movie were so strong that an unbelievable new song emerged from of each of them, I was humbled and amazed. Then the rest of the album came together with a “may the best song win” approach. Each song had to give both my editor, Myron Kerstein, and me chills when we added it to a scene. I think Allie Moss’ cover of Imogen Heap is tender and beautiful, and Bon Iver's “Holocene” and Paul Simon’s “The Obvious Child” are both timeless classics.
What was it like working with your brother on the movie?
It was a bonding experience that brought us closer than ever. It provided us with a lot of opportunities to discuss our family and our personal beliefs. And it was great to witness his writing process and learn from his strengths as an artist and storyteller.
You’ve said you like writing strong female characters. Can you talk to us about some of the characters you wrote for Wish I Was Here and the casting choices?
In script form, my brother and I envisioned the characters of my wife and daughter to be dynamic, strong, and intelligent yet entirely different women. When we wrote them, I dreamed of getting Kate Hudson and Joey King to play those respective roles, but I never imaged I’d end up with both of them. They brought their best work to these archetype females, and it elevated our movie family’s entire dynamic. It was so hard to edit the film down to its theatrical running time because every time they appeared onscreen their performances were so genuine and such a pleasure to watch.
We’re excited to see you reunite with Donald Faison–is it fun to work together again?
Of course! We jump at any chance we get to work together. And even though we love riffing and improvising during a scene just to make the other laugh, it’s even more fun to see our Scrubs fans go crazy any time we collaborate. Our fans are definitely the best part.
Can you talk to us about some of the advantages or disadvantages of being an actor yourself when directing? If you had to choose to do only one for the rest of your life, would you act or write/direct?
It can be difficult and all-consuming to be an actor-director, but it’s also one of most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced. To be able to make art and tell a story the way I want all the way from the script to a final, edited movie is such a privilege. It's difficult to pick which I prefer but it’d probably be writing/directing.
What if you could not be in the entertainment industry at all?
I love to fly and have my pilot’s license. And I love dogs. So I’d probably be a K9 aviation specialist.
For The Record Upcoming Schedule
8/4 Spoon: UO NYC (628 Broadway) 2pm-3pm
8/8 Zach Braff: UO NYC (1333 Broadway) 5pm-6pm
8/12 Jenny Lewis: UO Salt Lake City (12 South 400 West St.)
9/10 Banks: UO Brooklyn (98 N. 6th St.) 6pm-7pm
Come out and get vinyl signed by your favorite artists!