Jason Segel on 'Shrinking', the new Apple TV+ series he co-created and stars in
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
"Shrinking," a series on Apple TV+, shows therapists who need help - in their practice, in their lives. Jason Segel plays Jimmy Laird, a therapist and father who can no longer communicate with his daughter or patients. He decides to take his methods in different and questionable directions, like putting a patient, a veteran struggling with violent anger, into the ring at a mixed martial arts gym. The head of Jimmy's therapy practice is displeased, to say the least.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SHRINKING")
JASON SEGEL: (As Jimmy Laird) Is this is going to be a fun talk?
HARRISON FORD: (As Dr. Paul Rhoades) I just got off the phone with Sean's father. He said he came back from your session with a broken tooth.
SEGEL: (As Jimmy Laird) So not a fun talk.
FORD: (As Dr. Paul Rhoades) Not for you.
SIMON: And as you may guess, the head shrink in "Shrinking" is Harrison Ford. Jason Segel stars and is one of the creators of "Shrinking." Jason Segel joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.
SEGEL: Thanks for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.
SIMON: What's going on with Jimmy Laird?
SEGEL: Yeah, well, you know, when we meet Jimmy in the beginning of Episode 1, he is just about a year out of his wife's tragic death in a car accident and has basically just been numbing himself and is in the midst of a true nervous breakdown - the real depths of depression, rock bottom. And none of his patients know that he himself is in the depths of despair.
SIMON: How did you ever persuade Harrison Ford to do this?
SEGEL: You know, look, here's my experience with that. There's this part that would be perfect for Harrison Ford. And so you say, you know what would be fun? Let's make an offer to Harrison Ford. And you do that with the expectation that for a week you get to tell your friends, we have an offer out to Harrison Ford...
SEGEL: ...At which point he'll say no, and then you get to find the real guy, you know?
SEGEL: And so we offer it to Harrison Ford, and then, like, two days later, Harrison Ford says yes. And then there's this moment of like, wait, Harrison Ford's going to show up? And there is total panic and rewriting and trying to reconfigure the thrust of the show because now all of a sudden you have one of the greatest actors of...
SEGEL: ...The past century coming to be in your TV show. And Harrison Ford shows up and the first thing he does, which I think is so generous, is he breaks through the awe that he knows accompanies him being Harrison Ford. And he said this thing - you know, Harrison was a carpenter - and he said, all I want when someone hires me to do a job is that they are happy with the house I helped build. And that's how...
SIMON: Oh, my...
SEGEL: ...He views acting. And I learned so much from that.
SIMON: Wow. Look, I think you are a great actor...
SEGEL: Oh, thanks.
SIMON: ...And a great comic talent. But I - Harrison Ford steals every damn scene he's in.
SEGEL: I am totally comfortable with that assessment of the show.
SIMON: And he's in a lot. It's not just a cameo. Your co-creators are Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, who of course, were also part of the group that created "Ted Lasso." Were you hoping for some of that feel?
SEGEL: I am very lucky to have a passenger seat in this creator boat. Bill Lawrence called me about two years ago and said that he wanted to find something to do together, which is an absolutely dreamy call to get as an actor. When they pitched it to me, it fell right in the Venn diagram of what we each do well - this idea of not being afraid of earnestness and also laughing your way through some of the hardest moments in life. I think that is how we actually experience grief a lot of the times. Sometimes it is just straight up sad. But real people don't try to show their feelings. They try to hide them. So a lot of times we are laughing through the hardest moments.
SIMON: Do you think audiences are more prepared to accept this as a premise after we've been through a pandemic and there's just been a lot more open talk about mental health and having the courage to reach out and to say to each other, I need help?
SEGEL: I think there is certainly that element. And I also think that this sense of loss that Jimmy is going through is very literal within the show because he's lost his wife. But I think it is a sense of loss that we are all feeling at the moment, that something was unexpectedly taken from us all of a sudden - this grief that life can change in an instant without any warning, and next thing you know, two years have gone by and, oh, my gosh, what happened? I think we're all sort of feeling that. And so part of what the show does is it - it's the function of therapy. It's the function of any kind of group dynamic when all of a sudden people start saying it out loud - hey, I feel that way too. All of a sudden this gets a hell of a lot easier because you may be in the bottom of a hole, but you're in there together and you're going to hold hands and find your way out and laugh your way doing it, you know?
SIMON: Let me ask you about something I found unusual. In almost any series - we're going to talk our way to a little scene. Your character and his best friend Brian, played by Michael Urie - it's when we find out that Jimmy has been avoiding Brian since the death of his wife, and Brian wants to know why.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SHRINKING")
SEGEL: (As Jimmy Laird) I'm not trying to make you feel bad, but it's not fun to be around somebody who says, everything goes my way, when their wife has died.
MICHAEL URIE: (As Brian) I never said everything goes your way.
SEGEL: (As Jimmy Laird) Oh, my God (laughter).
URIE: (As Brian, laughter) That's my thing.
SIMON: Then you kiss him on the head and tell him you love him.
SEGEL: Yeah. That's a hard line to pull off, man. Michael Urie pulled that line off. When we wrote that line - because his slogan, his catchphrase that he says all the time, is, everything goes my way. And we had just discussed how hard that would be to be around for someone who was going through depression. And we knew that we were going to try to pull off him saying the line, I didn't say everything goes your way, after he says, my wife died. And man, did this guy pull off that line. Michael Urie is a genius.
SIMON: It's nice to see that kind of depiction of friendship between two men.
SEGEL: It's based on a real friendship from my life, that moment. I went through some tough times when I was younger, and I had a friend of mine who was completely optimistic and was not about to let me feel miserable at a moment when I needed to feel miserable. And I sort of systematically and quietly removed him from my life. And a couple years later, when I was in a better spot, we tried to hang out, and there was this unspoken thing in the air of why did you do this? Like, where - I was there for you. And we had a very similar discussion to what was in the show.
SIMON: Are therapists necessarily better in their own in-person relationships in life as anyone else?
SEGEL: No. And I think there is a distinction between who someone is in the confines of their office and who they are when they go home. And that's one of the things our show explores, is that you have no idea what your therapist is going through when they go back - or anyone...
SEGEL: ...What they're going through when they go back home.
SIMON: Mr. Segel, I've got to ask you a last question that I think a lot of people wonder about to this day. Are you a man or are you a Muppet?
SEGEL: (Laughter) I am a very manly Muppet.
SIMON: To quote a great song.
SEGEL: Yes. I may be more a Muppet of a man. I don't know. It's hard to say. I'm a little bit of both.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE MUPPETS")
SEGEL: (As Gary, singing) I'm a man.
PETER LINZ: (As Walter, singing) I'm a Muppet.
SIMON: Jason Segel is one of the creators and stars of the Apple TV+ series "Shrinking." Thank you so much for being with us.
SEGEL: Hey, thanks a lot. I had a great time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.