Exclusive Interview: Nat Faxon on ‘Married’

Nat Faxon

FX’s latest comedy “Married” takes an edgy look at married life. Nat Faxon and Judy Greer play a married couple with children, while the stress of taking care of kids and looking for work has taken the spark out of their relationship.

The pilot has Russ (Faxon) go to a massage parlor, and subsequent episodes have him partying with fraternity kids and naked girls in a pool. Faxon is also writing and directing partners with Jim Rash, of “Community” fame, and they won an Oscar for their screenplay to The Descendants. I got to speak with Faxon about the new show, which premieres July 17 on FX.

CraveOnline: As I promised when we spoke for The Way Way Back , I’m going to address you as Academy Award Winner Nat Faxon.

Academy Award Winner Nat Faxon: You know what, thank you, Fred. I feel like I try to tell people that and it never works, so I really appreciate it.

I saw Jim Rash on a red carpet and called him Academy Award Winner Jim Rash, and he was a little taken aback. I don’t think he remembered that I committed to that.

That’s hilarious.

So in the opening scene of “Married,” is Russ trying to trick his wife into a hand job?

Yes. Yup, I think that’s pretty much his M.O. for most of the pilot and series for that matter. I think this is a guy who is very sexual and I think it’s also a way for him to not only get what he needs in a sexual way, but also to try to connect with his wife which is something that I think is slightly missing in their relationship at the time.

But is it any good if she’s duped into it?

[Laughs] I think for him it doesn’t matter. I think she could be half asleep and it would still probably mean more than not at all. I think ideally, yes, I think he fantasizes more about crazy positions and all sorts of endeavors when it comes to sex, but I think maybe something is better than nothing.

I didn’t quite do all the research on this, but is this show the first time you’ve jerked off on screen?

Yes, I think it is. Yes, and I got to do it many times. So I really got some practice in.

You join a pretty elite club that includes Kevin Spacey.

Right, yes. I think when people think of masturbating on camera, they’ll hopefully think of me and Kevin Spacey among others.

Russ so far never cheats, but he crosses some lines. He makes out with a girl from the massage parlor, he touches a girl’s butt at the pool party. What do you think is the line he’s skirting?

You know, I think he’s stuck a little bit. I think there’s part of him that’s trying to get his needs met but I think more than that, I think he’s trying to fill a void in his life and that is certainly the sexual needs that he has. But ultimately, I think he wants to do that with his wife and he wants her to fulfill those needs, but there clearly is a lot of distance between them in their relationship.

I think they’ve sort of become consumed by their children and their routine and their schedules, and I think they’re both in slightly different places. That disconnect is certainly the root of the problem. I think there’s a certain amount of guilt that he has about going down the road with maybe other people, because ultimately I think he really just wants to be doing that with his wife, but he sort of can’t.

At the same time, he is trying to teach skanks some self-respect.

Right, it’s very redeeming in that way.

I think it’s sincere though. I think it breaks his heart that those college girls see themselves that way. I think he does see his daughter’s future in them.

Yes, absolutely. It does completely break his heart. I think he’s very aware of the world that his children are entering. I think certainly, as I said, he’s a sexual guy and he has crazy fantasies, but I do believe that is in complete juxtaposition with the fact that he’s raising three daughters and that this is the world that they enter into. I think he is a very decent person and I think those two worlds, he’d rather not connect them.

In the college episode, throwing a keg would be tough even if it’s empty. What was the keg you threw through the window: a prop keg, a stunt keg or an actual keg?

It was a prop keg, but it was still heavy like a regular keg, not full keg but an empty keg. I remember it being heavier than I thought it would be. I thought it would be this sort of styrofoamy thing that just leapt out of my hands but I was glad it had a little bit of girth, because I think that makes it feel a little bit more real than it being this very fakey looking and feeling thing. So I was grateful for the heft of it. My method acting really came into play there.

What is Russ’ job? He seems to be mostly out of work.

Yes, yes, he’s a graphic designer who is, I think, wanting to be working more than he is and I think he suffers because he’s got to do these spirit crushing jobs like working at his friend, Bernie’s printing shop. I think it’s killing him that he can’t be more freelance and more creative. I think that’s a big impetus during the series that he’s hoping Lina, Judy Greer, his wife will go back to work and he can have a little more creative freedom to do what he wants. I think he’s desperate for more in his life and working a sad job at a printing job only reinforces where he is not and where I think he’d rather be.

He was a real mess in the first few episodes, just wearing sweat pants. He then upgraded a little to shorts and actual shirts. Did they improve the wardrobe a little bit this season?

A little bit, yes. Not a ton. I think he still wears very comfortable clothing at home, sweat pants, shorts, T-shirts, flip flops. There’s a few [scenes where] we go out to dinner and he steps it up a little bit, and there’s a few parties and he steps it up a little bit. It’s never quite to a high level. It’s always a step up from shorts, which is pants I guess, so he’s really moving forward fashionably.

Did you audition for “Married?”

I did, yeah. I met with Andrew [Gurland]. We had lunch together and talked about the project. Then I ended up going in and reading a bunch of scenes with them, which went well. Then the network okayed it and off we went.

In success, if this goes well, will “Married” keep you and Jim from writing together for a little while?

That was something I thought long and hard about when “Ben and Kate” was cancelled and I was getting opportunities to do some other things. One of the things that I was very wary of was going into something that could potentially keep me away from the stuff that Jim and I do together, the writing and directing. So I was a little bit apprehensive of jumping back into something that would book me nine months out of 12 every year and only have a small window to do other things.

This was attractive because certainly creatively and the role and the part, but also just from a scheduling standpoint as far as it was an intensive three month period and then time for us to work on other stuff. It just created a little more of a window for that other occupation to be serviced.

And he just got a sixth season of “Community” for Yahoo!, so will that keep you apart a little longer?

No, I think we’ve always been able to get all of our needs met. We first came out here to be actors and I think that’s still a large part of what we enjoy and what we get a lot of pleasure from. I think the writing and directing was born out of all of that but in our hearts we still love performing. We’ve always been able to somehow make it work by doing all of it. We just are very flexible and understanding with each other’s commitments and are able to make things work.

We edited The Way Way Back during production of “Community” and “Ben and Kate” so there’s always a way to make it work. You just have to get creative and obviously be patient and understanding. I think we’re very supportive of each other and the projects we want to pursue. I don’t think “Community” will get in the way, and if it does we’ll just work around it.

What are you writing next?

We have two projects that we’ve written. One is set up at Fox Searchlight which is something we’ve been working on for a while, sort of family dysfunctional comedy I guess. Certainly in the tone of The Way Way Back as far as dramatic elements and comedic elements. Then there’s another script that we’ve written that’s tentatively called The Heart which is essentially a dark action-comedy. We’re in the process of trying to put both of those movies together and hopefully shoot one of them soon.

Is The Heart at Searchlight also?

No, it is not. We were with Indian Paintbrush. The deal was set up a while back.

Have you written some crazy action scenes you want to direct?

We have written some semi-crazy, I think crazy for us but probably small in scope when you’re comparing it to large action movies nowadays. For us it will be certainly a new direction and a step, but something that I think is manageable enough. Certainly like we did on The Way Way Back, we just surrounded ourselves with very experienced and smart people, heads of departments and I think we would do the same with this. We would just get people that know more of what they’re doing than we do and trust them.