Interview | Tim Meadows on ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’

Comedian Tim Meadows is an Emmy-nominated writer and performer who has come to be respected as one of the core players of the extensive Saturday Night Live troupe. Indeed, in the 2000 comedy, The Ladies Man, one of his SNL characters has become one of the honored few to have had a feature film structured around him. Since leaving SNL in 2000, and after 185 episodes, Meadows has remained a constant presence around the new generation of comic performers, having appeared in innumerable films in supporting roles. 

In the upcoming film, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, a project from The Lonely Island, Meadows plays a put-upon band manager for a spoiled music sensation named Connor, played by Andy Samberg. 

Crave was lucky enough to visit the set of Popstar several months ago, and we had a wonderful conversation with Meadows wherein he talked about his character, the songs in the film, and his views of full-frontal nudity. 

Universal

Universal

Can you tell us a little bit about the character that you play?

Tim Meadows: I play Harry Duggins,  and Harry is the manager for the band. And for Conner. Mainly Conner. And he also managed The Style Boys when they first started. So he sort of discovered these guys. Like whoever Justin Bieber’s manager is. As you can see I didn’t research this role. So that’s who I play. And I have a very close relationship with Andy’s character. I’m sort of like manager, and good friend, and confidant to him. And then we release this album and we have surprising results.

We understand that Harry is in a little over his head. Can you talk about playing that up a little bit?

I think he has a good heart in general. But one of the things that we figured out is that he got really lucky with The Style Boys and with Conner. And so every step along the way things have been mostly good. So his feeling is, ‘If that works, then we should just keep doing that more.’ He doesn’t really have a plan. And he didn’t even really want to be a manager. It’s just something that happened. But he also really likes these guys. And he’s not like one of those managers that’s greedy and wants to move up the chain. He’s happy with what he’s gotten so far.

Is he trying to pull Conner back from the edge a little bit as things get out of control in this movie?

Meadows: No, because I think that part of the reason that Conner goes over the edge is because of his relationship with his manager. A lot of things sort of come at him at once. So when [Harry] should be in a position to help Conner the most, he’s not there. Like I said I don’t want to give away too much of the story…And even though I’m saying this stuff it’s very funny! You know, you’re talking about the emotion of the story and the emotional changes that the characters are going through. And what the character is and everything. And that’s sort of it.

Often when actors play agents and managers they’re basing it on real people. Is this based on anyone you know?

Meadows: Well I don’t know if they based it on someone they know. But the way I’m playing it is sort of based on managers that have existed, but maybe before this time. I keep thinking that this guy was going to be in Tony, Tony, Tony and he made a mistake and quit right before they became big. And so he has a resentment towards success in a way. So all of the success that he’s gotten has been by being lucky. I think what I’ve been doing really has been playing him as a jazz musician who’s just sort of checking it all out, but isn’t really floored by anything that happens. He’s just sort of like, “It’s all good. Don’t worry about it. We’ll be fine.” He is really like Conner’s mother and father.

What’s your favorite number that you’ve seen or been a part of?

“Karate Guy” is the one that made me laugh the most. It was really funny. And ‘Bin Laden’ was a really funny. The one that they were doing the other day. But “Karate Guy” was one where I happened to come to set early and I came by to hang out. And in the script it will just have the name of the song and then a couple of lines of dialogue. So you don’t really know what the whole thing is. And when I saw them filming it I was like, “Aw, shit, this is going to be a funny movie.” Like this is only one moment in the movie and it’s really funny. And I was watching them shoot the video portion of it and I was like, “Okay. Yes. I’m on board. I’m totally on board with this.” This was in the first couple of days of shooting. I think I was coming in for a wardrobe fitting or something.

Universal

Universal

What is it about?

It’s about…I should let them tell you what it’s about, really. But it’s about: They want to be a karate guy with a girl, but not the kind of guy who kicks you, but the kind of guys who kicks it with you. And the lyrics are all about how when they say ‘kick it’ they don’t mean kick you in the face, they mean kick it next to your place. And the video is those guys fighting in a dojo and and sitting on a couch in a loft. I was laughing my ass off when I saw them shooting it. And you know you see them shooting things over and over when you’re on a movie set. And every time they did it I thought it was really funny.

You and the Lonely Island guys have the shared SNL background. Is there a shared sensibility from that show?

I mean a little bit. I think the one thing is that we know the joke and the set up when we hear it. But I think that’s true of all of the actors here. You sort of know what the other person means when they’re giving you direction. When they say, “Hit this word harder” or whatever. You’re just sort of used to that from doing comedies and stuff. But at SNL I think one of the things is the quickness of it. They’ll say a note, or we’ll have an idea and pitch it out or whatever.

Has it been partially collaborative in that sense?

It has been, yeah. I mean, most of the stuff comes from them, but they have definitely let us improvise. Pitch ideas and stuff. That goes for other people too.

Do you have any war stories from the trenches of SNL?

We have. That’s been really fun. Because they hear about people that I knew, like, 15 years before they got there. So our perspectives are different. There was this one story I heard where I was like “Oh yeah, he’s pretty cool,” and they were like “No. He’s an asshole.” And I was like “Oh yeah, well 15 years later maybe he was getting ready to retire and he’s a different man now.” I was making excuses.

Universal

Universal

It’s Lorne Michaels isn’t it?

No. It isn’t.

The movie is going to be rated R, and I was curious. Some movies cross over the “R” boundary. They push far past PG-13, and go deep into “R” territory. What would you say for this movie? Is it really pushing “R?”

I don’t know. I don’t know about “pushing it far.” I don’t know what that means. There would be an NC-17 rating. I mean, when you can make an X-rated movie you can push it [laugh]. But we’re not in that business. I don’t know what’s going to make it when they put it all together. Some of the harder things in the movie may not make the cut. So I don’t know. I can’t really address that. But from the script we have, it’s pretty, pretty hard. There’s a lot of cursing, too, from us just improvising. But we’ve been doing a lot of clean takes. Clean enough for TV.

So there’s no backstage orgies. Are there any orgies in this movie?

Not in real life. We all go home afterwords.

How much full-frontal is there?

Not enough for me. I’m all into the full-frontal.

Would you appear fully frontally nude?

I would if I had to. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do.

Do you do any singing or performing?

I can’t really say. I might, and I might not. My character is a musician, so there might be a point were you see him perform.

What else has surprised you about Lonely Island?

These guys work really hard. This is one of the few movies – I don’t know if people mention this, but we sometimes shoot three different scenes. Like we were at this athletic club, the Hollywood Athletic Club, and some people were shooting scenes in the basement, some people were shooting scenes of the first floor, and some people were shooting scenes outside. These guys work really hard, and they’re really quick. I think that’s what really impressed me. It’s like “Oh yeah! They’re younger than me!” They got a lot of energy. They don’t wanna stop. And I’m like “Yeah, I’m ready to go home after.” I’m going to be like Sean Connery in ten years. “I want to get there by nine, I leave at five. Get my shit done then.”

Did you watch any of the documentaries this is based on? The Katy Perry or Justin Bieber docs?

I actually… Don’t laugh, but I actually saw the Justin Bieber film in theaters when it first came out. I have two kids, though. Never Say Never. That was the first one, right? I saw it with my kids. And then… cool story… I was in New York when we saw it, and Justin Bieber was on SNL as a guest. I think Dana Carvey was hosting. But I was up there in the back outside of Lorne’s office with my kids right before the live show. Justin Bieber came up, and he walked around the corner, and he went “Oh wow! Tim Meadows!” And I said “Hey, Justin! How ya doing?” I said “These are my sons,” I introduced him. And then he walked in and was like “Hey, it’s nice to meet you guys.” He talked to my kids for a second. Then he walked into the meeting with Lorne. And then my kids looked at me, and I was like [cool] “Yeah! Justin Bieber said ‘Tim Meadows.’” [laugh]

So I saw the documentary. I saw the ads for the Katy Perry documentary… I can’t sit through another one. I’ve seen one, I know what they are. I get ’em. But these guys were telling me a bunch of stuff about signature moments in some of the documentaries. Sort of like “this is the attitude we’re looking for.” The sort of fawning-too-much-over-the-celebrity. Putting them on a pedestal in weird ways.

Universal

Universal

Is that what you’re doing with Connor in this movie?

No. Mine is more grounded. But my character is also a true believer. To the cameras. Like “Yeah! This is #1! We’re going to the top!” But then in real life, he’s like “I’m worried. About the sales.” But his is also, sort of, he grounds him a bit.

What’s the relationship between Harry and Sarah Silverman’s character?

Sarah’s character is like a new person to the mix in our group. So I’m a little intimidated by Sarah’s character Paula. Because she’s much more of a… she gets it done. She’s all business. I the sort of “We’ll take care of that tomorrow.” So I’m intimidated by her, but I kind of need her help. Because we’re trying to take the next step in show business. And I’ve known Sarah for a while, so it was hard for us. It was weird in the very first scene, because I hadn’t seen her in some time – since the 40th [SNL] Anniversary. It was very fun.

Do you have a favorite Lonely Island song or video?

I like Lazy Sunday. It’s really funny. I was watching something the other day to that I hadn’t seen in a while. The one where their looking for ideas in a company, and he doesn’t notice that it’s a different person every time he goes around the room. He was like “You! Sandwich! What do you want?” “I think we should have more mustard!” “What?” I forgot what that was called. I like that one. Did I say Karate Guy already? [laugh] But, no, I’ve liked a lot of them. I’m just having trouble recalling some of them right now.

Was there a musical cameo that you were excited about?

I wasn’t here for “them,” so I really don’t know who came in. I don’t think I’d be ruining anything.

I liked the Michael Bolton video! The Jack Sparrow? That was really funny. I’m on a Boat is really funny. I can keep naming more. I liked the 100th Anniversary of the SNL digital shorts one. What was that? Suck Your Own Dick? You guys fans or what?

Did they come to you with this role?

I don’t know how it really all happened. Everybody takes credit for it, so I don’t know. But it was may agent, who called and said that there was this part, and he’d gotten in touch with Universal, and it was literally a day later, and they said “Andy [Samberg] wants you to do Skype.” I live in Chicago a lot. So I was like “Yeah, I can do that.” But then I got kind of busy, and I didn’t think we could do it ’cause I was traveling. They just said “Read it” and “Do you want to do it?” And I read it and I said “Yeah.” And then that was it. And we had a meeting where I just read with them. We did a couple of scenes together. I think they just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Like still functioning. Not walking with a cane.

So we did a few scenes together, and it was fun. Then it was off from there. And I had forgotten that I had met Andy before. I just remembered. I met him a few years ago at this thing for Will Ferrell in DC. Him and his fiance at the time, we all at the same table and we had a really good time. That was the first time I really got to meet him.

What’s the vibe like on set?

It’s been very fun. And loose. And people come and hang out, even on days they don’t work. I’ve done it too. So, yeah, it’s fun and it’s very collaborative. Nobody’s lost their temper. On that days that I’ve been here. [When I’m not here] they’re angry. “Why isn’t Meadows on?” But it’s been fun, yeah. It’s been fun. It’s been long, and I’m sad it’s ending. Because I’m just getting to know everyone. Names. Hey! It’s Kurt the camera guy! But it’s been fun.

Top Photo: D Dipasupil/FilmMagic

Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.