Bradley Whitford has a delicious role in the new movie The Cabin in the Woods, but you might not want to know what he does just yet. Whitford isn’t too worried about spoilers (though the movie, from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, has a lot of secrets), but we haven’t included any reveals here. It’s no spoiler to point out that his character has a particular kind of death wish, and the actor predicts that his climactic scene will end up in a memorial reel someday (“All those blood and guts, that’s going to be how you remember me!”). Whitford also chatted with Vulture about his TV diet, hooking up with the director’s mom, and his warm welcome from the cast of Parks and Recreation.
Let me know if we get into any spoiler territory.
You know, All the President’s Men, I knew how that was going to end, right from the beginning, and it didn’t “spoil” anything for me. [Laughs.] But I take your point. This is more fun to watch if you’re surprised.
You and Cabin co-star Richard Jenkins have some really funny moments together, like when you dance. Was that improvised?
We were improvising a whole bunch of little things, and I’m proud that one got in. We were just standing there, and when you’re standing next to Richard Jenkins, and the music stars pulsing, you have to dance. It wasn’t choreographed or anything. But modulating all that craziness was fun. Richard had the same reaction as I did when we first heard about this movie; he said, “I’m not looking to do Saw 7.” But then we read it, and it was an odd experience: It was so horrific, and so funny, and so fresh, and you really don’t know what’s going to happen next, as opposed to so much of the homogenized crap out there. Can you tell I have strong feelings about this? [Laughs.] I mean, Hollywood usually puts out, I don’t want to use their word, but “product.” There’s the unmistakable stench of people trying to sell stories that they don’t personally think are that good. You can sniff it a mile away. But good storytelling, like on The Sopranos, is when you assume the audience is as smart and funny as you are. That was true with David Chase, with Aaron Sorkin, and it’s true with Joss and Drew. You idiot!
Not you. Sorry. My dog was eating something he shouldn’t. Stop that! He got into the baby powder somehow, and his face is all in it like he’s Scarface. [To his daughter: Can you help? Otis got into the powder.]
So what’s the deal between you and Drew’s mom? He wrote that you kissed her at South by Southwest?
That’s because his mother is a big West Wing fan. So Drew wanted her to meet me, and he kept apologizing for it, and she was so incredibly sweet, so just as a joke, when we were leaving, I gave her a kiss like she was Fredo from The Godfather. I don’t think either of us can speak about a future together, but she is a great kisser. [Laughs.]
Glad to hear your fans might get kisses, too. Did you ever watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or Dollhouse? Were you familiar with how Joss likes to kill off his characters?
You know, I am the worst. I knew about them, and I knew about the cult of Joss, but I didn’t watch them. I actually went to the same college as Joss, though he was younger than me. I knew him, and I really liked him, but I’m bad about watching TV. I did watch The Sopranos, and the greatest show on earth, The Wire. But I usually don’t even watch the shows I’m on. I guess I sort of like to work blind. I got into trouble on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip for that: I directed the last episode of that, and it came back to bite me — virtually no one watched it. But the metaphor I’ve come up with [Cabin In The Woods] is it’s like animal lovers who work at the Humane Society: For the good of everyone else, you’ve got to put some of the puppies down! [Laughs.] Sometimes, the puppies must die.
Did you enjoy getting back to politics a little bit with your upcoming part on Parks and Recreation? Did you have any West Wing flashbacks?
That was fun. I love, love, love Amy Poehler. I actually do watch that show and I think it’s very funny. We might have had a little walk-and-talk, you know, because you need the motion. One of the hardest things to do is a guest spot. It’s always totally weird to come into their home.
How did they welcome you on the show?
Amy slept with me. [Laughs.] Which was amazing. I wonder if she does that with all the guest stars, or if it means I’m going to become a recurring character? I mean, they usually just send a gift basket. I was honored.
And her husband didn’t mind?
[Laughs.] We’ll see.