Nat Faxon and Will Forte have known each other for nearly 20 years, ever since they met at the Groundlings theater in Los Angeles. So, with Faxon set to star in Married, an FX relationship dramedy premiering tonight, Vulture felt no one would be better suited to interview him than his pal Forte. And move over, Judy Greer, who plays Faxon’s spouse on his new show — Forte and Faxon got on like an old married couple. Topics discussed: Faxon’s Oscar victory for The Descendants, his acting résumé, and how much money he makes.
Will Forte: Nathaniel, hello!
Nat Faxon: Hi, Will!
Hiiiiii! That should be the entire interview: “Hiiiii!” How are you doing?
I’m good! Thank you so much for doing this.
I’m gonna start … Let’s see … Nat Faxon has been a friend for a long time. I first met you at the Groundlings Theater in, what, 1995?
’97? Sometime in the mid- to late-’90s.
We’ve been onstage together many times. We’ve spent many friendship hours. I think we were together in Tahoe for New Year’s, maybe, over the millennium.
It might’ve been ’99. It was when you really first introduced me to the intensity and hilarity of running charades.
It’s the best game ever. What I’m trying to say is, I know you very well. Now that you’re doing so well, I’m trying to attach myself to you.
It’s the other way around, actually. That’s why I asked you to be a part of this, so that my name could be a part of yours.
Okay, so congratulations on how well everything is going. I guess my first question is: How much money did you make last year?
Uh, I think around $4.7 million.
Okay. Great. I met you at the Groundlings, but I don’t know much about your history before the Groundlings. Did you take some kind of drama class or anything in high school or college? When did you start doing comedy and acting?
First, let me just amend that last statement: I made between $5,000 and $4.7 million. I didn’t want to confuse anybody. Yes, I started acting at a very early age. I was inspired or enjoyed the reaction of my family members at dinner time. We would sit around the table and they would ask me to do impressions of other people, like my dad or my mom or my sister. They would laugh at the horrible impression that I did, but it was the first indication that people [would] laugh if I did something silly. That spurred me to get involved in theater. I did school plays.
You went to college. Were you a drama major?
Yes! I was a theater major. I went to Hamilton College in upstate New York, and there were only five theater majors.
Is there anybody else of those people who were in that major that have gone on to have success in their careers?
You know, I have been terrible about keeping in touch. I still talk to one who is in France and in the theater world there. I think he’s more in the behind-the-scenes, but doing very well. And another one was in New York, and then I don’t know where these other two women ended up. I would imagine they probably did very well because they were all very talented.
I was hoping you’re were going to say Liam Neeson was in your college.
[Laughs.] That would’ve been such a better answer had I just said five people that are like humongous stars. “Yes, Liam Neeson and I were in the same class together.”
He’s very young!
Yes, he is.
So where is your Oscar? You’re an Oscar winner for the screenplay for the The Descendants. Where is your Oscar?
It’s kind of lame: It’s on my mantel. I feel like I hear stories about people who are like, Oh, it’s in my bathroom, in my medicine closet, and whenever somebody goes to get something, they find it. Or It’s a doorstop! I just put it right out in front in my living room.
Are you scared that anybody would ever take it? Do you get scared of robbers?
I do because there’s a big window there, and yet I do nothing. I’m scared and yet completely ineffective as far as making a change. Now I’m gonna have a lot of robbers because of this interview.
What is your address?
Yeah, let me just quickly tell you.
What was that experience like? It must have been exciting, but were you just shitting your pants, too?
Yes. Shitting. I was shitting my pants times 20. It was like 20 shitting-my-pants-es at the same time.
You had 20 shits in your tux.
I had 20 shits, which is why I moved so slowly when I got up the stairs. That’s really blue and gross. My apologies to Vulture. No, I think it was total relief because leading up to it, you’re just trying to convince yourself that it’s going to be okay if you don’t win. There’s so much build-up and, as you know, going through the whole process [for Nebraska, last year], there are so many events and there are so many people talking about certain things and expectations. Inevitably, you’re just trying to ground yourself and say, “It’s okay if I don’t win. It’s still going to be fine. It’s a huge honor to be here. This is company that I’ve never been a part of. So just enjoy the moment and try not to get too sucked up into the whole winning thing.” As much as that mentality seems like it should work, you can’t help but want to also win. You’re fighting these two things. All I remember was sitting there and just thinking the mantra: It’s okay if we don’t win. It’s okay if we don’t win. It’s okay if … OH FUCK YES! OH FUCK YES! I think there was just such a relief that I didn’t have to go and have that long conversation with myself about that. It saved me from a massive, neurotic debate for the next however many years. Angelina Jolie was the one making the announcement, and I remember looking at her mouth to see if it made the movement of like an “A” for “Alexander,” because I knew that that would be the first name. It was like a spotlight on her mouth.
Oh my God. When you went up, it was so funny, what you did up there, mocking the weird leg stance that Angelina Jolie did. Did you just get up there and improvise it with Jim [Rash]? Or was there any: “We should do this when we get up there.”
It was not planned. I wasn’t even aware that we were going to do that. We knew that Alexander was going to speak for the group. When we got up there, I was looking out into the crowed and was so excited, and then I heard this quiet come over, and then laughter. I looked over and saw Jim doing this big leg stance and I was like, Oh, you bastard! That’s so funny and you’re a dick for not telling me about this before you did it. Knowing our improv training from the Groundlings, I was like, Oh, I should “yes, and” that and also do it. So, I did it as well. Alexander didn’t have any idea what was going on.
He didn’t seem to.
I thought maybe he would and then the three of us would do it. But he didn’t and so I was like, “Well, Jim and I did it and we owned it.” But then later, when I watched the tape and looked back, it just looks like Jim is clearly doing it and it was his idea and he’s getting all these laughs, and then I’m trying to do it. It’s not like I’m really doing it. It looks more like I’m admiring him with my legs wide open.
[Laughs.] Did you ever hear anything from Angelina Jolie?
No, never heard anything. Brad Pitt was on the side of the stage right when we got off. He certainly was like, “Great job, guys!” There was no cold shoulder from him at all. But no, we’ve never run into her, nor have we ever communicated. But I would say that she would hopefully take it in spirit as a funny honoring of her.
By the way, I’m a fan of the pose. I’m not trying to make fun of the pose.
I do the pose most times I go out, whether there’s anybody taking pictures or not.
Wait, so tell me about the show. I know very little about the show. It’s called Married and it’s with Judy Greer and it’s on FX. That’s all I know. What else can you tell me about the show?
Well, I’m in it. That I can tell you. I can tell you that Andrew Gurland created it and it stars, yes, myself, Judy Greer, Brett Gelman, and Jenny Slate.
Oh my God, that’s a great, great cast.
Fantastic actors, yeah. John Hodgman has a part in it, and Paul Reiser. Legendary. We’ve got a really good group of people. It was really attractive to me because it was FX. It was an opportunity to do something that was darker and riskier and toed the line between comedic and tragic, which I love. It’s right up my alley. I identified with a lot of the show’s themes, certainly with where I am right now in my life, as far as being married and having three kids and all of the work that comes with that. I think people will appreciate it because it’s the raw version of what marriage is like, which can be great but also can be really fucking hard.
And my apologies to Meaghan, your wife, who’s going to probably have to read what you just said about her and marriage. Sounds to me like trouble.
[Laughs.] No, I think she would be also say that it’s hard. It is tough, you know, spending your life with someone and raising kids and then also remembering to stay connected. It’s something you have to constantly work at.
It is. I’m baffled. You and Jim remind me a lot of Tina Fey in that you guys do everything. And the fact that you’re able to do the workload that you do and have a family is so impressive.
You are very sweet.
Hey, I have a behind-the-scenes look at you. I know what you’re really like as a person. And there is a quality that you radiate onscreen that makes people feel like you’re their buddy. There’s a really special thing that you have. You’re this wonderful, loving, giving person. And I’m not ashamed to say that.
Aww, Will. Now I have to burn my journal where I say all those terrible things about you.
No. Frame the pages. I want to read it and cry. Do you have something that you guys are planning to direct or that you’re writing that you can talk about?
Yeah, we have a few different things we’re working on. One is a project with Alexander Payne’s production company, Ad Hominem, and Fox Searchlight, which actually came out of when we were doing The Descendants a long while back. It’s a small, dysfunctional family comedy, in the vein of The Way Way Back. That would be for us to write and direct. And then we also have another script for us to write and direct, which is a little bit larger in scale. It’s an action comedy. We are trying to put together a cast for that at the moment. Lastly, we have something we wrote that would be for Jim and me to star in, which we are trying to put together the financing for.
And these are all movies that you’re talking about?
Yeah. And we did just sign a TV deal with Sony.
That is so awesome. Wait, so how much money did you make out of that deal?