In 11 Questions, The A.V. Club asks interesting people the same 11 interesting questions.
An Irish charmer who has been winning hearts in the U.K. since The IT Crowd hit in 2006, Chris O’Dowd started to find his footing on American shores with as Annie (Kristen Wiig)’s love interest in 2011’s Bridesmaids. Since then, he’s bounced back and forth across the pond building up a diverse list of credits including a recurring role on Girls, supporting spots on Mascots and St. Vincent, and a gig starring alongside Ray Romano in Epix’s Get Shorty series. His latest role finds him teamed up once again with Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy for the drama The Starling, now available on Netflix.
Chris O’Dowd: I remember as a kid we went to Donegal every summer. I’m the youngest of five, and my dad was a sign writer, so we had a little van. Essentially he would just put sofas in the back of his little windowless van and we would all drive up the west coast [of Ireland] because we had an uncle who had a friend who had a swimming pool. We would go and stay by the beach, and then going somewhere that had an indoor swimming pool just felt like the height of luxury. I remember that being a really fun excursion.
AVC: Your parents were probably happy also, because you could spend hours in the pool and they didn’t have to worry about you that much.
CO: That’s it! It’s like bringing the kids to the beach. They just love it. They always love it. They always have hours where they just don’t need you. It’s glorious! Rock pools and shit, I get it.
2. What’s the thing that’s considered a basic part of your current career that you struggled to learn?
AVC: What about them? Doing a bunch of them at a time, like you’re doing today?
CO: Not being incredibly revealing, like you’re talking to somebody in a bar. I feel like when I started off, I would just be behaving as if this is just between us. I was somehow completely missing the point.
3. Did you pick up any new skills, hobbies or get into something you hadn’t before during quarantine?
CO: I think we did the stereotypical things. I definitely got into gardening a lot more. We did that thing where you get really excited about a project taking up some time, but then after two months you’re like, “I’m done.” So we planted loads of shit when we were still in California in April. And then when it started to die out because it got so hot in July, I was like, “Oh, it’s done now, and we’re moving on to whatever is coming next.” A lot of painting.
AVC: Were you doing vegetable gardening or were you planting flowers?
CO: We were doing flowers mostly, but also some tomatoes and the start of some root vegetables until you realize how long they take.
4. What restaurant do you not live near but make a point to hit every time you’re in the right town?
CO: When I’m in L.A., I always try and get In-And-Out, which I know is probably a clichéd answer, but it’s true. It’s on the way from the airport and you know what you’re getting. It’s a delicious burger.
AVC: What’s your order?
CO: I’m going double double animal style and the fries. The fries are pretty great.
Let me think of one that doesn’t feel so common. I like Burger & Lobster in London as well.
AVC: What do you get there?
CO: I’d probably go to with a burger again.
AVC: You’re a simple guy.
CO: Very simple, very simple.
CO: God, I feel like they’ve already done everything...
AVC: It does kind of seem like that. I personally would go with teleportation, because while I do enjoy my time on an airplane, I like the idea of just being able to be anywhere with the snap of my fingers.
CO: Teleportation would be great, if we can make it CarbonNeutral. I could get home to Ireland without it being a day’s journey.
Honestly, the trickiest thing about the whole of lockdown for us was just feeling very far away from everybody. Being able to click my fingers and be at home, that sounds delightful.
I’ve noticed that I’ve started missing commuting, or the idea of the 10 minutes that you kind of don’t have anything to do. I went on the tube yesterday for the first time in ages and the Wi-Fi doesn’t really work, so you don’t even look at your phone. You actually do nothing for a minute, which is quite nice.
CO: I always enjoy spending time with Christopher Guest. I find that he is somebody who really makes me laugh without even trying that hard. He’s one of those people who, the more you get to know them, they become very warm over time. It takes him a second, and then he is just a big bear.
AVC: Were you nervous to meet him the first time? He is a bit of a legend.
CO: I was definitely intimidated by his quality, I think, and all that, but it didn’t take too long. He lets you know where you stand. He opens up his house and brings you in to meet his family and it all ends up being a lovely experience.
CO: I’ve done a couple of tricky ones. Kitchen porter is never that fun. It’s just relentless.
I worked in construction. It was a hod carrier when I was in college. A hod is a rectangular open box that you stack bricks on and then you climb up and down a ladder with the bricks on your back to get them up to the next level. And that one in January in London is literally backbreaking. It’s tough. It’s physical. But in a way, it was kind of fun, some of it.
I did some call center work. That’s tricky. That can feel a bit soul-destroying because you know that you’re calling people who have no fucking interest in talking to you.
AVC: At least with the bricks it feels like you’re doing something. You can see the fruits of your labor.
CO: It does. That’s right. It feels like it’s a creative experience. The other one [call center] is just… I don’t know, it feels like you’re getting in people’s way.
CO: I’d like to find out what’s really going on with the Kardashians, just to see what’s what. I like the idea that behind the scenes they’re actually just really down to earth. I like the idea that as soon as the cameras go off, they just get their joggers on and put on sports.
AVC: It seems like everyone forgets that famous people to have to do at least some regular stuff, like they still brush their teeth. They still do laundry. Well, actually, they probably have someone do their laundry.
CO: Yeah, they have to brush their teeth. I’m trying to imagine them doing laundry. Maybe they do. Cigarette coming out of the side of their mouths, beer in the hand, trying to clean the towels from the baby.
9. What’s the first piece of art or earliest piece of media that inspired you to go into your field or made you made you realize what art is capable of?
CO: I remember the first time I was ever on stage was for a high school musical, and it was Grease. I played one of the smaller roles in it. I had never really been in front of people in that capacity before. I was a sporty kind of person and suddenly finding yourself in front of an audience of a few hundred or whatever it was, that adrenaline I found very exhilarating. At that time I was still young, and I had no idea what I was going to do, but the feeling, just that momentary feeling just before you go on stage really stuck with me as something that I wanted to replicate in some capacity.
In terms of a piece of art, I remember when I was in college, I got really into like Cassavettes films and Paul Thomas Anderson films. Before that, it was hard to know where somebody like me would work, and then you see these portrayals of life as slightly messy, and they’re aiming for comedy and tragedy at the same time. It felt like, “that seems to be a thing that people are doing. Perhaps there’s a chance.”
CO: My wife [Dawn O’Porter] probably makes me laugh more than anybody else. We laugh a lot.
In terms of people from work, Richard Ayoade always made me laugh so much, who I worked with on The I.T. Crowd. Nick Frost always really made me laugh out loud too without even seemingly trying to.
CO: Oh my god, now you’re talking my game. I feel like I would go for some bastardization of my favorite sandwich, which is a muffuletta sandwich from New Orleans. So, it’s lots of different kinds of meat and olives. I think I would also have a little onion on there and I would take away one of the cheeses and put maybe more of a blue cheese instead. I would call it the “Well En-Dowd” and I think that would be my signature.
AVC: Would you keep the same muffuletta style bread?
CO: Maybe I should mix it up slightly just because, so maybe to make it more personalized, I go with an Irish soda bread.
AVC: I feel like you’re going to end up at the store after this with a cart full of ingredients.
CO: [Laughs.] Oh, it’s all I’m going to be able to think of for the rest of the day. My personalized muffuletta sandwich.