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Richard Kind on blowing his Married...With Children audition, and why he loves working with John Mulaney

In this followup Random Roles interview, Richard Kind tells us about filming Sack Lunch Bunch, The Other Two, Big Mouth, and more
Main image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images. Background images from left: “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” (Photo: Allyson Riggs/IFC - Documentary Now!), Big Mouth (Image: Netflix)
Main image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images. Background images from left: “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” (Photo: Allyson Riggs/IFC - Documentary Now!), Big Mouth (Image: Netflix)
Graphic: Natalie Peeples
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Welcome to Random Roles, wherein we talk to actors about the characters who defined their careers. The catch: They don’t know beforehand what roles we’ll ask them about.

The actor: Richard Kind has kept busy in the seven years since our last Random Roles interview, appearing in tons of buzz-worthy projects. In season one of The Other Two, Kind played Cary’s agent Skip, who continuously pops up everywhere doing odd jobs. It’s a role aptly parallel to Kind’s career; he’s seemingly in everything, and he pops up where you least expect him. Over the past decade, he’s played everything from Rudy Giuliani in Bombshell to the father of an autistic daughter in Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, to a tireless musical comedy performer in the standout Documentary Now! episode “Original Cast Album: Co-Op.” With the breadth of his career, Kind has plenty of stories to tell, and even with over 100 acting credits, he still finds something thrilling in every role. We caught up with Kind to talk about his more recent roles, as well as some of his (seemingly neverending) upcoming projects.

Big Mouth (2017-present)—“Marty”

Richard Kind: Nick Kroll—who I think was probably responsible for me getting the job in Big Mouth— I got to know him when I was at Paul Rudd’s charity event out in Kansas City. I happened to meet Nick that weekend, and we got along great, and I laughed and laughed with him. I just loved him. Then, I get to know John Mulaney, he called me up—I think out of the blue—and just thought that I was great. He’s a big musical theater fan, and he had seen me quite a few times and had heard me in musicals.

John Mulaney’s just brilliant. So John knew me from musical theater, and now the two of them—Nick and John—were doing a show off-Broadway called Oh, Hello. They asked me to be the opening night guest. It was a live show and they had a guest celebrity every single night on Broadway. I got to be that, and then they asked me again months later on when they took it to Broadway. It was thrilling! In any case, they knew me, and they gave me this role.

AVC: You tend to play dads, but on Big Mouth, you play a very different type of dad without the hint of sweetness many of the other parents you play often have. Is there fun in playing the grouch? 

RK: Oh, absolutely! I mean wait ’til you see me. I did a play and I was nominated for a Tony Award, in a play called The Big Knife. I play a heinous, heinous character—horrible! Oh, he’s such a bad man. It’s great doing that, and then I do this movie called The Ray. Look it up; it might have a different name [Run & Gun], but I happen to like the name The Ray, and I play a gangster in that.

AVC: So, very different from many of those funny, lighthearted characters you’ve also played recently.

RK: Yeah, and it’s not like I like one or the other. Well, look at me in Gotham. Although in Gotham, I was a bad guy, but I wasn’t heinous. Hey, you look at Bombshell. I played Rudy Giuliani.

AVC: That’s as heinous as it gets.

RK: Yeah, I mean, he was actually an S.O.B. in that one, too. But, I love playing the bad guys, it’s great. And I love playing all different roles! I did this show called Luck about horse racing and I played such a sad individual. He was truly —it’s not that he was gentle, he was tragic. David Milch, who writes so beautifully, saw the tragedy in this man, and I had a stutter. What a nice thing, that I stuttered. You know, right there there’s a weakness. You know that that stutter affected him his whole life, and so I loved playing that.

John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch (2019)—Himself
Documentary Now!, “Original Cast Album: Co-Op” (2019)—“Larry” 

RK: John Mulaney is—there’s no other way to say it—he’s a fan of mine. He thinks I’m good, so he cast me in “Co-Op” and then he cast me again in this. He wrote “Girl Talk,” which I thought was hilarious. And when we finished shooting that day, he said something that was so nice. He said, “The whole reason that I wrote the show was embodied in what we did during ‘Girl Talk,’” because I talked to them like they were human beings as opposed to kids. I was really, really touched by that, because that is how I talk to my kids.

AVC: “Girl Talk” is particularly sweet because the girls seem genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say about your career.  

RK: We filmed that for a good hour and a half. And I’m asking them questions, and they’re asking me questions, so they just took four minutes out of an hour and a half. We talked! It was “Girl Talk.” That’s what it was. I asked them questions, and not about school. I asked them about what they were interested in, and they were actors, and what roles did they play, and what movies did they like, and what plays did they like? And what was their experience, how did they feel on stage? All of those things. We talked and we talked, and we pared it down to some interesting things, but it was great. Some people call it going to work, but I don’t call it going to work. This was fun, and getting to talk to these young kids who were smart and had a good sense of self was fantastic.

AVC: You were telling them the harsh truths of theater, like “Oh, you won’t keep in touch after being in the play!”

RK: Oh, I know, I actually felt bad saying that, but that is what summer stock is all about. I never saw those people again. Isn’t that nuts? You think that you’re gonna know them forever. That was a very harsh truth to tell those kids, but it is the truth.

A lot of people think, for instance, you’re in a movie, okay, and you’ve got one or two scenes. And the rest of the cast, I don’t see them, and I only know these people for a day and we’re working. I get “Do you still keep in touch with blah-blah-blah?” when I’m on a sitcom… Now, as it so happens, I do keep in touch with a lot of the people from Spin City. We’re still very, very close, but all these TV shows or movies that I’m in, I don’t know these people.

It’s just very interesting, that they see me in a concentrated amount of time. [The audience sees] me for 22 minutes once a week, but my life consists of 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, 22 minutes out of that week is nothing. But, to them it makes an impression, because pictures say a thousand words. That’s what they have in their heads. By the way, on the flip side, there’s so many people that I work with that I wish I could still keep in touch with. I think John Mulaney is one of the great men of the world. Truly, that show is emblematic of him. As you say, it’s so wholesome, and it’s smart, it’s certainly funny, it’s entertaining. Every one of those adjectives would suit John Mulaney. Every single one of them. You’re lucky to be in his company, and I wish I saw him more.

People say “What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done?” I think in the short amount of time that we had, “Co-Op” was one of the most fun weekends of my life. And I only saw John for five minutes. Five minutes! He did his scenes, which were in another room, and when you see it you’ll go, “but you were right there.” I wasn’t. It was like he wasn’t there, and he left that night to go move out of his apartment into someplace else. And I go, “Really, you’re moving and yet you wrote this show, don’t you wanna be here?” He said, “It was the only weekend we had,” so I didn’t see him at all. Do you know who Paula Pell is?She is one of the great creatures of the world. I just love her; and we had Alex Brightman who I do still keep in touch with, and Renée [Elise] Goldsberry who I see every once in a while in New York. These were great, great people. I loved it. We had such a good time. You know who’s wonderful? Taran Killam. We all went out to dinner one night. Oh my gosh, what a great guy! Gosh almighty. So funny, so smart, great, great guy.

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (2021)—“Toby”

AVC: You told my colleague Cameron that you had never watched the show before and had never heard of it. What made you want to take that risk to go for the role of Toby? 

RK: I read the script, I see the situation that the man is in. The only reason I would have needed to see the show was to get the tone of the show. But I have to tell you; [Josh Thomas] is such a good writer that the tone of the show was clearly in the writing. It’s a kind show. It’s for the benefit of other people. It was a very giving show, and that sort of is a little bit in the title: Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Things may be wrong, but don’t worry, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. It’s a comfort, and that’s how I saw the character. So, it’s my interpretation of that. Hey, I could’ve been wrong! I could’ve been 180 degrees in the opposite!

This is a hilarious example. I was asked, when I was very young man—I was at Second City—and I was asked to audition for Al Bundy on Married… With Children. Now, I’m sure 500 people auditioned for Married… With Children, but I was one of them, okay? I was in Chicago at the time, I put myself on tape. Went to the casting directors, we put ourselves on tape, and there was a joke where the line was something like “Peg, why did you put that cactus where the alarm clock used to be? The alarm clock went off and my hand is filled with prickles” or whatever it is. Everybody in that script was a horrible person. They were heinous individuals. I figured somebody had to be nice, and so I read Al Bundy as a put-upon husband. Little did I know that he was as big a jerk as everybody else was! There’s nobody redeemable in the show, and I’ve always been taught—my interpretation of it was: Somebody has to do it.

However, I put myself on tape in Chicago. I’m sure 85% of the people who auditioned for that show went in and met the director or met the producer and they were told this is what the guy is; or, I could’ve played him as a jerk but I didn’t. Can you imagine that I would interpret a character as vile as Al Bundy and make him nice? Isn’t that crazy?

AVC: Ha, I love that, though!

RK: I know, I love it too! Oh, I think it’s hilarious! Now, today, first of all when I go in—if I’m going to audition for something, I get to talk to the casting director, or to the producer or director themselves because I have a body of work that precedes me. They can say, “You know what, that’s not what we’re looking for, try it this way,” and nobody takes direction like me. I’m terrific at it, I’m really really good at taking direction. All you had to do was say, “No, no, no you’ve misinterpreted.” One thing that I do is I make a decision and I commit to that decision.

AVC: You also said that Josh had given you very different directions from what you envisioned for Toby. How did you want to play him? How did you envision him versus how Josh wanted you to play him? 

RK: He thought that Maria Bamford’s character, my wife, was very bossy and I was a little more sublimated and would kow-tow to her, and I didn’t. We were equal. We were both the parents of an autistic kid, and I was loud and I was equally as opinionated as she was. And we didn’t argue, we just were strong, we were both strong characters. I think he wanted one strong and one not, and I made my character strong as Maria’s character was strong, and we got along.

AVC: It worked out perfectly. The bickering back and forth, between you and Maria onscreen is comedic gold.

RK: Well, she’s magnificent! She is as magnificent a person as she is a comedian as she is an actress. She was great. She was wonderful. I gotta tell you, I was so scared about meeting her, because she’s so smart and so observant and sometimes she sees the world through the eyes of a standup. Which is always smart and ironic. I’m not always the smartest guy in the room, and I was scared that she wouldn’t like me. From the moment we met we got along. Oh, you know she’s so wittily strong. So I was a little intimidated by her. It’s all my fault, trust me, when you meet Maria there is nothing intimidating about her. She is welcoming and gracious and look, she goes on the internet and asks people to listen to her standup. She tries things out and then gives them a T-shirt. That’s the most gracious thing in the world! So she’s not intimidating at all! In my head— look, I’m neurotic, I’m an actor. I was very intimidated by her smarts and there was nothing to worry about.

Floozeville (2021-)—“Waffle”

AVC: You’ve done so much voice acting work, but podcasts are very different. What it was like to voice a character like Waffle, who has such a distinct personality, but you don’t know anything about his physical mannerisms?

RK: I have to tell you, what’s interesting about Floozeville is I don’t know any other dramatic podcasts like this. I’ve done so many interview podcasts, and every story that I’m gonna tell you has been told and has been streamed elsewhere. Floozeville is honest to god the first time I’ve done a dramatic podcast with things like chapters. It’s like Netflix but for the internet. I even want to say for the radio, because that’s where I listen to it. Like I used to listen to the radio. Now, I listen to podcasts. So, I must tell you this is all very very new to me.

What is also really interesting is I never get voiceovers, I never get commercials. Although I have an interesting and very distinct voice, it can sort of cut glass. It’s not always the most lyrical of voices, but it is distinct. And now I’ve got my first voiceover campaign, which is for a product. A wonderful product about diabetes, it’s FreeStyle Libre Diabetes Monitor, and they’re great! It’s wonderful. It’s my first voiceover job. Can you believe it?

AVC: It’s surprising that it took that long!  

RK: Tell me about it! Look how long I’ve been in the business! However, I’ve done character voices in animation and things like that. I treat this like a–how can I put it? It’s an animated movie that you don’t see anything but the characters are all—it’s like we’re taking a step back. It’s radio. You must know it’s radio and that’s just the blatant truth. What goes around comes around. That’s what we’re doin’ again. Orson Welles did it with War Of The Worlds—he had the Mercury Theatre. That’s what’s goin’ on, and I think it’s very romantic! In that we’re going back to using our minds and imaginations especially in a day and age where, I mean, the phones are killin’ us. You know, going, watching TikTok, which is 30 seconds of entertainment; or going on something from YouTube and you watch two and a half minutes of something. Whereas you’re listening and you’ve got an art in your head! This is fantastic! That’s why I’m so proud. And the writing is so good! So good, and so perfect for this targeted audience.

Monsters In California (2021)—Unspecified role

AVC: What was it like to film Monsters In California with Tom DeLonge being a first-time director?

RK: He is the kind of guy that you wish you could be. It’s as if there were no problems in the world. He’s just a positive figure, and he’s so intrigued by aliens, and he has these stories. And as an actor, I’m studying lines, or I’m trying to get into the mood, or get into character, or stay in this scene. I can talk around and fool around, but Tom, he was so funny. We’d be doing a scene and he’d go, “Dude! Dude! Yea, so I’m at the Pentagon, and I’m talking about…” and I’d go “Tom! I’m trying to concentrate on the scene.” And he would just be giving me these great stories, and you know, going out to dinner that’s one thing—give me the stories—but we were working.

His energy is 110%. He’s a cheerleader. He is so positive, and very receptive to if you wanted to change the script. He wasn’t married to anything, and as a writer his ideas were good as far as story and stuff, but he didn’t exactly have the dialogue locked in. It was a little clunky, and as an actor I helped him out, ’cause I used to write, you know certainly during Second City. So I put it into a vernacular that was a little more palatable, and it told the story, I think, a little clearer. He’s a lovely man, and the guy I have nothing in common with. He’s a skateboarder and a rocker. I went nowhere near that stuff. He was a lovely guy, very very nice, and I hope the movie’s good. I think it is.

AVC: So, are you allowed to talk about your character and what the movie’s about?

RK: Monsters In California? Absolutely! A lot of times I think that I’m pretty good in the role that I’ve been cast in, but I will say, “Why did you hire me? I’ve made my decision about what I’m going to do in this movie. What did you see in me, why did you go after me?” Now, I gotta tell you, and this is honestly, a lot of times it’s because I’ve got a famous face, or a semi-famous face. I should say a semi-famous face. I can bring some recognition to the movie. Not everybody knows me and I’m a character actor, so nobody says, “Oh my God, it’s a Richard Kind movie, I gotta go spend $18 and see him.” They don’t say that, but I can bring something to the movie, and it’s an energy. And so I asked him what it was. And honestly it was that they had a list and some people said no and then they finally got down to me.

My character is a former government employee dealing with science and the aliens, and I worked probably for the Pentagon. I’m a guy who is running away from the [military] because as a scientist, I found out too much, and one of the kids in the movie, his father knew too much. He was my dear, dear friend and I am persona non grata, I’m not there anymore. The kid didn’t know me, but the father did. And the father has disappeared all of a sudden, which is such a great theme in movies is the kid whose father abandoned him.

He wants to find out and he’s curious, and that’s what teenagers do. You know, “Where did my father go?” And he chances upon me. I make myself known to him and we are trying to solve the mysteries of where his father was and about the aliens. And I am on the run from the government and I am hiding out. I’m like The Fugitive. I’m always running and they can’t find me. I’m always on the run, and I’m in the wilderness. I’m sleeping outside and you know, I’m a hermit. I don’t see anybody. But I got the answers, that’s the good thing. My character has the answers.

AVC: Tom is known for talking about aliens, so did he convince you into believing aliens exist?

RK: [Deep sigh.] I think the recent story of those military people I saw on 60 Minutes—that convinced me. Do I think they’re still around? I don’t know, what do you think? You think they’re there?

AVC: I don’t know. I actually don’t know.

RK: Me neither. And do you believe in ghosts?

AVC: Kind of.

RK: Me too. You and I are the same. I kind of believe in ghosts, and I’ve had a few experiences with them, and still I don’t think I can fully say I believe in ghosts. I have had paranormal experiences, truly, truly paranormal experiences. But they don’t make themselves known all the time, so why are they so selective?

The Other Two (2019)—“Skip Schamplin”

RK: That’s a show that I wished I were asked back to, definitely, because I really enjoyed it. I’m like a cameo in every episode that I do, you know, it took all of two or three hours to do it. I think the writers are fabulous. They’re really nice people. The two actors—one I knew very well, but I got to know them both, and I had a fun time. It’s a lark. It was a one-joke character, but it was a very funny joke. First of all, I think the show was really terrific. What a novel idea! I mean, who would ever think, the older siblings of a teen pop star—what is it like? It just made me laugh, so I was very lucky to be included in that.

AVC: It’s too bad that you weren’t in the new season. We wanted more of Skip.

RK: I did, too. I thought it was very funny, but I understand. Like I said, I was a one-joke character and they very nicely made my last episode gave me a reason why I wasn’t there. That one joke had worn thin, so you know, being an agent with another job is a very funny thing, but that show can’t sustain it. By the way, I think it’s such a good show, and the second season’s equally as good, and the writers—I was sad, but totally understood.

AVC: It’s funny because you keep popping up on these TV shows that are huge with young adults and are constantly trending. Do your kids think it’s cool that you’re in all these shows?

RK: They couldn’t care less. My kids are so uninterested in my career, or my work. Although, today my daughter said “Daddy, I just heard your voice in the commercial.” I will say, they adored, adored Inside Out. They’re very proud of me being in Inside Out. I just did the new Ari Aster movie [Disappointment Blvd.] and I have one daughter who just adores Midsommar and Hereditary. When she found out that I was working with him, she just blew a gasket, she couldn’t believe it.