A still from the film Vengeance, which serves as B.J. Novak’s directorial debut, features Boyd Holbrook as Ty Shaw and Novak as Ben Manalowitz.
Focus Features / Patti Perret B.J. Novak claims that the central theme of his newest film, Vengeance, is the dismantling of preconceptions. He gained this experience both on and off-screen as the film’s writer and director as well as its main actor.
The dark comedy centers on Ben, a journalist from New York City who visits a small Texas town to look into the death of a woman whose family mistakenly thinks the two were dating. They also thought she had been killed. Set the ensemble cast, which includes Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, J. Smith-Cameron, and Dove Cameron, along with the twists and turns.
However, Novak is probably best known for his role as corporate climber Ryan Howard on NBC’s The Office, where he also served as a writer and co-executive producer. Novak has starred in a number of movies, including Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.
His first film as a filmmaker, according to Novak, was a refreshing shift of viewpoint. Specifically: He’s more friendlier as the boss (which does sort of sound like something Ryan Howard might say).
Although he wouldn’t have considered himself a diva previously, Novak tells Morning Edition’s Rachel Martin that he now understands what goes into a production.
BJ NOVAK “Any worker may become impatient. I am humbled and in awe of all the jobs that everyone has to do while I am the head of a film set “He claims. “How can I maintain everyone’s happiness and motivation? When I understood it was on me, I was friendlier, more professional, and more considerate of everyone’s job than I’ve ever been.”
Morning Edition interviewed Novak about the film, their antics with Kutcher, and his thoughts on the development of comedy.
This conversation has been condensed and made more concise.
On his erroneous perceptions about Texas
Huge people, big guns, big trucks—everything is bigger in Texas, so I assumed it was a badass place that wouldn’t be nice to a person like me who was so obviously an outsider. And although I was mostly correct, it was also much more than that. It was the friendliest location I’ve ever been, not in the least bit unfriendly. It is full of diversity and intelligence, and there are surprises everywhere. And portraying that through my persona was enjoyable.
Regarding collaborating with Kutcher, who portrays a music producer
Ben goes to make fun of him, but instead meets a person who is far sharper, personable, and intelligent than he believes himself to be. And what Kutcher’s character tells him about the people in Texas as well as the shocks there absolutely blow his mind. And who better to do it than Ashton Kutcher, who is so simple to underrate but is actually a superb producer and tech investor.
My first gig in front of the camera was playing jokes on him on Punk’d. He was very meticulous, while also sporting a trucker hat and seemed to be some sort of famous figure. However, he was in charge at all times.
Considering the trade-off between being honest to oneself and caring what other people think
Since I always consider the audience, it all seems to me to be the same. When I think of going to the movies, I think of my cousins there and of myself as a teenager. I’m thinking: I can’t let anyone down for even a moment after coming all this way. I always consider the audience because that is why I act in the way that I do. I believe that some individuals create art for themselves, but I create my work—or art, or whatever you want to call it—for an audience. And I think that’s what I’m here for.
On the broad attraction of comedy, in his opinion
I believe that everyone has the same sense of humor and that hilarious is amusing. This belief may be foolish. And we created The Office with the most specific, arcane humor and characters, and it ended up being so well-liked. While creating The Office, we imagined the audience, but in reality, we were that audience. Therefore, I do believe that if you work hard enough for what you believe to be good, everyone may enjoy it.
If the former stand-up still tells jokes that aren’t appropriate today
You read the room when you’re a comedian, which I have been. Additionally, certain things work better on some nights, some jokes get old, and some jokes are inappropriate in some situations but not others. Therefore, I don’t think anyone should regret what succeeded in 2004 because the environment was entirely different at the time. However, I also don’t believe someone should be whining about not being able to tell the joke from 2004 in 2022, or that you can’t tell a joke about Bill Clinton right now. Except in cases when you truly caused harm that no one brought up at the time, I don’t believe anyone needs or ought to feel regret.
Rachel Martin conducted the interview; it was created by Marc Rivers, Claire Murashima, and Simone Popperl.