Having MODOK being a punchline is an inspired choice. Did you work with [writer] Jeff Loveness to flesh out the tone, or was it already there on the page?
Just as with the original role, I played the stakes for real. Darren is desperately seeking approval, and that is his main motivation. I definitely saw that it was very funny, but I find Darren’s arc moving. I think it’s very funny and very out there, but I take those motivations seriously.
Was it difficult to find those motivations again after so much time away from Darren?
Luckily, I was able to work with the whole cast the week before principal photography started on the movie. I came in, and we just sat around tables. I had the dots on my face and the camera—we were being filmed just for reference—everybody else was still on book. We were just reading through the scenes, and it was one of the coolest filming processes I’ve ever done. It was this great hybrid between film and theater where you didn’t have to wait for lights or sound or anything. You could just try it one way and then try some alternate lines. It was a very fluid sort of thing. Working with Paul and everybody again, I felt like we found Darren pretty quickly again.
Can we talk about the butt shot? It’s one thing to read that in a script, but it’s an entirely different thing to see it on screen.
Oh, I loved it. That was one of the first things they showed me in the animatics. I thought it was so amazing and brilliant. I learned later that it was cut.
I was like, “You’re really making a big mistake.” I think that shot is really important. So funny and so great. I don’t know if my protests had anything to do with getting it back in or not, but I’m very happy it’s there.
Was having the chance to flex some more comedic muscles something you wanted to do?
I really had as much fun filming this as anything I’ve ever done. I guess I certainly hope it could open doors for me to do that. Comedy is harder in a lot of ways. There’s a level of rigor in your timing and your engagement with the work that is sometimes more precise than dramatic work has to be, but I love doing it. It’s something I got to do a lot of in acting school, very broad, Commedia dell’arte clowning stuff. It’s just not something that has been a part of my professional career. It’s rewarding to do it on such a big scale.
How did Peyton help coach you through that?
I think the best thing you could ask for in a director is to have a strong point of view. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a director who is finding their own way through the material, trying to find the tone, and trying to find language for telling the story. Peyton knows this material, backward and forwards. He showed me a poster for a band—he showed this at Comic-Con—that he was in high school. It was a mock-up of an Avengers thing. He was the drummer, and he was [dressed as] Ant-Man. He goes deep.