PJ Byrne reflects on his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and his new show on CBS “Intelligence”

PJ Byrne is known best for his scene stealing roles in films like “Final Destination 5”, “Horrible Bosses” and most recently in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”. He is also the voice of Bolin in Nickelodeon’s hit animated show “The Legend of Korra”. PJ is not only a great actor but also a great personal friend and Media Mikes got to chat with him about about his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and his new show on CBS “Intelligence”, which premieres on January 7th.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got involved with “The Wolf of Wall Street”?
PJ Byrne: Having gone to Boston College as finance major, this was one of those movies that I had been tracking for a while. I wanted to make sure that I got an audition for this film. Mr. Scorsese wasn’t going to be at the auditions and they would be held in New York not Los Angeles, so I decided to put myself on tape and improvise my own monologue. So I came up with this monologue with me calling up a guy and finding out that he passed away from his wife and I end up selling her like $100,000 dollars’ worth of stock, just to show how manipulative these guys where. Mr. Scorsese saw it, loved it and asked me to come out to New York to audition. So I went there and was freaking out but he is just the coolest guy there is man. He put me at ease, I improvised some more and next thing I know I am in the movie and for the part I wanted, which was even better.

MG: What was it like working a legendary director like Martin Scorsese?
PJB: It was a really special experience. He is this great iconic director that if you are lucky you get to work with as an actor. The thing with these iconic directors is that they are also great communicators. They give you the confidence to go out and do anything you want but at the same time they also prepare you so well during that process. At the end of the day, he realized that he wasn’t in from of the camera we were and he just let us do our thing. That was the greatest gift that he could give. The trust he gave me and confidence he gave me to sort of unleash because a lot of the things I did was improvised, which is a scary world in its own but I have been doing it for a while now. It is also scary in the sense that these guys are extremely unethical and crazy guys, so I have to leave PJ at the door and go in and become this character.

MG: How can you address the reactions about people saying that the film is glorifying these characters?
PJB: You want people in America to know how bad these guys are, so you want really get into these characters and portray them correctly. So if anyone ever calls you on the phone, be aware since these people are out to get your money. This is a great way to tell people to be very aware and to raise your radar and in this film, we do it in an interesting way. Removing the fact that this is an artistic movie, we really break down what these guys are doing and how they are taught to sell. Not saying that all guys that sell you stocks are bad but this movie is aimed to raise your awareness to watch and realize who is handling your money. If I learned anything in college is that, first, there is no such thing as a free lunch and second, no one cares more about your money than you do. I think it is important for people to watch this movie so it is seared into their brain.

MG: How does it feel to be called a “scene stealer” in your films?
PJB: I guess it is flattering to be called that but I do not go into a scene thinking that I am going to steal this scene. I think it is a lot of preparation, especially when you are improvising. I did all my work and I know my character. If you wanted me to sell a cupcake, I was so prepared for this guy and I could have sold anything in that moment, using “Wolf” as an example. So that is one thing, the other is coming armed with not necessarily jokes but different approaches to the role. Let’s say I prepared like twenty things and I only use two, I am still fully armed and ready. The third piece of preparing is being ready to roll with it and see where any of it goes. What you prepared might not be useful at all since the director and actors might be thinking about something else. But since you know the character so well, you are ready to go any which way. In the film, there is a bunch of stuff that I prepared for and then there are other parts we just went with. I had no idea that Jonah (Hill) was going to do the part of “Don’t look him in the eyes” and we ended up just riffing off that. I had that horrible line the first time that we see Margo (Robbie) and the line that came out of my mouth even scared me, which was “She is so hot, I would let her give me AIDS”. As horrible as that line is that is exactly who these guys were though. It is inappropriate because the time period is inappropriate with AIDS but is something that is going to stick in your head. This goes back to the idea of glorifying them; this was there to show that these are bad dudes and to be wary of them. So it is not just about scene stealer, it is about being prepared when going into a role.

MG: Let’s talk about your new TV show on CBS called “Intelligence”, tell us what we can expect?
PJB: After doing “The Wolf of Wall Street” and I have done a lot of comedies, you can’t plan this but I have always thought in the back of my head that I would love to do a drama. This came along and everything worked out and I feel just blessed to be a part of it. Everyone involved is really cool and I love the premise. This show is great mixture of “Homeland” meets “The Bourne Identity”. Being a guy that loved watching James Bond as a kid and in this I get to be the Q character a bit was very appealing. I also have this family relationship since Josh’s character who is considered a brother to me and having that conflict there was also interesting.

MG: Can you give us a run down about your character, Nelson Cassidy?
PJB: I am a computer genius in the show. I can do anything that Josh’s character can do on the computer…except he can do it 1.6 billion times faster because he has a microchip in his brain. So that is very annoying to me. My father created this chip and Josh’s character and he looks to him as his own son as he is a brother to me…except Josh is incredibly handsome and I am not as good looking, so that is a point of contention. I can get into fights but he is a trained Delta Force guy, so he can kick ass better than me…and that is annoying. So there is a lot of that brotherly jealously going on if you will [laughs]. But he is my brother and I have his back and we are always there for each other and that is a cool part of the show. When you have that family aspect when working on a show and you play a scene with a person you know or a co-worker you have to be more delicate. But when it involves your brother you can go from 0 to 10 right away and to me that is much more interesting. Another aspect of the character that I love is that I am not just behind a computer; I actually get to be put into the field. I had to shoot guns, save people and pull bombs out of bodies, so it is awesome from that perspective. The last aspect that I loved about the show is that I am like the person at home watching being thrown into this world where Josh’s character is the complete opposite and trained to be in this world. Meghan Ory’s character Riley is Secret Service, so she is also trained to be in this world. Same goes for the character Lillian, who is played by Marg Helgenberger. I just happen to be this super genius and by default I was just thrown into this world. So I do not know how to be a “super-agent” and I had to slowly transition into it and I found that to be a lot of fun to play out.

MG: What else do you have going on for 2014?
PJB: I’ve got this show right now. So this is the first time that I haven’t had to do pilot season, which is a little scary but still comforting. I get to go off now and go into the movie world. I got something brewing but I can’t say officially yet. I have a little window now to shoot something because if the show gets picked up then we go back to work in June. Then I still have “The Legend of Korra”, which is coming back for its third season and let me tell you…it is awesome! We are currently doing ADR and I have seen it all and fans are going to freak out since it’s that good. I am so proud to be a part of that show. So for now be sure to tune in to “Intelligence” on CBS and watch out for some other great projects in the works this year.

PJ Byrne Wrote and Directed New Short on Funny of Die


PJ Byrne had a busy year last in 2011 with co-starring in both “Horrible Bosses” and “Final Destination 5”.  Stealing the show in both film’s easily. PJ is heating up the small screen in 2012, recently joining up on Martin Lawrence’s CBS Comedy Pilot and also voicing Bolin on Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” spin off “The Legend of Korra”.

Check out his directorial debut below for Funny or Die called “The Last Supper”.  PJ also wrote this short film as well.  Check it out below and enjoy!!

Click here for our interview from last year with PJ Byrne.

Premise: Jesus and the Apostles fight over the check at The Last Supper and end up stiffing the wrong waitress.

Interview with P.J. Byrne

P.J. Byrne is having one heck of spotlight year in 2011 with both “Final Destination 5” and “Horrible Bosses”.  He is also leading his voice to the new TV series, “The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with P.J.’s, one of the funniest and nicest guys I have ever had the privileged of speaking with, about his new films and also what else he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: You have not one but two movies out this summer, “Final Destination 5” and “Horrible Bosses”, tell us about those?
P.J. Byrne: New Line has been really good to me and they are a great group of people. Some people seem to think that New Line is fading away, but that not true. “Horrible Bosses” did really well and hopefully “Final Destination 5” does the same. They really went for with this film and spent some money with this fifth film. They had Steve Quale directing, who is like a 3D stud. They got a dope writer as well plus a really great cast such as David Koechner, Courtney B. Vance and Tony Todd. They also brought some younger actors such as Nicholas D’ Agosto, Emma Bell and Miles Fisher. I don’t know why they put me in the movie or what the heck I am doing here! [laughs]

MG: How was it working with the 3D for “Final Destination 5”?
PJB: In any venue you work in you always want to be honest, genuine and true. You want to be in the moment and that’s your first goal as an actor.  If its a comedy or drama you want to play the moment as real as possible and make interesting choices. When your dealing with 3D, sometimes the box you are playing in gets a little smaller as they are always playing with the 3D effects. There are certain things that may cause the camera to pop back or cause an annoyance for the viewer, so things get a little tighter. Then there are certain scenes where its not as much about the 3D. I like to say that’s when they unleash me. That’s my arena and at that moment and its more about the character moments than the 3D, so your just making a movie in those places.

MG: What can you tell us about your character?
PJB: Isaac is the guy that, for those of you who work in an office, always irks you or gets under your skin. That person always seems to find a way to piss you off and Isaac is that guy. He isn’t really friends with anyone and all he really cares about is himself, chicks and getting chicks for himself [laughs]. Those are the only three things in his head. This is a character that I think people will cheer for to die! You just hate him so much and hopefully it will be a little funny when he goes down. Viewers know going into these films that the group of people you see in the beginning who don’t die will eventually die at some point in the film.  It should cause a myriad of emotions and when he finally does go down, human qualities take over and you think to yourself maybe he wasn’t that bad and shouldn’t have gone out in that terrible way [laughs].

MG: Going from horror to comedy, what drew you to the character Kenny in “Horrible Bosses”
PJB: That’s like the easiest question I could answer! I was going to get to meet Jennifer Aniston with my pants down! That’s what drew me to it, as it would draw any man in America to play this part. Working with Jennifer Aniston with your pants around your ankles is it and I don’t think there should be anything else.

MG: Was the film as funny to shoot as it was to watch?
PJB: It was great! I can’t wait since I was told there is going to be a bunch of scenes added to the DVD, which are hysterical. There’s a scene where I am propositioning the guys to help them out and that was one of those scenes where I was unleashed. Needless to say I shared with them the different ways I could please them and make them happier and just  handle them all at the same time, as that’s how gifted I am [laughs].

MG: How was it working with such a great cast?
PJB: The fact that they put me in that movie was crazy, as everyone was famous. I had no idea why they picked me but, thank you so much! All the good things you here about these people in the film are true. They are all very genuine and super smart. They are great to work with as an actor. Every take was different and interesting, as we all were bouncing things off each other and I hope that shows in the movie.

MG: What can you tell us about your upcoming voice over work on “The Last Airbender: The Legend of Korra”?
PJB: This is interesting as Nickelodeon has been very hush, hush. I think I am allowed to tell you that I play Bolin who is one of Korra’s buddies. Aang is gone and now Korra is the new Airbender. My character Bolin is kind of the comic relief.  He’s around 16 years old and he is an earth bender. So don’t mess with me cause I will shut you down in the animation world or at least make you a very pretty seat [Laughs].

MG:
What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming film “K-11”?
PJB: I play a bad ass attorney, which is really cool. It’s a nice transition role, as in the beginning I maybe come across as sort of out of my league but by the end me and Goran Visnjic have this great scene where we go head to head and I shut him down! We started shooting yesterday and Jules Mann-Stewart is a great director. She has been doing this for a really long time and understands how to make a movie. She is such a sweetheart and everyone who is working on the film is there for her. I think since everyone is behind the director and that’s when you get a successful movie. “Final Destination 5” was very similar. I have been blessed with working with great casts and I have never seen any of those diva moments that you hear about or guys going crazy. We all just worked together to make a great movie, as we all had long days both in make-up and in front of the camera. There’s not a lot of sleep and people can get punchy but we didn’t allow it as we were all there for the same things. It was great and we are all close friends still to this day.