David Denman has come full circle. As a young man in college, his first time before the camera put him on screen with Ed Asner. Now 15 years later he co-stars again with Asner, playing his probation officer, in the new comedy “Let Go.” While in the middle of a busy week of multiple projects Denman took time out to talk to Media Mikes about the late Patrice O’Neal, going to Julliard and what it’s like to play a probation officer (he’s done it twice)!
Mike Smith: What drew you to your role in “Let Go?”
David Denman: I was given the script by my agent and I really responded to the character. I thought there was a real sweetness in his view of the world and what he did on a bigger scale. That’s how it came to be. I just really liked it. I thought it was genuinely quirky and fun. I thought it would be a change and definitely a challenge.
MS: Probation Officer is an unusual profession and one you don’t see on screen a lot. Did you have to do any special research to get a feel for the character?
DD: Not on this job…I had played a parole officer previously and had a couple of conversations . What I learned is that most of the people getting out of jail don’t really get rehabilitated that easily so my character is very cynical about things. When you’re making movies you can do a lot of research and get a lot of different perspectives. And Walter’s perspective is definitely quite different.
MS: How did a California kid wind up at Julliard?
DD: When I was in school I always wanted to do theatre. There was a guy I went to high school with…he was the “professional kid.” He would do commercials. And he would always say, “when I get out of here I’m going to go to Julliard.” I asked him what it was and he told me. He told me that Robin Williams had gone there. Kevin Kline. All of these great actors. I’d never heard of it. I didn’t even know there were schools out there for acting. So when I graduated I went to the American Reparatory Theatre in San Francisco. It was very much like conservatory training, very intensive eight or ten weeks studying a craft I want to do. I applied to Julliard and I did what I had to get in. It was great to do regional theater…to travel and do shows. I went back to California on vacation and booked a job on “ER.” I stayed in California and never went back. That was 15 years ago.
MS: You shared a couple episodes of “The Office” with the late Patrice O’Neal, who just passed away. Do you have any special memories of working with him?
DD: He was a lot of fun. There wasn’t a whole lot of acting going on…he was pretty much his character. It was always fun because he was so quick. He threw a lot of improv into his work. I wasn’t aware he was a stand up comedian until after we started working together. He was really funny. We had a good time.
MS: What are you working on next?
DD: I’m finishing an M. Night Shayamalan movie (“After Earth”) with Will and Jaden Smith and I’m currently shooting an independent movie called “Blue Potato,” which takes place in upstate Maine. It’s a coming of age story that happens over the course of a potato harvest. I play a farmer who becomes a mentor to one of the kids. It was really a great little script and I’m having a lot of fun shooting it. And then I’ll be back on “The Office” in an episode I just shot last week.