The Hot Seat: James Van Der Beek

The charismatic actor ditches his nice-guy persona in a new sitcom.

Photograph: ABC/Bob D'Amico

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A lot of actors aren’t willing to poke fun at themselves, but you seem like you’re game for anything, like playing a version of yourself in the new sitcom, Don’t Trust the B---- in Apartment 23. Have you always been self-deprecating?
Yeah. I think I may have lost it at some point in the early 2000s, but then I regained it. It’s amazing what unemployment will do. [Laughs]

The “Crying Dawson” animated GIF went totally viral and kicked off a bunch of “Vandermemes.” Which is your favorite?
You know, it’s funny: We shot the clips in just one day. [Funny or Die] crew members would shout out a GIF idea, and I would just do it. It was total improv, and we did it so quickly that I have no real recollection of what we filmed. But I think my favorite meme would have to be where I do some around-the-world motion with my head as if I were on Jerry Springer. When I saw it, I cracked myself up.

Speaking of Funny or Die, the video where you modeled DILF-brand khakis was hilarious. Do you consider yourself a “Dad I’d Like to Fuck”?
As long as my wife does, I’m cool!

Fair enough! Are you a khakis guy in real life, or do you prefer a different type of DILF-wear?
I’ve been rocking a shawl-neck sweater lately. I don’t know if that makes me Mister Rogers or a DILF. Maybe somewhere in between.

People have come up with some pretty funny nicknames for you. Which one do you think is the most clever?
I like “Le Beek C’est Chic,” which came from [writer] Nahnatchka Khan of Apartment 23. My nickname throughout college was always “Van Der…” and then whatever anybody else wanted to put at the end of it, whether it rhymed or not. I always responded to “Van Der Motherfucker.”

How would you describe your personal sense of humor?
Mostly inappropriate—or the wrong thing in any given situation. For Dawson’s Creek, I was playing the most sensitive human being on the face of the earth. At the end of a take, I’d just say the most inappropriate and dirty thing. My castmates would always get a big laugh, because it was just the last thing you’d expect to come out of my mouth.

Apartment 23 is about a pair of incompatible roommates. What’s your worst cohabitation story?
I’ve always had good luck. My college roommate was a dwarf. We got along great and roomed together for two years.

Any strange fan interactions?
A woman in North Carolina followed me out of the local Harris Teeter and was looking in my grocery bag, which I thought was odd. Then she took her hand, wiped the dirt off of my car and said, “Thank you, I will take this home to my children!” and just walked away.

Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 premieres Wed 11.

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