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Interview: Jake Lacy talks feminism and 'Love the Coopers'

Written by
Madeline Wolfson

While his name may not immediately ring a bell, the demographic of twentysomething liberals who don’t shy away from the word “feminist” has likely already fallen for Jake Lacy, and it won’t be long before the charming actor wins over the rest of you. You probably first saw Lacy when he joined The Office as Pete in 2012. In 2014, he showed up again in his breakout role opposite Jenny Slate in the nuanced and very funny Obvious Child (too often oversimplified as “that abortion rom-com”). And since then, he's simply been on the rise.

The incredibly likable supporting actor has quickly made a career playing that great guy we desperately hope our favorite protagonists end up with, as well as moving into drama with a part in the already acclaimed Carol. Time Out recently got to chat with Lacy about his upcoming Christmas movie Love the Coopers, in which he once again plays the good guy opposite some of our favorite female leads. Suffice it to say, we’re even more enamored with the man behind Mr. Right.  

With his “all-American” look described by Slate in Obvious Child as “so Christian he’s like a Christmas tree…like he knows Santa” and incredibly endearing personality, Lacy effortlessly plays the role of Joe, a soldier stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve, in Love the Coopers. As far as feel-good Christmas movies go, Coopers is as sugary as it gets (the film is narrated by a big furry dog, so you get the idea). Schmaltz aside, the incredible cast was reason enough for Lacy to pursue a part in film. “It was a no-brainer,” he said. “I wasn’t like, 'Pfft, hand me a script.'” The film’s ensemble includes John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Alan Arkin and Olivia Wilde. Wilde plays a liberal, cynical mess of a woman who convinces Joe to pose as her boyfriend to impress her parents. Working with Wilde was, “the joy of making the film,” said Lacy. “The two characters are very vocal if not borderline confrontational and get to grind each other down…to the place where the connection is a real thing.”

Lacy fell in love with movies like E.T., which he watched obsessively as a kid, Ghostbusters and Goodfellas before realizing he wanted to act. After studying theater in college, struggling briefly in New York and landing his first gig on the sitcom Better with You, the 30-year old already boasts an impressive, if not lengthy, resume that includes his role as Hannah’s boyfriend Fran, on HBO’s Girls.

Getting cast as the good, stable guy opposite strong women like Rooney Mara, Lena Dunham, Slate and Wilde is a matter of “dumb luck,” Lacy says with sincerity. “I don’t walk into a casting session and people say, ‘That guy's the face of modern feminism,’” he laughed. But he says he's proud and honored to be associated with female-fronted projects. Even in the boyfriend without too much backstory roles he finds depth in connecting to his scene partners and doesn’t feel slighted. “Right now I revel in getting to dance around the fringes of those stories,” he said. “Particularly because the people [I’m] working with are ridiculously talented.”

Lacy himself admits that he hasn’t had a chance to play anyone far from himself, but he in no way sees himself as Mr. Perfect. “If a scene isn't written where I'm a selfish scared dick then you're never going see that, but in my own life, of course there are moments where I get in an argument with somebody and an hour later I'm like dude, 'You're in the wrong, you screwed up.'” And he didn’t always have his shit together offscreen. During his late teens and early 20s, he admits to being “kind of a mess” and “really freaked out.” Lacy considered dropping out of high school and was searching for something, though not in a particularly productive way. “At some point people were like, 'This is getting old dude,” he said. “Since then, it’s been a continual attempt to be better than the person I'm afraid I’ll wind up being.” This is at the heart of what makes Lacy shine on screen. “There is some element of that in each of these roles,” he said. “These are guys who are trying to be better than the not great versions they think they could be.”

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Lacy, who is sincerely happy to continue working in whatever comes his way. Love the Coopers opens today, with the already acclaimed drama Carol hitting theaters later this month. Lacy will also return as Fran in season five of Girls this February and is excited the season will look deeper at whether that “stable enough and funny enough” great guy really adds up to being “the right guy.” As far as we’re concerned, Lacy is as close to perfect as they come. 

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