An actor from Judd Apatow’s short-lived TV series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared writes his first screenplay and then performs in the Apatow-produced film to popular and critical acclaim: That neatly sums up the success of Superbad’s Seth Rogen, but depending on the reception of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, it may apply just as well to Jason Segel. For his first produced script, Segel, the 28-year-old How I Met Your Mother costar, plays a sad-sack composer working on a Dracula musical performed by puppets. His two-timing TV-star girlfriend dumps him—then runs into him in Hawaii, her new rock-star boyfriend in tow.
Time Out Chicago: Starring in a breakup film you wrote, you’ve got to expect the is-this-autobiographical question.
Jason Segel: Yeah, I guess I’d say slightly. It’s an amalgam of crazy relationships I’ve had over the past ten years.
TOC: There’s one relationship your Wikipedia page mentions: Your Freaks and Geeks costar Linda Cardellini broke up with you after you gained 20 pounds?
Jason Segel: [Laughs] Yeah, no, that was a joke that got taken out of context. It was more a commentary on my total collapse in general. I was unemployed for quite a while, and I did not handle it well.
TOC: Apatow’s films have been criticized for being so guycentric, treating the women as little more than foils for the men. What do you think?
Jason Segel: I couldn’t disagree more. In Knocked Up, both the Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann characters were really well-developed, well-rounded women, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall would be much less interesting if the Sarah Marshall character was strictly vilified as the cuckolding girlfriend.
TOC: But there is this tension in films like Knocked Up and Superbad between romance and bromance, right?
Jason Segel: [Laughs] Sure, absolutely. I certainly see that point, and there is a lot in these movies about the male friendships and the male perspective. But especially in Forgetting Sarah Marshall—Nick Stoller the director and I are the least-macho men possible, and so our perspective almost tends to skew to the female on its own.
TOC: On The Colbert Report last August, Colbert asked Apatow what was next. He answered, “At some point we’re gonna show the penis.” Well, we get plenty of that—to be more specific, of yours—in this film. Why all the full-frontal shots?
Jason Segel: I had a naked breakup. A woman I was dating came to my house and I assumed it was to fool around ’cause she was my girlfriend, so I was waiting for her naked. She walked in the door and the first thing she said was, “We need to talk.” So this breakup commenced, and I was trying to experience it, but all I was thinking the whole time was, This is hilarious; I can’t wait for her to leave so I can write this down.
TOC: Did you think, Oh yeah, this is the final frontier?
Jason Segel: I did think it was gonna be very funny. It works because it’s not done in a gratuitous way; it happens in a very dramatic scene. [Laughs] Judd Apatow is literally mocking me right now as I’m doing this interview.
TOC: What’s he saying?
Jason Segel: He’s adopting my bad posture and talking in my dumb voice. It’s pretty endearing. But no, I think the fact that it comes in a dramatic scene when I’m standing there shaking and crying and naked, uh [Laughs], it couldn’t be more vulnerable.
TOC: Is Judd agreeing with you?
Jason Segel: I’ve shooed Judd out the door.
TOC: You’re doing a movie called I Love You, Man. What’s that about?
Jason Segel: That’s about Paul Rudd trying to find a best man, and it’s basically—it’s a movie about male platonic love.
TOC: Hmm. Another bromance.
Jason Segel: Exactly. [Laughs] But I don’t think there’s any bromance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
TOC: Really? What about the relationship between your character and his stepbrother?
Jason Segel: That’s more incestuous love.
TOC: Tell me about the Muppets gig.
Jason Segel: Yeahhh, man. The Henson company designed the puppets for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So I used this little newfound mojo I have and I went to Disney and told them, Listen, I’d really like to write the new Muppet movie; I think I can bring the franchise back to what it used to be. I gave them a pitch and they bought it in the room, man. A little boy’s dream come true.
TOC: Who’s more important to Kermit—Fozzie Bear or Miss Piggy?
Jason Segel: Oh, this gets back to your question about bromantic love versus romantic love.
TOC: You see where I’m going with this.
Jason Segel: I’m gonna have to say he has an equal place in his heart for both—but he’s far more scared of Miss Piggy.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall opens April 18.