For Adam Scott, a childhood birthday party may have been one of the biggest moments of his young life. Why? He received an Imperial ship from “Star Wars.”
“I was pretty blown away that this girl that I barely knew got me this badass ‘Star Wars’ spaceship,” says the 40-year-old “A.C.O.D.” star, who also plays Ben Wyatt on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” “I think I was so young that [whether she had feelings for me or not] wouldn’t have even registered. I think I was just like ‘This person is OK in my book from now on.’”
In the comedy “A.C.O.D.” (short for Adult Children of Divorce), opening Friday, Carter (Scott) has a much more painful b-day memory. His parents’ (Richard Jenkins, Catherine O’Hara) massive fight at his ninth birthday party scars him for years. The pain still lingers as an adult, when Carter forces his divorced folks to behave at his younger brother’s (Clark Duke) wedding. To his chagrin, they reconnect, and Carter must remind the pair why they’re better off apart.
By phone from Los Angeles, Scott—who says “it was fun hating each other’s guts for a few weeks” in regards to his “Parks and Rec” wife, Amy Poehler, playing his stepmom in “A.C.O.D.”—talked about childhood fear, modern marriage and the joy of his awesome TV show.
As “A.C.O.D.” shows yet again, you’re so good at getting frustrated with people onscreen as if your character is thinking, “You can’t be serious right now.” What makes you feel that way in everyday life?
My children get smarter and smarter every day. And kids get really smart really fast. Way faster than you think. Especially girls. So when they start manipulating you and figuring out ways around you and your rules, that’s when I’m at my most flummoxed. I’m not sure what to do, and I usually just give them what they want and try to figure it out later.
What’s a way they’ve manipulated you recently?
This morning, my son, it was very early in the morning and he figured out a way to get me to give him a piece of gum. It’s a sugary piece of gum, and it’s absolutely against the rules in our house. It’s against what I think a kid should be eating on the way to school, but he just figured out a way to get that gum from my hand into his mouth. And he won.
In the movie, Carter remembers almost drowning when he was a kid. His brother Trey was scared of spiders, shoelaces and the mailman. What’s something that scared you when you were younger?
There was a TV movie “The Atlanta Child Murders.” Do you remember that? You’re probably younger than I am, but this was on when I was in like elementary school. It was a terrifying TV movie or miniseries, but it was just on TV. And it scared the [bleep] out of me. Like for years, it was tough to function. The Atlanta child murders is a real thing; [this was] just a dumb TV movie depicting it, and it kind of destroyed me for years. I was way too young to watch something like that.
When you say “for years,” do you mean you’d have nightmares years later?
I think I just had trouble going to sleep for a really long time.
I thought you were going to say, “I just had trouble going to Atlanta.”
[Laughs] Well, that too.
“A.C.O.D.” touches on something interesting that the culture may or may not change as a generation of people who grew up with divorce gets older. What do you think the impact on the world will be as those children of divorce get older?
I think that I see now with my generation, I know a lot of people waited a lot longer to get married. Those who did get married waited a little bit longer because a lot of us grew up with divorce, and so I see people making much more measured decisions about marriage and children and stuff like that just because we’ve seen how the generation before us got started a lot earlier with marriage, family and all of that. Just because culturally it was the norm. They saw it backfire for some people, so I think the difference behaviorally and culturally is people are waiting a lot longer now.
Do you think that will make the divorce rate go down?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. Have divorce rates gone down? I don’t think they have. The fact remains that people aren’t getting married as early by and large these days.
I think the first time I saw you was on “Boy Meets World.” What would you think if someone called you up for the new series “Girl Meets World” and said, “We want to bring Griff back”?
[Laughs] That would be hilarious.
Any chance you would be interested in that?
Oh, I doubt they would. I wouldn’t want to go on and ruin their sweet little show that they’re doing. Or sweet big show that they’re doing. Saying “little” sounds condescending. I’m sure it’s going to be an awesome show. I’m sure my kids will want to watch it.
Like so many people, I’m a huge “Parks and Rec” fan. What’s something you’re happy about as far as the way Ben Wyatt’s character arc has progressed?
I just love the whole show. … We’re all friends, and I’m still just so psyched to go to work every day. I love the way they’ve built this character and how he has these really weird phobias and is really into weird stuff like board games and “Star Wars” and “Game of Thrones.” Every time another episode comes in you discover some other weird thing. We all have this experience: We read scripts and you discover new weird things about your character. They’re really good; it’s as good or the best room of writers I think on TV.
Was there anything else that you would like to see happen for Ben, or something you’d like for him to get to do?
Every time I’ve thought of something, [showrunner Mike Schur] and the writers come up with something way better. So no, I’ve kind of stopped thinking that way and sit back and wait for the scripts because they’re always way better than any idea I would have.
What’s a mistake you made that you feel like was significant to you or you learned something from?
A mistake. Boy. That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. Nothing really comes to mind. … You know, I wish I waited a bit longer to try to start acting professionally. Back when I was like 20. I wish I just went out and lived my life a bit. Put it off for a couple years. Because that first couple years I basically sat in my apartment waiting for auditions or whatever. I’m going to certainly encourage my kids to get out into the world a bit after they finish school before they start their lives. I kind of wish I did that a little bit.
Do you have thoughts about what you would have maybe liked to do instead, how you would have spent that time?
I don’t know. Probably just travel. I think traveling is good for anybody.
Do you think about the way that comedy has changed? You’ve been part of these small but special projects like “Party Down” and “Bachelorette” that even if they’re not a $200 million movie or a huge CBS hit, I feel like the fan bases are so passionate it makes me feel good about comedy.
Oh, yeah, yeah, totally. I agree. “Party Down” was really special in that when it was on people [weren’t] really watching—our series finale had 15,000 viewers. So it was not really on their radar at the time. Every year more and more people discover it. I feel like that’s part of what makes it special is that it wasn’t shoved down everyone’s throats in billboards and ads and you weren’t told to watch it. People discovered it. So they kind of feel a little bit of ownership over it in a way. Ownership’s not quite the right word, but I kind of feel like it’s theirs a little bit. I really love that. I love that people feel that way about it. They hold it close to their heart in a way. They’re right; it is theirs. I feel exactly the same way about it. I love that people love it in that way. It’s a great show, but it’s also how it got to people I feel is really special ‘cause people really dug for it and found it and shared it with each other. It’s a great way to have something get out there. I really love that about “Party Down.”
How often do people come up to you and do the, “Are we having fun yet?” line?
All the time. And it’s terrific because I never would have thought it would reach that many people like that.
On Chicago: “I have never been to Chicago. I would want to go with a local and have them show me everything. Everyone says it’s the greatest city in the world, so what am I doing?”
What he still wants to do in his career: “That’s a good question. I’m not sure. I try and take projects and stuff one at a time and try to find things about projects that I feel l can bring something to and things that I haven’t really done yet. I’m ready to take a bit of a left turn; I’m not sure what it is, but I’m ready to try something that I haven’t tried yet. Just kind of looking for that.”
How interested he’d be in a movie where someone who had previously played his mom was now his love interest: “Maybe that would be weirder … although I would jump at the chance to have Catherine O’Hara as my love interest … one can only dream. And I am not joking. I would [bleeping] love that. She’s the greatest.”
A place he wants to travel: Japan. “I just like long flights.”
His favorite city: Paris
The funniest thing he’s seen recently: “I just watched the season premiere of Eastbound and Down’ and that was pretty great. Ken Marino is on there; it’s so good.”
A book that blew his mind: “I’m reading the Greg Sestero book about ‘The Room’ right now. It’s pretty great … I’m only on the first chapter, and it’s totally amazing … I can’t wait to watch [The Room] again now.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.