On your new show, House Of Lies, you showcase a more darkly comedic side of yourself.
The show in general is darker. It follows four management consultants who are deeply flawed. The whole idea of the show is to go to the business and do whatever it takes to get that person's work. We literally have sex with people, screw people over—we don't care about anybody else in the world except for ourselves. All we are doing is protecting ourselves. I think that's a very specific type of human being that's able to do that, to not give a fuck about anybody in the world but themselves and truly not care.
The most fun in the show is when the four of us are together and we're just fucking with each other. It's so funny and it's great. But when it's time to do work, we'll screw over anybody. We'll do anything that we can do to get the job. All we care about is getting that money and keeping our jobs, and then we go to the next place. We go from one job to another job to another job. We're on planes all the time, so you have to be someone who doesn't care about their personal life.
How does playing a heavier role like that compare to playing a character like Jean-Ralphio?
On House Of Lies I play an arrogant, smooth-talking guy. It's a character that would exist in real life. There are things that Jean-Ralphio does that nobody does. There is not a real human being that would ever do those things. And I love doing that because it's almost a caricature of one of the guys you've seen around. And [Clyde on] House Of Lies is a character that has flaws and real things happen. When he gets upset or nervous you can see it in his face, and when he goes through shit, and he thinks he's going to be in jeopardy, either in his personal life or his professional life, his whole attitude changes. He'll do anything to makes sure he is working and he'll fuck over anybody.
Marty, Don Cheadle's character on the show, seems like the most cutthroat of the bunch. Is Clyde's approach as cutthroat as Marty's is, or are your more of the antithesis of him?
There's so much stuff in my head when I do the character, the things that I want that aren't even written in the episode yet, but in my head I'm like, "Oh, my character is going to end up doing this." Because it's the first season, so we really learn about Marty and the reason why Marty is more cutthroat. He's like the Michael Jordan of the group. If we go places and a different management consultant sees us, they look at him and they're like, "Oh shit, that's Marty. He's the big guy. He's the number one guy." Even though we work for the number two firm, he's the dude. He's notorious. We all look up to him and we all kind of learn. But at the same time, him and Clyde are very good friends, but in the back of his head I'm sure he's like, "I'd fuck him over in a second." Because that's what these people are bred to think. That's what Cheadle's character thinks, so why wouldn't mine?
Is there anything in that mentality that you that can relate to?
I think it's more of a pathetic aspect [that I can relate to]. In this field, right now I'm doing Parks, House Of Lies, I'm writing some movies and another book, but in my head, the second House Of Lies wraps, I'll be totally nervous thinking, "I need to get my next job." I'm always scared it's just going to end. I've been so fortunate in the stuff that I've gotten. I'll always drive myself to think about the next thing and think, "Am I going to work again? When am I going to work again?" I think that's something that translates to this character. That every job—they need to get it. If they lose a job, there's a chance they lose their job at the company and they lose everything.
Do you have that fear because your J.J. Abrams project Undercovers got canceled?
It's been since the beginning. I know this is pathetic, but when I graduated college, my ex-girl at the time forced me to do long-form improv because I was too nervous to audition and too nervous to be rejected by the college troupe, and be told "You're not funny enough to be on this"—we're getting very real by the way—but, I luckily got on. I came home and I told my parents I really want to do comedy. I know there's not a lot of money in it, but I want to try it for a year and see if it sticks. And they were really supportive. In my head it just clicked that it was what I want to do.
I just want it to keep going. I don't want it to stop. In my head, when Undercovers got canceled I was like, "Fuck, I gotta get another TV show," and I was fortunate that I was able to be picky this year. At Showtime, when we were auditioning, they pitched it to me that I can improvise, I can curse, and I can really explore stuff. And, I was like, you know what, I really like Showtime and HBO shows and I love the freedom that they have, but I really still want to do Parks And Rec. So it was something that I worked out that I can fit in Parks And Rec while I was doing that.