My children are overwhelmingly underwhelmed that I have been in the X-Men series, or maybe they don’t want it to get to my head,” said Hollywood actor James Marsden, to the media in New Delhi. Marsden, known for his roles in the X-Men series, 27 Dresses, and The Notebook was on a two-city tour as Diageo’s global ambassador and was in the Capital for the International Scotch Day celebrations on February 8. With a career roughly spanning 25 years, Marsden, 44, spoke about choosing his roles, the TV drama Westworld, and how he isn’t smart enough to know if AI will take over. Excerpts:
You come from a middle-class family in Oklahoma, and began your career in the performing arts.
I enjoyed being on the stage, singing and acting in musicals. For me, it was more about self discovery. I loved that I could inhabit other characters. I know that acting is not typical Oklahoma profession — there is a big art scene there — but we were raised to think that’s not realistic. My parents were very supportive, and I moved to Los Angeles, kind of on a whim. I think I was naive to the point of being overtly confident to the point where you think that everything is possible and you want to see how far you can fall.
You have been a model for Versace and GQ named you the Handsomest Man of The Year. Did your looks pave the way for you, or was it a deterrent to being perceived as a serious actor?
It’s a tremendous asset, though it’s difficult to talk about my looks as objectivity is kinda lost. I am happy playing a buffoon in a comedy like Enchanted than maybe James Bond. I don’t take myself that seriously.
Also, the roles that I have pursued aren’t about that.
You have been part of every possible movie and TV genre. How do you choose your roles?
I get a stack of scripts, and then I pick those which I keep thinking about. Honestly when you are young, it’s work, then you can’t be choosy. I would jump across TV to film because of necessity. That’s when I realised that there is versatility there, which for me is the most fun thing about being an actor — the ability to not just do one thing and not knowing where you are headed.
You have also been part of the hit Emmy-wining comedy TV Show 30 Rock as Chris Cross.
I was initially there just for one season. As an actor when you start on a role, it’s tough to have objectivity about your work. You are just like ‘I hope it works, I hope the audience likes the character’. 30 Rock was already a phenomena when I came on board. It had Matt Damon and Jon Hamm, with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, who were the regulars. But I guess the character did work.
Your latest offering Westworld, is a sci-fi western thriller, where you share screen space with Anthony Hopkins.
Westworld is written by Michael Crichton and it was made into a film in 1973. It’s not unlike Jurrasic Park, in that there is a theme park inhabited by robots and not dinosaurs. These robots are undistinguished human beings, and could there be a point where they gain sentience, will they ever feel? These are sci-fi questions that have been around for ages. While the film dealt with other things, the TV series deals with what is the next step of human evolution. There are morality equations thrown in as well.
Two projects which are releasing soon — Shock and Awe, directed by Rob Reiner and an indie project, The Female Brain, which has Sofia Vergara and Whitney Cummings.