While the movies of 2013 were filled with great performances, perhaps the most surprising was Will Forte‘s in Nebraska (you thought I was going to say Oprah in The Butler, right? Yeah, right.) When most people think of Forte the first thing that comes to mind is his goofy MacGrubber character from his eight-year stint on Saturday Night Live. But in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, he portrays the straight man opposite his eccentric family, including Bruce Dern as his confused father and June Squibb as his loudmouth mother.
While speaking with The New York Times, Forte admits that he never suspected he’d star in something like Nebraska, and he also talks about learning how to be a dramatic actor on the job.
Like all actors, Forte developed a vision of what his career would be. But he is honest when he admits that a film like Nebraska never fit into that vision. He recalls, “You talk to your agents and managers. You try to develop this plan. Nowhere in any of these plans of ‘here’s what the strategy should be’ was there, like ‘and then you’ll try to get into an Alexander Payne movie.’ That wasn’t even something that we would have ever entertained in a million years.”
The main reason why staring in Nebraska was a surprise to him was the simple fact that he never was trained as an actor outside of his improvisational work with The Groundlings. He points out, “I really had no formal acting training.” He later adds, “I didn’t know what it was like to go to a natural drama class or an acting class. So in my head, I would think, ‘Oh, at a class like that they have these pearls of wisdom that everybody who is part of Nebraska has, except me.'”
So even after Forte got the part he was anxious. He was concerned that he wouldn’t measure up to the rest of the cast, admitting, “That period in between getting the part and starting work on the movie was an anxiety-riddled period.”
But Forte neglected to consider who he would be working with. He explains, “Basically when you watch this movie you’re watching somebody who’s in the process of being taught by a legendary actor and an amazing director. I learned so much from this experience.”
Since his next few projects are comedic roles, Forte confesses that he thinks Nebraska will be the exception in his career, not the rule. As he’s already learned, it’s fruitless to try and to predict what he’ll be offered next. He says, “Honestly I don’t really care. If I get to do something else like this, it would be awesome, but just to get to do something like this once is enough for me.”