John Krasinski on his “Lottery-Ticket Life”: “What I try to do instead is try to deserve to stay here”
“It’s so unbelievably rare to get the opportunity that I did to be on The Office, so what I try to do instead is try to deserve to stay here.” – John Krasinski
After playing Jim Halpert for nine seasons on The Office, John Krasinski continued his acting career in film but also branched out into screenwriting and directing. His latest film as both director and star is The Hollars, a comedy featuring Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Charlie Day, and Anna Kendrick. In an interview promoting the film with NPR, Krasinski talks about his own early struggles with acting and what he does as a director in order to support his actors.
Krasinski is the first to admit that he’s a lucky man in show business. He says, “I take stock of the fact every single day that I’m living a lottery-ticket life. It’s so unbelievably rare to get the opportunity that I did to be on The Office, so what I try to do instead is try to deserve to stay here. That’s why I branched out to do writing and directing and producing.”
In becoming a director, Krasinski followed some second-hand Clint Eastwood advice to get the desired performances out of his actors. He explains, “Everybody in this cast was so good. I actually remember actually asking Matt Damon about his experience with Clint Eastwood, and he told me this story about how it was so terrifying working with Clint Eastwood because he only did one or two takes. And one day, Matt said, ‘Could I ever do another one? Anytime you want to do another take, you can, but I’m fine, because I hired you to be the actor I knew you could be.’ I thought that was really interesting, and certainly on this film that applied here, which is, I hired these people that I knew would absolutely shine in these roles, and they certainly did. So it was less about trying to get them to achieve a performance, and much more about trying to create an environment where they could feel safe and empowered to do that performance.”
As for becoming an actor himself, Krasinski tells a wonderful story about how supportive his parents — in particular, his mother — was in the early days of his acting career. He recalls:
I remember my parents came to the final performance at this theater school, and the next morning we were driving home, and I hadn’t talked about this with them at all, and I just said in the back of the car, I said, ‘I want to move to New York and be an actor.’ And without hesitation my mom said, ‘Great. Just promise me one thing: That in 2 1/2, three years, if you don’t have a bite, if there’s not that idea that maybe something’s coming, you have to pull yourself out of it, because the only thing you can’t ask me to do as your mom is tell her son to give up on his dreams.’ I thought that was the most profound, unbelievable invitation, and the kindest way to send me out there.
Sure enough, 2 1/2 years later, I actually did call my mom and say, ‘Well, I gave it a shot. You were right, nothing’s really happening.’ I had done some commercials and some off- off- off-Broadway plays, and I said, ‘I’m ready to pull out, you were right.’ And it was about September when I called her, and then she said, ‘Oh, it’s September, just finish out the year!’ And three weeks later I got The Office.