John C. Reilly on How to Impress Your Co-Stars: “Just pretend like you belong there and maybe you’ll rise to the occasion”

John C. Reilly is one of those rare comedians that can pull off drama very well — in fact, before Reilly became known as one of Will Ferrell‘s favorite co-stars, he was nominated for an Oscar for Chicago and won acclaim for his supporting roles in Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Gangs of New York. Reilly has certainly proven that he can hold his own.

But that doesn’t mean Reilly doesn’t get intimidated when he’s cast in a film with an all-star cast. As one of the leads in Roman Polanski‘s latest film, Carnage (an adaptation of the award-winning 2006 Yasmina Reza play God of Carnage), Reilly spoke to Moviefone about being in such an acclaimed production.  “That’s one of the difficult things of being an actor that I’m still not used to. You have to go, you have to show up at these places where you know nobody, and sometimes with really impressive, high stakes people like Roman Polanski. You just have to be confident enough in yourself, ‘I belong here! I belong in this room, little John Reilly from the southside of Chicago belongs in a room with Jodi Foster and Kate Winslet and Roman Polanski.’ A friend of mine in acting school said, ‘Fake it ’til you make it.'”  He adds a summary of that good advice: “Just pretend like you belong there and maybe you’ll rise to the occasion.”   So which does Reilly prefer: comedy or drama?  While he might not have a preference, he certain knows which he finds easier.  He explains, “Comedy is easier in that it’s just a more joyful day at work. The whole point is to just have fun, but that said, it’s pretty demanding. It’s either funny or it’s not, and when it’s not funny there’s no getting around that.”

Like many actors, Reilly draws from his youth to help him in his roles, as he does in his indie misfit teenager comedy Terri.  Reilly admits that like the main character in Terri he wasn’t very popular in high school, revealing, “I was an outcast but I was an outcast among a group of outcasts.”

He elaborates, explaining that being an outcast actually drew him to acting, “I come from a pretty working class Irish-American neighborhood in Chicago. I went to a public school, for grammar school and got involved in plays pretty early on at the local park by my house, which was an odd thing. Not many people did that. But for whatever reason I was drawn to this world of make-believe. A friend of mine told me about it and we went over there together and I was like, ‘This is my people! This is what I like doing.'”

I’m glad he discovered it so early — after all, whether it’s in a comedy or a drama, John C. Reilly is always worth watching!

Carnage is set for a December 16 release after debuting during the New York Film Festival.

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