Patton Oswalt on Breaking into Acting and Auditioning For… ’12 Years a Slave’?

Patton-Oswalt-Young-AdultFor years Patton Oswalt was one of those “Hey, look, it’s that guy!” actors.  You know, the type that you’re familiar with because he or she has a unique look and has appeared in various small roles, but never had any leading roles that would make them more recognizable.  However, Oswalt has gone from that to being a well-known actor, especially after dramatic turns in dark comedies like Big Fan and Young Adult.  In an interview with Variety, Oswalt speaks about how he transitioned from comedian to professional actor, why he began seeing and acting coach, and, perhaps the most newsworthy, that he auditioned for a role in 12 Years a Slave.

While Oswalt had thought about acting and had some bit parts, he never considered it seriously until he started appearing regularly on King of Queens.  Working in that atmosphere taught he a lot, and he says, “I learned so much from watching others work out scenes and will forever thank the show for not firing me in those early seasons when I was such a horrible actor” (he even got away with remaining completely motionless during the opening scene of an episode).

Of course, most of Oswalt’s roles were extensions of his nerdy persona, so when he landed the lead role in Young Adult in which he played a former victim of a mistaken hate crime (albeit a nerdy one), he worked with an acting coach.  He found it tremendously helpful, noting, “I had always been a little leery about people doing extensive character bios and really delving into a character’s background. When I worked with her, I suddenly saw how it could all really pay off.”

Since then he continues to get numerous character actor roles, about half of which he has to audition for.  However, despite his nearly two decades of acting he doesn’t mind still being asked to audition.  He confesses, “First and foremost, I don’t want to be wrong for a movie.  Secondly, as a film buff, I love sitting in the waiting room and looking around. Like I’ll see Bruce McGill and I’ll think, ‘Wow, there’s all these great characters actors and I feel like I’m slowly joining their ranks.'”

In fact, Oswalt believes that those auditions help “train” him to become a better actor.  He reveals, “I bet I would become the worst actor in the world if I didn’t audition occasionally.  It’s like if you were a comedian and everyone laughed, no matter what, your stuff will start to stink. You have to go on the road now and then and try out new things and be with a crowd that wants to see something new. It makes you keep your stuff good.”

It has also led to Oswalt stepping out of his comfort zone and branching out to audition for dramatic roles — including, surprisingly, one of the kidnappers in 12 Years a Slave!  He uses that role as an example of himself being the “wrong choice” for the movie, pointing out, “I didn’t get the role but when I saw the guy who got it, he was great! So I never get too down about not getting a part. Casting people know what they’re doing. You want to be in a good movie, but you don’t want to suck in something great. They got the perfect person to play that role.”

As much as I like Oswalt, I’m glad he didn’t get picked for the film — I probably would’ve sat there and thought, “Hey, it’s Patton Oswalt!”

Leave a Reply
Matthew McConaughey Reveals How He Came Up With His Catchphrase, ‘Alright, alright, alright!’
"My character, David Wooderson, he has three lines in the entire film. Alright, but one of those lines is what I like to call a launch pad line." - Matthew McConaughey
Jennifer Jason Leigh on ‘The Hateful Eight’, Quentin Tarantino and Playing People in “Extreme Circumstances”
Jennifer Jason Leigh: "I think that's an incredible thing that we can do as actors—to feel empathy toward someone that you may otherwise detest, you know?”
Ian McKellen on Working with Child Actors and How He Transitioned from a Stage Actor to a Screen Actor
"And I think when I decided to become professional, my only aim, really, was to get better as an actor." - Ian McKellen
New ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ Star Tyler Lea on Taking Over from a Tony Award Winner
"I haven't done a whole lot. This is my first huge thing. This is my first bite. I was waiting it out and then I caught a really, really big fish." - Tyler Lea
Master of None’s Noël Wells Talks Positive Attitudes and Having Nothing To Lose
Noel Wells starring role alongside Aziz Ansari in his Netflix series, Master of None, has audiences in stitches
// BLOCK AD BLOCK SNIPPET Place this code snippet near the footer of your page before the close of the /body tag