Jason Bateman on Being the “Everyman” and Growing His Acting “Muscle”

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“Whether it’s an eccentric comedic character or a scary dramatic character, I’m the person that represents the audience. So when the camera goes to me, I’m reacting for you in the audience to keep it relatable.” – Jason Bateman

Though most think of Jason Bateman as an actor, he is actually an Emmy Award-winning director and has been directing television since the early 1990s. Very often this requires Bateman to act and direct at the same time. In a conversation with NPR’s Terry Gross on Fresh Air, Bateman spoke about how he relays on his acting “muscle” when directing and how he often “represents the audience” in his roles.

Regarding how he balances acting and directing, Bateman describes acting as something that comes out of muscle memory. He says, “There’s sort of a muscle that you kind of grow from doing a bunch of acting for a long time. You kind of develop an ability to observe yourself while you’re actually still in it doing it. And that’s one of the things that enables or allows me to be able to do the acting and the directing at the same time, I think. I hope. I mean, you’d have to ask other people if that muscle is any good. But I have a pretty good idea about whether I’m communicating what I’m hoping to. And if I kind of clank it, I’ll kind of know it. And we’ll just do another take. I won’t check it.”

While Bateman is a veteran of comedy — including Arrested Development and Horrible Bosses — he points out that he’s more often the straight man, and that carries over from his “everyman” quality in many of his roles. He explains, “In the characters that I play, even in comedies, I’ll rarely be the wacky guy. I’ll be mostly us. I’ll try to be the somewhat tortured or unsettled Everyman or protagonist. And I like doing that because I’m us. I’m the proxy. I’m sort of the portal that the audience receives all the craziness. Whether it’s an eccentric comedic character or a scary dramatic character, I’m the person that represents the audience. So when the camera goes to me, I’m reacting for you in the audience to keep it relatable.”

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