Now that Jason Ritter has a long and varied list of credits all his own, he says he's prouder than ever to be carrying on a family tradition in Hollywood.
From his breakthrough role on "Joan of Arcadia" through his roles on an array of well-loved TV series, including "Parenthood," "Girls," "Drunk History," and "Another Period," as well as numerous film appearances, Ritter has become one of Hollywood's go-to players.
How, he's part of the enviable ensemble assembled by actress Clea Duvall ("Veep") for "The Intervention," her indie film debut as writer-director. In the Gen X "Big Chill-ish" gathering of a dysfunctional peer group out to correct one another's troubling behaviors, Ritter co-stars opposite his real-life girlfriend, Melanie Lynskey, ("Two and a Half Men," "Togetherness"), as well as a deep bench of TV-friendly faces including Duvall, Natasha Lyonne, Ben Schwartz, Cobie Smulders, Alia Shawkat, and Vincent Piazza.
And now that his own showbiz bona fides are well-established, Ritter tells Moviefone that he's become even more reflective about the Hollywood legacy -- his father, of course, was TV sitcom icon John Ritter; his grandfather was country star and movie cowboy Tex Ritter; and his younger brother is rising TV actor Tyler Ritter -- that he's upholding.
Moviefone: There are projects that you do for passion, and then one's like these to support your friends to some degree -- but also to have fun.
Jason Ritter: Oh my God -- it was so much fun! I had been hearing about it for several months before I became involved. Clea had written this part for Melanie, so Melanie was cast. Then I knew Natasha was going to be in it -- I knew how close the three of them were, and I was like, "That's going to be such a fun thing for you guys!"
I heard my name was being bandied around in the room with Clea and her producers, and Melanie vouched for me as well. And that was exciting. Yeah, it was really fun to hear that I was going to get to join them on this fun journey. As more cast members started being decided on and coming in, I was like, it was getting better and better by the minute. I had just worked with Alia and she's so great. Yeah, so yeah, it was a lot of fun.
You've got a lot of good work to your credit, and a lot of different kinds of projects and different levels of projects. What are you looking to do these days, when you're making decision just for you?
It's been interesting. I feel like there are times where I have no idea what I'm looking for other than that I know that on some level I'll know that it's the right thing. I feel like there are so many different sensibilities in the world, and it's been nice in the last couple years to have found things that are all different, but that feel right to me.
Whether it's a comedy or a drama or science fiction or whatever it is, there's something about it that makes me go, "Yes, this is the kind of thing that I like and would want to watch." So I'm hoping for that. I would love to do something that is able to get out there on a bigger scale.
One of the tough things with independent movies is you're counting so much on word of mouth, and that either can happen or not happen. It's nice that now with Netflix and other things like that, years can go by and someone can go, "Oh, I finally saw that," or "I saw that movie that I had never heard of, and I liked it." That's been really great to have that outlet and other outlets where independent movies are shown.
There are times where I see, like, a huge movie and I'm like, "That would be nice to have a publicity machine saying, 'This is a good movie'" -- which we have in this one. This is one of those rare times where I'm really excited to see that it's actually coming out and that it has good people behind it and people believe in it.
We still see you on TV a lot, but do you feel the pull of television a little more? There's so much happening on TV right now.
I do, yeah. I definitely do. And there is so much of it now. The interesting thing now is that, to me it almost feels like there's no more pilot season. It feels like in that period of time of old pilot season, it gets a little bit more intense and there is sort of more volume of scripts and auditions and stuff. But if nothing happens during that period of time, then there's all these Amazon and Netflix or cable shows, pilots are shooting and casting year-round.
So I've been trying to trust my instincts in that because I also feel like, for me, I'm constantly worried that I'm going to do something that doesn't feel 100% right, and because it doesn't feel 100% right, I'm not 100% comfortable and the performance suffers -- and then I've, like, ruined what I've tried to create. Because I think there are times in which you can sort of gamble big and take a shot at something and lose, and then it's harder to convince people to give you that big of a shot again.
So I've been trying to be careful in only auditioning for things that I really love. And then, the things that I really love are often things that everybody really loves. I'm auditioning against all these movie stars and things like that. It's tough, but I keep on trying to sort of remind myself that the right thing will happen and to calm down. I would much rather be auditioning for shows that I love and don't get, than be stuck on something that I feel like I'm bad in, or that I don't believe in.
How was your "Girls" experience?
That was so much fun. I love that show, and I love Lena [Dunham] so much as an artist all around. It was really fun to get to jump into that world, having been a fan of the show. I was like, I had to stop myself from, "That's Shoshanna right there!" It really feels surreal. Because you're so invested in them as characters. But yeah, that was really fun.
And that show really has a sort of -- actually a lot like "Parenthood," it had a sort of independent film feel, even though it's a show and there's a budget, there's a big crew and it's a big machine. There's value put on performance and delivery that on some other shows are like, "You didn't say this word correctly," or something like that. It's nice to be given a little bit of freedom as an actor, and I think a lot of the shows that I really respond to, you can see that the actors are really given permission to sort of play around."
You don't have actors who are trying to sort of pair themselves down and cut off their rough edges to fit into the character. They're able to sort of push out and find new little corners of who they are. Yeah, so "Girls" fit right into that -- like, my favorite type of thing. It was really fun to jump into. Also, to be a character that I couldn't really tell how I even felt about him! I was like, 'Do I like him, or do I not?"
There were things missing, and it was funny, I was seeing on Twitter, there was one line that I said, it was like, "I think I'm going to be in love with you soon." And on Twitter I saw people who were both like, "aw," and like "ew." It was so great and I love that thing. Especially in "Girls." There's so much of that. The relationship that Lena had with Adam Driver's character was so complicated and so interesting and beautiful, and it went back and forth a million times.
And it's so nice to have a show like that that doesn't say, "This is the couple that you're supposed to feel this way about; this is the couple that you're supposed to feel this way about ..." You're just like, "We present this couple, and you decide how you feel about it, and we'll just tell the story -- and allow you to get in spirited arguments with your significant other."
Are you coming back to the show? It felt final, but everything's always a little open-ended there.
I don't know. To me, it feels like it came to a natural conclusion, but I also thought that before when she went to Japan in the first place. So I never know. But I don't think so. I think Shoshanna's moved on to better and brighter pastures.
Ten years ago, we might have started this conversation when we first met: the legacy that you have, the family dynasty in show business with multiple generations now. Now that your career is established and solid you have your own fans and you've got a great body of work. What does that legacy mean to you at this stage of your life?
It's interesting. Yeah, it has sort of lessened. It's so interesting, because I found an article, like an old article interview of my dad when he was just starting out. I think it was before "Three's Company." I think he had done "The Waltons" and a couple other things. And all of the questions were sort of about his dad. And I was like, "That's so interesting," because by the time I came along, it was like this. It was sort of like, "Oh, at the end of the interview, here's another sort of interesting thing."
And what's been funny is also now that my brother has started to ... my younger brother [Tyler Ritter] started to work and get jobs all over the place, as much as I was [telling him] 'Now, there's a lot of rejection, you've got to stick it out ..." He's like, "I got it, I got it, I got it." Like, "All right, slow down!" It's been funny to sort of watch the kind of progression.
This is also what we do with people that we just meet: We know a certain amount of things about them, and then as we know them more, we know more things about them. Initially, there's that thing that, like, people can sort of hang their hat on. Well, "This is one thing, I just met you, but I do know, because I have the Internet, that your dad or your grandpa or your brother or whatever is this ..."
I think the main thing that's sort of felt nice is that, initially, there was ... I felt like there was an expectation that eventually I would go into the same kind of things that he did. As I continued to disappoint people on that level and just sort of continue just doing my thing, that expectation has died down, where they're not expecting me to jump on a sitcom necessarily or do anything like that. Just, like, as much fun as it might have been to see my dad go into being a singing cowboy, that wasn't his sort of skill set. So he went his own way until people appreciated that for what it was.
Also, now, it feels nice now that there's been many years since he passed away, and also even more years since my grandfather passed away -- even though I never met him. It's nice that they're still talked about and remembered. That feels nice.
In a way, it almost feels like I'm helping to keep it alive, or something like that.