Seeing Matt Walsh's name on the credit block of Into The Storm (which opens August 8), I expected he'd be playing a comic-relief role - much as he has for most of the last decade. The co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch troupe has played correspondent on The Daily Show and eventually become a valued supporting player in movies like Ted and shows like Veep.
Instead, Walsh plays it straight as a struggling weather researcher whose insistence on documenting the biggest storm the world has ever seen leads him and his team into the scariest day of their lives. It's a tricky role, and Walsh is surprisingly convincing. Well, maybe not surprisingly; as he explains from his car, it's still just following through on a premise.
Your character is usually the villain in this sort of movie - the driven researcher who wants his precious data at any cost. But you give him some depth.
He's an obsessed sort of fellow; he's gonna lose his funding, so he just gets a little myopic. I don't think he's a dick. He's just under duress.
This is the first time you've worked with extensive digital effects. How did that go?
In the early days we were just pointing at things in the sky that we knew weren't there, visualizing funnel clouds and things like that. But there were days when I was just looking at, like, two interns in raincoats with a broomstick, and on the edge of the broomstick was a tennis ball, and they'd sort of run back and forth like a basketball drill. That was very challenging, but [at least] there was a learning curve to it, the way the schedule allowed us to do smaller things first. That was nice.
Would you say that your sketch and improv background helped you with that sort of thing?
A lot of what comedians do is play absurdity as realistically as possible - they don't wink at the audience, they just pretend. "Oh, this is real: I have an ass for a face." That applies here. There's this absurd force of nature; it's incomprehensible, but you play it as realistically as possible. [It's] the premise of the sketch, this giant tornado that you can't comprehend. You borrow from your fellow actors, and just sort of commit to this absurdity and play it as realistically as possible.
I wonder whether the constant air of crisis on Veep might have prepared you for something like this.
Perfect training for a tornado movie? [laughing] Well, Veep is composed of much smaller moments.