Gubler in Life After Beth
You probably know Matthew Gray Gubler as the super-serious Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds - a role, the actor readily admits, that doesn't give him a lot of room to show his range. So when Gubler gets the chance to do something different, he embraces it.
In the twisted romance Life After Beth, Gubler plays Kyle Orfman, an overly macho security guard who can't believe his younger brother (Dane DeHaan) is seriously considering resuming his relationship with girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) after she returns from the grave. As Gubler explains to me from the film's Canadian premiere in the Fant-Asia festival in Montreal, it's exactly the sort of part he's been looking for.
On paper, your character in Life After Beth is pretty goofy - a gun nut running around the periphery of the main story, sniping at his brother and convinced that nothing that's happening can turn out well for anybody. What attracted you to the role?
That's always been my favourite character to be. When I watch movies - when I watch Star Wars - you want to watch the fun characters, the diversions. My favourite actors have always been the character actors.
And you get to do comedy, which a weekly police procedural rarely allows.
Exactly. So any opportunity to do that, any opportunity to also make people laugh is kind of my forte and what I've always loved and wanted to do. Somehow I've just been making people sad on Criminal Minds for a decade instead [laughing].
Kyle has to find the line between reasonable and ridiculous. He's sort of a tool, but he's also the movie's voice of reason. Is there a balancing act for you as an actor when you're playing this sort of role?
There is, a little bit. There's always the fear when you are the loud colour of the film, you don't wanna be too loud, and at times I worried about him veering over into the ridiculous. With all comedy, you try to ground it in credibility and reality. There's nothing funny to Kyle Orfman about his actions, and that's probably why they're funny.
How did you figure out the character?
I talked with Jeff Baena, the director and writer, at great length, and his take on the character was that this guy does not see grey. He only sees black or white, only right or wrong. He wants to be a law-enforcement officer so badly. So I just went off of that and created a very serious character in a very bizarre world. And I think because he only sees black and white, the idea of zombies - which by nature are sort of grey, cuz they're not dead, they're not alive, they're in this weird intermediate world - are the most confusing and frightening thing in the world to him. But also ultimately his dream comes true, because he gets to shoot a lot of people [laughing].
That's true. He's been waiting for this his whole life really.
Exactly. It's sort of a sad film, but for him it's very happy. He gets to join the resistance and play with guns and run around; it's really a dream come true for Kyle. Everyone's like, "Oh, it's the Resurrection! It's so special!" And he's like, "There's dead people here, I have to kill them. They're monsters."
Your TV gig must not give you a lot of free time.
I usually have five weeks a year available when I'm not on Criminal Minds, and I always try to squeeze in some kind of fun thing like this; it just happened to fit, barely. Working with Jeff and Aubrey and everyone in the cast felt like making movies with your friends in high school again, which is the best feeling in the world. My dream is just to make zero-budget movies for the rest of my life, because I love that environment.
And then there's your work as a voice actor. I think you're the only person who's ever played both a Chipmunk and a Batman villain.
And a Scooby-Doo villain, too! That's right, I need to own that more. I'm a giant fan of all of those franchises, so the fact that I even get to be in them, let alone all of them, is so special.
How do you approach the voice work, by the way? Are you one of those guys who can turn it off and on, or do you have to act everything out in the booth?
I have to get invested in everything, so I'm always, like, pouring sweat by the end of any Chipmunk recording session. Or anything at all. I try to be as movable as possible.