Irish actor Chris O'Dowd has both Hollywood and London in his pocket. After starring in the British series (and U.S. cult hit) The I.T.Crowd, the actor landed a variety of roles in U.S. films—including the Jay Roach-produced comedy Dinner For Schmucks, Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels, Friends with Kids, and the Judd Apatow blockbuster Bridesmaids. O'Dowd has also guested on a handful of TV series, most recently the HBO comedy Girls. And his latest project is the Victorian-era miniseries called The Crimson Petal and the White, which makes its American debut tonight at 8pm on Encore.
We recently caught up with O'Dowd while he was filming in Europe; here's what he had to say about his acting influences, his favorite chick flick, and of course, his five favorite TV shows.
O’Dowd as William Rackham, with Romola Garai as Sugar, in The Crimson Petal and the White.
Your latest project is a TV miniseries called The Crimson Petal and the White. Can you tell us about the project and your character?
It’s the tragic story of a man who feels trapped in his marriage and incapable of leading the life that people expect of him. So he runs to the arms of a prostitute and surprisingly, that doesn’t work out well.
What attracted you to project initially?
I thought that they were just beautiful scripts. I’ve never been a huge period drama fan, but it kind of told a story that I related to a lot more. I related to the dirt. I don’t know what high-life society is like, so it’s never been something that has attracted me. But low-life—loads of experience with that.
Are you hoping to do more TV work?
Yeah, I’m going to do a little bit more. I’m going to do a show with Christopher Guest called Family Tree. I think it’s gonna be good. I’m going to do a little bit more on Girls, the HBO show. And, I’ve just written my own project for Sky TV in Britain and the U.K., Britain and Ireland. That’s called Moone Boy.
In the U.S., you’ve appeared in a handful of rom-coms; do you have a favorite chick-flick?
Oh, I have loads. I mean... God... wow. It’s hard to beat When Harry Met Sally, I think.
What about your influences? What are some of shows, movies, and people that have helped shaped your career?
I’ve always loved Will Ferrell’s stuff. In terms of TV, I was a big fan of Roseanne growing up. It was the only one of those American comedies, where I could relate to the family dynamic of people having problems with each other (laughs). And, I grew up on Cheers, I watched Cheers with my dad for sure. And I guess later, I was a big Curb Your Enthusiasm fan. That kind of showed me how funny you can be when you don’t write it all down. And Christopher Guest, I was a huge fan of all of his stuff. I think I used to have like Spinal Tap on in my college dorm room, on repeat.
And now, here are O'Dowd's five favorite television shows, in no particular order.
"I'm going to go with Fawlty Towers for just that kind of virtual, sole, male performance. And making farts not seem silly, but hysterical.
"I love the American Office. Because I think the performances in it, across the board, are exceptional."
"I like the worthiness of it."
"It's just the best writing in television."
"I wanted to be a lawyer from the age of 10. And when I reached the time when I was going to go to college and found out what it was all about, I had no interest in it anymore. I realized I thought “law” was what L.A. Law was. And then I realized what I actually wanted to do was just live in L.A."
What do you think of O'Dowd's picks? Did any of them surprise you?
The Crimson Petal and the White airs tonight at 8pm on Encore.
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