28-year-old Aziz Ansari has had quite the meteoric rise over the past two years since audiences first got a taste of his unique sense of humor in scene-stealing moments from “I Love You Man,” “Observe and Report” and, most notably, Judd Apatow’s “Funny People.” The Columbia, South Carolina native landed on the NBC series “Parks and Recreation” in 2010 and has, over the course of 46 episodes, created quite the memorable character in dapper, lady chasing Tom Haverford.
As the actor’s star continues to rise, he’s now getting the shot at meatier parts on the big screen, the first of which is “30 Minutes or Less,” which hits screens on August 12th. Directed by Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”), Ansari plays Chet, the best friend of Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a pothead pizza delivery boy who finds himself between a rock and a hard place when two bumbling criminals (Nick Swardson, Danny McBride) strap a bomb to Nick’s chest and force him to rob a bank. In the midst of the Comic-Con chaos, The Playlist sat down for a brief interview with Ansari to discuss his work on “30 Minutes or Less” and what it was like getting some action in the film (not that kind, pervert).
The Playlist: How did you get involved with “30 Minutes or Less?”
I read the script and I thought it was really funny. Red Hour, which is Ben Stiller’s production company, sent it to me. Then eventually Ruben Fleischer got cast as director. Once he was attached I met with him and I thought he would be a good guy to do it. I thought “Zombieland” was so great. I auditioned and while I was doing some other stuff everything kind of fell into place. McBride and Jesse and Nick came on, so it seemed like a pretty safe bet.
How much of your character was on the page and how much did you get to bring to it. I know Fleischer was pretty open to improv on “Zombieland.”
Ruben is definitely encouraging of all the actors to bring any ideas they had to the table. We would always do the scripted takes, and then if there was any ideas I had to improvise he would always be up for it. A lot of that stuff is in the film.
When you have a lot of very funny people together in one movie like this is there a kind of competition to one-up one another?
No, I think we’re all just trying to go for the same angle of making this movie as funny as it could be. For me, I was in scenes with Jesse the whole time, so I didn’t really act with [Michael] Péna or McBride or Nick as much. But me and Jesse had a great time together and, yeah, there was a lot of funny stuff that came from our improvising and stuff like that. I think these movies, they really live or die by the chemistry of the leads and I think Jesse and I had a good chemistry and I think Danny and Nick had a good chemistry and I think that’s why the movie works.
This is the first time you’ve really gotten to do action.
Yeah, there’s not any car chases or explosions in ‘Parks and Rec.’ It was a lot of fun, but the amount of stunts we had to do was pretty low key. There was a car chase scene after the robbery. Ruben really wanted to shoot that with minimal green screen, so that’s really Eisenberg driving and I’m in the car and they just surrounded us with stunt drivers and we would do crazy stuff and it was so fun to do. It’s a slow process though. Definitely not as rewarding as a comedy scene. With comedy, it’s like, “Okay, I made that really funny.” In the car chase you’re just, like, “Woooooaaaahhhh.” It just gets kind of old, but it was fun to do.
“30 Minutes or Less” opens on August 12th.