“It’s not about being bored, and it’s certainly not about being bored with acting,” Feldman said about his choice to direct. “There’s just so much that happens with people who are doing such hard, incredible work around us. And I just think it was neat to kind of understand what it was like to have real responsibility.”
The former “Mad Men” star is making his directorial debut in “Superstore’s” third season. He said the opportunity gave him a deeper appreciation for the hard-working producers and crew — the people Feldman described as the “adults who do the real work.”
“[That’s] how I used to feel about going to set, but now that’s elevated immensely because I’ve seen how much work the crew and the pre-production and post-production and all of them [do],” he said.
But he’s also doubly impressed with his cast.
“I would argue that post-directing, I have a greater love and a deeper appreciation for what it is the actor does and what the actor is capable of doing,” he said. “Usually [when I’m] in the scene, [I’m] kind of just worried about my own lines. […] You’re just being honest and listening and responding, so you’re not really watching someone else’s performance until you actually see it on television. So it was a really exciting thing to sit back and watch the actors who I see every single day on my show from a completely different perspective.”
Though after three years working with the same core cast, he’s obviously comfortable with his fellow actors, Feldman said he was worried about a “dynamic shift” when he changed roles and put on his director’s hat.
“If you’re one of our normal directors, you come in and if you do a great job or if you do a terrible job, it doesn’t matter because the following Monday you’re gone,” he said, referring to the vibe on set. “[But] when you’re an actor on the show and you direct for a week, you’re the most necessary person in the room if you’re doing both, and then you show up on Monday and then all of a sudden you’re just like everybody else. It’s bizarre, [but] that was one of the motivations to keep me from completely blowing it — I didn’t want to show up on someone else’s episode the next Monday and be the guy that ruined last week.”
Titled “Lottery,” Episode 19 finds “lottery mania” taking over the St. Louis superstore, while Feldman’s Jonah helps his co-worker Amy (America Ferrera) hunt down the new district manager (played by Jennifer Irwin) to ask for a raise. Though Feldman didn’t get to pick which episode he directed — since he acts on the show, he had to shoot the episode following a hiatus week to spend that time preparing — the actor said this would’ve been the last episode he would’ve chosen.
“We’re essentially a bottle show, [so] every single week we don’t go anywhere,” he said. “This particular episode spent a full day of exterior on location, there’s a night shoot, and a major stunt.”
Feldman took to the change of pace in stride, though.
“I was given two things that just aren’t ever seen [on our show],” Feldman said. “There’s a golf course in this episode — you’re rarely outside on our show and certainly when you are, you’re rarely on something with the geography of the golf course. […] And that made me nervous, especially because in the middle of it there’s a stunt. But we pulled it off.”
Inspired by his first go-round, Feldman said he hoped to be back in a director’s chair soon.
“[It’s] partially just because the DGA bills are so high,” Feldman said, laughing. He noted that he’d want to direct another episode of “Superstore” before moving on to another show, but he wants to keep expanding his artistic repertoire.
“I think ultimately it’s about being able to create something of my own one day, whether it’s I write it and then direct it or I get to direct someone else’s thing,” Feldman said. “An indie movie, I think, would be the goal for me.”
Feldman offered IndieWire an exclusive look behind-the-scenes of his time behind the camera, available in the gallery above. The photos were all taken with his iPhone, and a select few feature captions from the director himself.
“Superstore” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.