As the creator of "Mad Men," AMC Networks' period TV drama and its brooding, dysfunctional ad man Don Draper, Matthew Weiner has had some experience in exploring the male psyche.
In his directorial feature film debut "Are You Here," in theaters on Friday, Weiner wanted to tackle the reality of a male friendship through actors Owen Wilson and Zach Galifianakis, showing two grown men in a state of arrested development.
Weiner, 49, spoke to Reuters in his Los Angeles office, decked out with props from "Mad Men," about concluding Don's journey, the Emmy awards and his future plans.
Reuters: What did you want to explore about the "bromance" through two childhood friends in "Are You Here"?
Matthew Weiner: They think they're in a stoner comedy together, and then all of a sudden you realize Owen's character has a substance abuse problem and Zach's character is mentally ill. As the reality starts to sink in, it's not like there's no jokes throughout it, but you get stripped away to what I hope is a more poignant and slightly emotional examination of what holds us together.
R: Why choose comedy staples Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler for this much darker take on life?
MW: You can't teach people to be funny, they either are or they aren't. And these are three deeply funny people to the bone, and the fact that they could use that and change the tone, you feel the poignancy because you feel them losing something.
R: With "Mad Men" wrapping up, are you looking at more movie projects?
MW: I'm not withdrawing from show business, but I am using this period, at least until the show goes off the air, to replenish and find out what's on my mind. I know I'm allowed that, but there's also the thing where you're like, 'Will everybody forget you? Will you be scrambling when you get back to work?' ... You don't want to disappear.
R: How do you feel about "Mad Men" nominated for four Emmys next week, including best drama again?
MW: I am thrilled that we are included in this again. The fact that none of the actors on our show (have won), I have all of the chauvinism I can possibly have about the fact that these are, and I think will remain recognized, as some of the great performances of their era and this era in television.
They are nominated, it's not like they're being ignored and the show has been recognized, but every year there's a story about why Jon Hamm was beaten by someone else, or about Elisabeth Moss and why she wasn't nominated. You just don't want the lack of recognition to be a reflection on the quality.
R: Fans are already discussing how Don's journey will end next year. Does that put pressure on you?
MW: I am constantly interested in the audience, I want them to work a little bit because they get pleasure out of putting things together ... but when it comes to the ending of the show, the audience has so many voices and it changes over time. I keep my solicitation of opinions to my wife, my incredible writing staff, the people I work with and the actors. They are the audience that I am interested in pleasing, and none of them have ever withheld honesty from me.
R: You showcased New York in "Mad Men," but you grew up in Los Angeles. Would you explore L.A.'s history in future projects?
MW: I don't even know if I know yet what Los Angeles is necessarily. Los Angeles to me, the best version of it is "Chinatown." I'm a little bit intimidated by the concept of it, it's hard, it doesn't reveal itself immediately, it has to be looked for, and maybe that's something to think about. Maybe you gave me an idea!
Editing by Eric Kelsey and G Crosse