So, yes, on the surface, doing an interview with Jason Segel and Lakeith Stanfield at the same time is a bit of an odd paring, because I hadn’t really thought about them as a pair of any kind before. And they are both in the Sundance film Come Sunday together, but even in that movie they don’t really share many scenes. But there are some interesting parallels: Both had or have critically acclaimed television shows (Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother for Segel; Atlanta for Stanfield) while also making breakout films Forgetting Sarah Marshall; Short Term 12, Get Out). Segel is now at a reflective point in his career, taking an almost step back from the pure fame of his past and searching for more meaningful projects. While Stanfield is where Segel was a few years ago, about to become a household name, if he isn’t already.
They co-star in Joshua Maston’s Come Sunday, the true story of Tulsa minister Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who defied the conventional teaching and dared to suggest that maybe it’s possible a loving God doesn’t send people to Hell – which caused a huge uproar in the late ‘90s. Segel plays Henry, Carlton’s partner who is opposed to this new way of thinking, while Stanfield plays Reggie, the church organist who struggles with the church’s teaching and the fact he’s a gay man.
I met Segel and Stanfield early on Monday morning in a condo off Park City’s Main Street. It may seem like you haven’t heard a lot from Segel lately but, as he explains ahead, that’s by design. And we will all be hearing a lot more from Stanfield soon, who I dubbed the King of Sundance (Stanfield prefers “Prince of Sundance”) between this film and the breakout hit Sorry to Bother You. Also, he has quite the story about watching Get Out with Snoop Dogg (whom Stanfield played in Straight Outta Compton). As you can probably guess, marijuana was involved.
Lakeith is like the King of Sundance.
Jason Segel: I know. How cool is that?
How does that feel?
Lakeith Stanfield: More like “The Prince.”
The Prince of Sundance, got it. Sorry to Bother You is something else…
Stanfield: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything quite like it either. It’s crazy.
This role isn’t the Jason Segel people are used to. What did you like about this? Are you looking for mostly serious roles?
Segel: Well, I think that it’s almost even less about picking serious roles, but I wanted to pick parts that make me interested and are sort of in line with the stuff that I’m thinking about these days.
So they just happen to be “serious”? Last year’s The Discovery was more serious, too.
Segel: Yeah. And End of the Tour is as well. You know, Chiwetel said something really interesting to me, because I started asking people who I work with who I really respect how they choose parts. And one of the things that he said to me was, “Well, you only get so many of these, and never forget this is your life. And so what do you want to devote months or a year of your life to when you only get so many of them?” And I think that that’s a really good way to think when you’re choosing a part. You know, when I was in my 20s – I started really young; I started, you know, 17, 18 years old – and I think that when you’re in your 20s you’re just so excited that someone has let you in the gates and you’re so grateful for everything that you get. And that is a good attitude to have. But when I reached my early 30s I realized, okay, now I need to start exercising some choice. And I’m really grateful for my life. I’m really grateful that I get to make art, but I also now can take ownership a little bit where I am in my life and start picking things a little bit more deliberately. And that’s a luxury. I acknowledge that’s a real luxury of having worked a lot in my 20s.
When you asked Chiwetel a question like that, obviously he’s had a tremendous amount of success, but he’s also got to be thinking, “You’re Jason Segel, why are you asking me this?”
Segel: Well, I read this really interesting interview with Kobe Bryant where Kobe Bryant went to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Did you ever read this interview?