When we first encounter Josh Gad playing the character of Josh Gad in his new FX series, The Comedians, he is driving a brand new Tesla to dinner to meet his future co-star Billy Crystal, who is playing the character of, well, Billy Crystal. Only, on the show, Gad doesn't really own a Tesla. Instead, he is the kind of guy who borrows the Tesla from a dealership and drives it to the restaurant to look cool at the valet in front of his future costar.
So what is Gad like in real life? We caught up with with the actor, who dished on everything from mistaken identity to currently working with his idol---and Olaf’s impending return in Frozen 2 (plus, the actor revealed how he feels about being replaced as the most huggable character in the world).
How did you research playing your character, Josh Gad on The Comedians? You know what’s funny? I came at it from the perspective that it is sort of based on another person that I know but won’t say who it is. I happen to love this person, but it’s a projection of how, if I approached my life like this person, this would be the bizarro world version of Josh Gad. There are so many elements on the show that are so different than my actual reality, that I think people will get it from the get-go. Like in real life I’m married, I’ve got two kids. On the show I can’t hold down a relationship, I’m a mess when it comes to love, and I don’t particularly like kids. I think the audience will be sophisticated enough and understand.
You’ve named your co-star, Billy Crystal as one of your idols. How does working with him define your career at this point? Whenever I get an opportunity to work with somebody like Billy I always call it a master class. You never stop learning. Or you should never stop learning as an actor. And in the vein of working with people like Jon Stewart and of course, Trey Parker/Matt Stone, I hold Billy up on this pedestal where I look at him and I’m like, "Oh my God, you have 30-plus years on me of not only a comedic education, but this exposure to things like hosting the Oscars and doing some of I think the greatest classics ever like Princess Bride and City Slickers." There’s so much to absorb. So I look at him as a teacher, but I also look at him as an amazing scene partner. I guess the thing that I draw on the most is if I can make him laugh, I’m doing my job.
Did the Tesla story really happen to you? No, although that’s based on a kernel of truth. About five to six years ago, before I became a more recognizable person, I was at a car dealership, and they offered me this killer deal and I didn't understand why. Then they told me that they loved my work and they stated the movie that they thought I was in. And as I’m signing the document I go, “Oh, that’s not me.” And the guy just literally went white and goes, “Okay, just sign here.” At that point I was like, you know what, this Talented Mr. Ripley lifestyle could actually work for me. Taking on other people’s identity and get great car deals wherever I go!
Which of your characters do you relate to the most? Frozen’s Olaf, The Book of Mormon’s Elder or The Comedians’s Josh Gad? Of those three options, I would say Olaf. The reason that I would say Olaf is that, although there is a large gap between how I approach life and how Olaf approaches life, because he has this naiveté and I’ve been exposed to things that chip away at that, but with Olaf, is this ever-optimistic approach to life. That is sort of the motto that I look at. Especially once I had children. You have to look at life through the prism of joy, and through the prism of the best of everything.
What can we expect from Josh Gad & Olaf in Frozen 2? How much creative input do you get? When it came to creating Olaf, the creative team---specifically Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee---gave me so many opportunities to find things in the recording sessions. A lot of those lines just came from this playful improv that they allowed me to do. And that was sort of serviced by the fact that I went in there and I said to them, “One of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater is watching Robin Williams unhinge as the Genie. And I would love the opportunity to discover with you guys this character by just playing around in that tradition of some of the greats who have played these comic relief characters.… Williams and like Billy Crystal in Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University. So for me, that was a very important part of the process.
Speaking of comic relief characters, did you see Big Hero 6? What are your thoughts on Baymax? Love it! I thought it was stunning. In fact, I watched it again last night with my daughter. I’m a little pissed because Baymax has replaced Olaf as the most huggable character in the world. And I’m gonna track him down. I actually hired a private detective to track down Baymax. Here’s what I would like to pitch: I think there should be a cross-universe Marvel-style mash-up where Olaf and Baymax have to fight together. Nobody should have to pick between Olaf and Baymax. Nobody should have to make that choice when it comes to those two.
Check out The Comedians when it premieres April 9 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.