Evan Baxter. Brick Tamland. Michael Scott. Andy Stitzer. The neurotic, backstabbing, awkwardly hilarious characters who have found their way into the hearts of American pop culture worshippers are wonderfully brought to life by comedic actor Steve Carell.
The former ‘Daily Show’ regular and star of the hit comedy ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ exchanged witty quips with university journalists during a conference call interview on Nov. 3. The quickly rising star candidly recollected his timid youth, his decision to enter the world of acting and his career hopes for the future while maintaining his signature brand of modest humor.
Carell was honest about his introverted youth and an encounter with a sandbox that would change his life forever.
‘I was kind of quiet [as a kid]. I do distinctly remember walking along the edge of a sandbox and I fell in a split,’ Carell said. ‘I had to go to a nurse with a cut on my private parts and it was one of the most traumatic moments of my life. Moments like that, where I had to reveal who I was, were very hard for me.’
Carell revealed that acting was a way for him to step out of that reserved side of himself and develop into a more social college student.
‘I liked the way I did college,’ Carell said. ‘I was a kid in candy store. I took advantage of every opportunity. I did my fair amount of studying, partying, sports, theater. I did what I was hoping to do.’
Carell spent the better part of his college career studying law and thought of acting only as a hobby.
After taking the LSATs and earning his degree, Carell decided to pursue acting full-time, despite his initial legal aspirations.
‘There was a year or two where I was like, wow, I’m in the real world now, not the dorm. … I couldn’t go out whenever I wanted to because I had responsibilities,’ Carell said.
However, Carell expressed no regrets on making the change to comedic acting. His first gig was as a McDonald’s triple cheeseburger lover.
‘I did a McDonalds commercial promoting triple cheeseburgers,’ Carell said. ‘I had three arms in it. There was a guy behind me, helping me eat the burger. I thought, this is it! I’ve gotten a McDonald’s commercial where I eat a triple cheeseburger. It can’t get any better.’
Fortunately, his career expanded far beyond his expectations as the clumsy yet endearing characters in ‘Anchorman’ and ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ after his brief stint on ‘The Daily Show.’ The groundbreaking infotainment show has since drawn followers across the political spectrum and was Carell’s launching pad.
‘We felt like we were doing something interesting, smart. I feel proud that I was in on the ground floor,’ Carell said.
Carell was proud to share success with ‘The Daily Show’ cast mates John Stewart and Steven Colbert.
‘Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with John and Steve is an honor,’ Carell said. ‘I owe everything to the ‘Daily Show.”
Carell has also won much popularity and critical acclaim for his portrayal of stodgy boss Michael Scott on the revamped BBC show, ‘The Office,’ now a regular part of the NBC lineup. When asked about his plans for the future, Carell mused over his supposed stardom and self-deprecates his own aims at overexposure.
‘My goal is to be completely overexposed in nine months and then disappear in a fiery blaze,’ Carell said. ‘I don’t want to be the comedic actor who has ambitions to be taken seriously or end up directing. If I can continue to work and be asked to work, then I’m fine.’
Despite his phenomenal success, Carell claims to not have let the effects of stardom affect his ego.
‘I am a wonderful human being. I’m very generous, warm and giving. I’m a wonderful father. I’m pretty much perfect. I’m very down-to-earth and I haven’t let success change me,’ Carell said.
Although Carell filters his personality through the gauche characters he plays, his perception of himself is pleasantly dull.
‘I think I’m the same boring guy,’ Carell said. ‘As Steve Colbert once described me in an interview, I am beige against a tan wall. I’m pretty nondescript.’