Adam Scott on His Dark Work Drama ‘Severance’ and the ‘Party Down’ Revival

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GQ: You’ve been a working actor since you got out of school. Did you have any experience of a soul-killing office job to draw on for Severance?

Adam Scott: No, not really. But for many years, or for what felt like forever, I spent a lot of time in a studio apartment just staring at a wall, wondering if this was ever going to come together for me. And plugging away at auditions for things that I would never want to watch but that I desperately wanted to be a part of, just wanting acceptance and acknowledgement somewhere. It’s what every actor ultimately goes through. As far as soul-deadening, that’s probably where I draw from for that. But I’ve also spent so much time in fake offices on TV sets and movie sets that I feel like I have had office jobs.

When I first read the script, I thought: This is exactly the show I would want to watch that I’ve been looking for. It felt like the thing that I’d been spending all these years toiling away for, earning the chance to get a role like this.

This is basically Dan Erickson’s first credit. How did he come to Ben’s attention?

You know, I think Severance was sent into Red Hour as a writing sample, as in, “Do you want to meet with this writer? Here’s something he did.” It wasn’t sent in as “Hey, you want to make this pilot?” Ben read it as a sample and thought, “What about this? Is anyone making this?”

Dan had never had anything made before, and he’s a great writer. He has the big macro ideas, of course, that are super-interesting and brilliant, and he does world-building, which is not an easy thing to do. But then he also in these smaller intimate scenes. He’s able to harness things people say that you don’t see on screen as much. The intimacy of some of the language was striking, along with the big picture that he had composed. Usually it’s one or the other, but Dan’s got both happening, and it was really a joy to see what he came up with for each episode.

There’s a certain segment of the audience that is going to find the ’70s-meets-Soviet vibe of the Lumon offices very pleasing.

It ended up becoming a part of my mind because we were there so much. We were working in that room, and walking through those hallways to get to that room, every day for months and months and months. So for all intents and purposes, I worked an office job with John Turturro and Zach Cherry and Britt Lower, and that green carpet and the fluorescent lights and having to type nonsense into a keyboard: it will flatten your brain. Also, that ceiling is just low enough to freak you out after a while. I think the design is beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

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