November 9th, 2011
06:32 PM ET
The last time we saw Jason Lee (after the cancellation of his once-popular series "My Name is Earl"), he was the star of the TNT series "Memphis Beat" and he took on a wild guest appearance as a washed up rock star on Fox's "Raising Hope." (TNT is owned by the same parent company as CNN.)
With the cancellation of "Beat" and the recent completion of his big holiday sequel, "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked," Lee is moving on to "Up All Night." He'll play Kevin, a love interest for Maya Rudolph's talk show host boss, Ava, on the new NBC comedy.
"He's way more straight-laced [than Earl], a little bit more clean-cut, doesn't have an awesome mustache, unfortunately," Lee told reporters earlier this week.
"But, yes, this is sort of like, me kind of playing it straight, I guess," he continued. "It's definitely funny and it's nice that it's just sort of this sweet guy from next door who grounds Maya's character. And I like that I get to be funny, but it's also a little bit sweet. It's nice to just rely on the relationship with Maya and try to make it real and fun and believable. And going from 'Earl,' which was kind of outlandish at times, and certainly a blast to do, it's kind of nice as an actor to see what it feels like to play it straighter."
Lee said he has shot three episodes so far as Kevin, which should add a new wrinkle to the dynamic of Ava dropping by and trying to help Reagan and Chris out with their daughter from time to time. (In Wednesday night's episode, which introduces Kevin, she takes something of a crash course in child care.)
Lee said that it was freeing to some extent, to come onto a show in its first season.
"But even still, if it were the fourth season, good people are good people, and it makes it that much easier," he said. "Everybody from Will [Arnett] to Maya to Christina [Applegate] are very happy to be there. You can tell. There's a great energy on set. The writers are always there - very happy and laughing. And it feels like everybody's eager to make a good show, and that's always a good sign."
At this stage in his career, Lee said he is proud of the diversity of work he's been able to do.
"I used to not want to do cheesy and maybe not do certain types of movies, and things change all the time," he said. "You have kids, and you think, 'Wow, I have kids now. And oh, wow, I'm getting offered this 'Alvin' movie. Wow, I bet my son would like that,' and I don't know if that's something I would've done when I was 25 years old, doing the Kevin Smith stuff. It's been good fun for me to just play different things over the course of what will, hopefully, be a long career as a working actor."
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