“Happyish” Star Steve Coogan Talks About His New Showcase Series & The Pressure Of Replacing Philip Seymour Hoffman
Steve Coogan discusses his new Showcase series Happyish, his thoughts on replacing Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role, and the evolution of his comedic tastes…
Steve Coogan is featured on this month’s cover of WSJ Magazine, the monthly magazine from The Wall Street Journal, where he discusses his new Showcase series Happyish; his thoughts on replacing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in the show; and the evolution of his comedic tastes.
Happyish follows the exploits of Thom Payne who, on his birthday, gets the gift of insignificance and also a new boss. He suspects his ED pills are interfering with his anti-depressants, leaving him with neither happiness nor… happiness. In a culture that reveres youth – a culture he helped create – Thom needs to figure out what his purpose is now that he’s halfway to death and nobody cares what he thinks. Because in a world where any Kardashian is trending up, perhaps the wise among us would heartily embrace trending down.
While Coogan’s transition from the UK to the USA, and more precisely TV to film, hasn’t yet brought with it the sort of critical acclaim or success of his much-loved British small-screen comedy, Happyish could be the ticket to solidifying his presence in America. The talented writer and actor has had to return “home”, both literally and in his comedic endeavours, to reacquaint himself with his long-established fans (with comedy-dramas such as Micheal Winterbottom’s The Trip and its follow-up The Trip To Italy, as well as the brilliant A Cock and Bull Story and the Oscar nominated Philomena films), Coogan has proven he’s lost none of his wit or lovable tragi-comic pathos. Indeed, his continuing development of his most famous character Alan Partridge with Sky Atlantic’s six-part Mid Morning Matters (which saw Coogan present a daytime news and current affairs radio show as Partridge) and the feature-length film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa underlined his ability to marry great writing with perfect characterisation and performance.
Its part of his ongoing battle to balance authenticity with sincerity, says Coogan. “In my quest to try to bring some love into things, I can be a bit acerbic and nasty.”
For Happyish, it was about finding strength in vulnerability. “These days, the last thing people want to talk about is love. I really wanted to do something that was smart, but tender, because that’s the one thing that I hadn’t seen a lot of. I saw a lot of smart, cool, edgy stuff, but I didn’t see stuff that had heart. People in creative circles are scared of talking about, well, love, because they think it makes them weak.
“Advertising is a great vehicle in which to set this show because it’s essentially an industry in which creative people aren’t untroubled by the moral paradox of using their creativity to sell things that people don’t need.”
Coogan, who usually writes the parts in which he plays, says not having the pressures of scripting is easier. “I’m so used to being at the helm; this is kind of like a vacation for me.”
Of course, there is an element of added pressure, given that he replaced Philip Seymour Hoffman. “There’s a sort of caution about stepping into such very big shoes. Some people might say, “Philip Seymour Hoffman would have been better in this.” That’s only to be expected. But when people caution me about something, it sort of makes me want to do it.”