Jason Segel readily admits he gets typecast for a very specific role: “Your best friend.”
“I was on a TV show for nine years where I was your best friend,” the 43-year-old Los Angeles resident says of CBS’s long-running How I met your mother (2005-14). “And I’ve made movies where I’m your best friend.” See: whipped up (2007), I love you man (2009), etc.
Our friend Jason believes his on-screen kindness is why Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein (a duo who’s been hitting some big W’s lately with the Apple TV+ football smash Ted Lasso) threw him Shrink. In the new dramatic comedy – also on Apple – Segel plays the role of a therapist and father to a teenage daughter (Lukita Maxwell) who is recovering from the recent death of his wife.
“I think what I brought to the table is that I’ve come to feel like I’m like your best friend. … And so what I said to them was, ‘We need to push this character as far as possible to the edge of sympathy and use this really good feeling. [that I’ve built up] for evil, and let him be wrong. Let him get it wrong often, because I think you’ll still feel like, ‘He’s doing his best.’”
Shrink is something like Ted Lasso but with therapy. “Those guys are masters of what they do, masters of that tone,” Segel says of Lawrence (Lassoshowrunner) and Goldstein (a Lasso writer-producer-performer who has scored two Emmys for playing grizzled ex-football star Roy Kent). “I think one of the things the shows have in common is that they’re hopeful. At the end of the [Shrinking] episodes, even though they go through really complicated things and mourn and there’s loss, I think the show’s message is, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together. None of us come out of this life unscathed and there is actually some comfort in that.’”
While Segel stars as the main character Jimmy Laird in his first comedic role in nearly a decade, ShrinkLike it Lasso, is a real ensemble piece. Among the scene stealers are two actors who play therapists alongside Jimmy: Jessica Williams, who, as the witty Gaby (“She’s stunning,” Segel explains), has finally found a role worthy of her talents since leaving. The daily show; and an 80-year-old dude you may have also heard of, Harrison Ford, Emmy-worthy as the cantankerous, CBD-sticky veteran of Parkinson’s disease, Dr. Paul Rhodes.
Segel calls the casting of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones icon as “the coup of the century”, explaining exactly how he felt when Ford signed on.
“You know, when you’re just a dork in high school and then almost as a joke or an act of bravery, you think, ‘I’m going to ask the prettiest girl to prom.’ And you kind of know victory is just by asking that Of course she’s going to say “No” because she’s going with the head of the football team These are old tropes but you know what I mean That’s what it felt like about to ask Harrison Ford to do this show. Like, of course, he’s going to say ‘No.’ Right? But wouldn’t it be cool and brave to say we asked?
“And then the man said, ‘Yes.’ And then you have to figure it out, like, “Gosh, now I’m going to prom with Harrison Ford. Where do I take him to dinner? What am I wearing?” That’s kind of how it felt.”
Shrink comes at a time when public discourse on mental health is more prevalent than ever, especially in the field of entertainment. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Ryan Reynolds, and Kristen Bell have openly shared their struggles with anxiety and depression. Segel’s friend and four-time co-star Jonah Hill even made an entire Netflix documentary about his own problems. Many view their candor as a way to destigmatize mental illness.
Asked if Shrink is also part of that story, Segel offers a contradictory picture.
“It’s so funny because I don’t think they’re stigmatized,” he says. “I have asked for help so many times in my life, in so many different ways. I think if there’s a destigmatizing element, one of the things I always fear when I ask for help is that the person in front of me is judging me, or somehow better than me. And one of the things that our show exposes is that, ‘Oh, we all are [suffering in some form]. Like even the person you think is your authority, they’re also a mess when they go home.’”
The actor is open about his own mental health journey.
“I’ve always struggled a bit with anxiety. And some feel that something is wrong and there is a sense of impending doom,” he says. “At a certain point I decided that there is no reason not to feel good for the rest of my life. And so I tried to acquire some resources, including therapy, to feel like everything is okay.
Shrink now streaming on Apple TV+.
Watch the trailer: