James Van Der Beek may have finally discovered his greatest role: James Van Der Beek. Consider the evidence. He made us laugh last month with the Funny or Die “Van Der Week” videos. Today, he co-stars in Ke$ha’s new “Blow” music video as a tuxedo-clad, laser-toting version of himself. And he was recently cast in the comedy pilot Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apt. 23 as a former teen heartthrob named James Van Der Beek. We talked to the ex-Dawson’s Creek star about unicorns, getting beheaded, and the difference between himself and “himself.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you were pitched the idea of shooting unicorns with lasers?
JAMES VAN DER BEEK: I’ve been on this kick in the last year or so of whatever’s being offered — no matter how off the wall — if it sounds fun, just saying yes. The pitch is, “Unicorns and lasers and a James Bond tuxedo?” I just said, “Why not?”
What’s your take on what is actually happening in the video? Are you secret agents? Is this a dream? Are you in the future?
The more questions you ask, the more your head’s just gonna spin. I think the more you try to come up with a logical explanation for it, the more frustrated you’re gonna get. Just kick back and enjoy. The credit for anything you like about the video has to go to the director, Chris Marrs [Piliero]. He came up with the concept, wrote the dialogue, shot it…
Don’t sell yourself short here. You very skillfully removed your own bra.
I’m still scratching my head over that one. I hadn’t read the treatment carefully enough, and when I got to the set, they handed me this bra. I said, “What’s this for?” They said, “The part when you reach in and take your own bra off.” I said, “Really? Awesome!”
What was it like working with Ke$ha?
She’s a kick, man! She’s a hoot. Kind of the best version of who you think she would be from her music. She’s from Nashville, just a whiskey-drinkin’, fun-lovin’, unicorn-smoochin’-slash-killin’, Van Der Beek-beheadin’ kind of gal.
You’ve been playing yourself quite a bit lately. What’s your method for becoming James Van Der Beek?
It starts with hours of preparation. [Laughs] It’s just one of those things that started happening. It wasn’t really by design, necessarily. You’re kind of lucky enough when you’re part of something that hits or catches on in popular culture, and all of a sudden people are asking you to play “You.” I try not to take myself too seriously. Maybe I’m the only idiot who gets these things suggested to him.
On this TV pilot, it’s one of the writers from American Dad, and one of the producers from How I Met Your Mother and Family Guy, and the director from Modern Family, just a great group of people. They said, “We could have you play an actor who’s [the main character’s] friend, but if you play yourself, then we get to make Dawson’s Creek jokes.” And I thought, “Well, that could be fun.”
What’s your role in the pilot? What level of yourself is appearing in the show?
I called the writer and said, “Listen, don’t be worried about insulting me at all. Let’s just go for whatever’s funniest.” It’s kind of wide open. We’re still re-writing it. And when I say “we,” I mean “she.” I’m the main character’s best friend. We had a relationship before, but it didn’t work out for reasons which you’ll see in the pilot. So now she calls me her “straight gay best friend.” I’ll be single in New York, using the fact that I was once a teen idol to get laid. In real life, I’m happily married and I just had a baby.
So you’re living vicariously through yourself right now.
I think you just blew my mind.