By Dan Snierson
January 22, 2015 at 05:00 PM EST
Liane Hentscher/Fox
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Rainn Wilson is returning to TV with a nasty ­attitude—and he’s hoping you’ll come along for the ride. The 49-year-old Office alum stars on the Fox drama Backstrom (which premieres tonight at 9 p.m.) as a gifted but maladjusted special-crimes-unit detective who fires his insults with the safety off. Keeping that in mind, let’s do a quick psych eval of the amiable actor.

1. Given that Everett Backstrom is self-destructive, and you played a mortuary apprentice on Six Feet Under, we ask: How would you like to die?

“Anything involving getting eaten by a wild animal is how I would like to go. There’s no more noble way to leave this earth than to be torn apart by sharks or wolves or gored by a rhinoceros. I’d even settle for animals that aren’t as sexy, like being torn apart by ravenous hamsters.”

2. Which detective would you most like to partner with?

Magnum P.I.

The gang from Scooby-Doo


Sherlock Holmes

Jessica Fletcher

“Because solving those crimes is so simple. I’d walk into the crime scene and I would say, ‘I betcha it’s the rich guy wearing a mask pretending to be that bloodthirsty creature that lives in the basement.'”

3. Backstrom eats horribly. Confess your most disgusting food vice:

“When I do secret, shame-filled emotional eating, it usually involves a one-pound tub of hummus.”

4. Voice you’d love to have on your car’s GPS navigation system:

“God. Who better to be giving you navigation advice, or any kind of advice, for that matter? If not God, then Alex Trebek, who is the closest thing to God that we have on the planet.”

5. Most embarrassing TiVo season pass:

“Storage Wars. If aliens are monitoring our broadcasts and they want to know what America is all about, just watch Storage Wars. It’s got it all.”

6. Choose a Wilson to be stranded on a desert island with:

Rita Wilson

Owen Wilson

Luke Wilson

Rebel Wilson

The Wilson Sisters from Heart

Wilson Phillips

Woodrow Wilson

Wilson the Volleyball

“We could get a little volleyball game going—it would be me versus the Wilson sisters with Wilson the volleyball. Every time I spiked a winner, I would shout in their faces, ‘Barracuda!'”

7. What’s in your wallet right now?

“I got sent a free-burrito card from Chipotle. That’s one of my most prized possessions. I actually tweeted something terrible about Chipotle (‘Let’s start an Internet rumor that Chipotle is secretly serving ‘human”), and someone in their PR department was like, “Hey, Rainn Wilson mentioned Chipotle! Let’s send him a free-burrito card!” It’s not actually people, just FYI. It’s puppy.”

8. Your secret phobia:

“Ferris wheels. I don’t like to be in compartments that are way up in the air that are not moving. I can be in a roller coaster, an airplane, a ski gondola—I’m fine if there is movement—but when they stop for no reason and you’re hundreds of feet in the air just kind rocking and they don’t tell you why, it is absolutely terrifying for me. Is someone getting on? Did someone die down there? Is the Ferris wheel broken? Am I going to need to get rescued by a fire truck? I literally start to sweat from places that I didn’t know I had sweat glands.”

9. You investigate an arson case in an episode of Backstrom. Let’s say there’s a fire in your house. What piece of pop culture memorabilia do you grab on the way out?

“It’s kind of narcissistic, but I guess I would grab my prop wrench from the movie Super, and my wig from The Rocker. Not only do they have sentimental value, then I’d be in a wig with a wrench, so I’d be unrecognizable. I’d be equipped to handle the apocalypse, which is the probable cause of the fire that you named. In fact, I recommend that everyone keep a wig and a pipe wrench close by their bed.”

10. As Dwight Schrute on The Office, you were always getting inventively pranked by Jim. What’s the best prank you’ve ever played on someone?

iPhones allow you to take photos without having to unlock the phone. So anytime I see an iPhone lying there, I’ll pick it up, turn on the camera, and take 1,000 photos of my face. I will fill the memory card with pictures of my face, usually the exact same expression—I just scowl into the camera. It is the best prank ever. Thank you, Apple!

This article appears in Entertainment Weekly‘s Jan. 30-Feb. 6 issue.

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