With a string of crush-worthy roles, Lacy is making his way as Hollywood's Mr. Right

By Nina Terrero
Updated February 18, 2016 at 05:51 PM EST
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Gregg Delman

Girls

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Jake Lacy is the one you want to bring home to Mom — unless, of course, you’re worried about your mom going home with him. Over the past two years, the clean-cut cutup has steadily racked up a résumé of romantic roles, appearing opposite Jenny Slate in Obvious Child, Olivia Wilde in Love the Coopers, Rooney Mara in Carol, and Lena Dunham in Girls. So it’s not terribly surprising that in person, the 30-year-old exudes charisma and sincerity, a combination that makes it easy to explain his rise as Hollywood’s go-to beau.

“I almost don’t understand it. I haven’t cultivated that image,” says Lacy. “There’s no part of me that’s like, ‘I’m turning down that offer because it’s not boyfriend enough.’ “

This month, Lacy delivers more of his signature boy-next-door appeal in big-screen comedy How to Be Single, starring as a law-fiirm receptionist named Ken who emerges as the perfect mate for a midlife-crisis-laden Leslie Mann. And in his return as an affable teacher on HBO’s Girls, his unruffled calm is the perfect antidote to Hannah’s angst — making him less of a rebound than the stuff of which real relationships are made.

“I love characters that have a real sense of decency and hope,” says Lacy, the son of a forest-service archaeologist and an elementary-school teacher, who, yes, is married. “There’s a part of me that really enjoys playing these roles of good husbands or boyfriend material, because that’s the type of person I hope exists in the world.”

Mark Schafer/HBO

As a teen, though, the Vermont native was more inspired by the guys he saw in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas. “At the time, I wanted to be Ray Liotta,” he says. “That movie and those performances opened a whole new idea to me of what acting and what narrative could be.”

A self-described “stubborn individual,” Lacy opted for a vocational acting program — think Fame — in lieu of the traditional high school experience and set his sights on NYU. That is, until a night of partying derailed his all-important audition to be accepted into their drama school.

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“I woke up a little worse for the wear and had no idea how the city was laid out,” Lacy recalls, laughing. “After 20 minutes of walking around and refusing to ask directions because I didn’t know how to help myself, I just went back to my friend’s dorm like an idiot.”

Instead, he enrolled in the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and after graduating in 2008, he moved to New York, where he juggled jobs as a cycling-studio receptionist and barback between auditions. A few small TV roles and a lead on the short-lived ABC series Better With You earned him a spot in the final season of his favorite show, The Office. His arc as Pete (a.k.a. Plop), a slightly awkward customer-service rep who tries to romance Ellie Kemper‘s character, caught the attention of Obvious Child‘s filmmakers — and just like that, he booked the first in a series of roles as the guy who dates the cool, smart girl. Fans of the indie hit will remember him as much for his tenderly comedic turn opposite costar Jenny Slate as for his extended dance number in little more than a pair of boxer shorts. There is one thing he managed to not reveal, though: In real life, he’s actually covered with body art. “They’re all pro-feminist tattoos,” jokes Lacy of his collection, which includes a pair of swallows on his back and a group of islands above his pelvis.

This could mean it’s about time we see a wilder, more brooding side of the talented Mr. Lacy, who later this year will play a platinum-haired fighter pilot in WWII period piece Their Finest Hour and a Half. He’s also been tapped to star as an escort who seduces Jessica Chastain in the John Madden-directed drama Miss Sloane. “I’m getting to a place now where I can go in for stuff that I wouldn’t have before,” he says thoughtfully, then smiles. “But I’m still waiting for the day when Ray Liotta will hire me for something.”

A version of this story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1403-1404, on newsstands now or available digitally here.

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Girls

Four young ladies live in New York City, and it’s SO hard.
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