Chris D'Elia on why he liked being 'tied up' and 'tortured' on Netflix's You
Chris D'Elia has created some of the decade's most memorable characters on the standup stage, like that girl that gets way too loud when she grabs drinks with her friends and the breakdancing Catholic. Now, he's bringing the same commitment he gives to his jokes to more mainstream acting projects. The comic relished his recent turn on Netflix's You as the creepy Henderson in season 2, telling EW he enjoyed getting "tied up in a chair and tortured" by the show's psychotic main character because it was a step out of the ordinary.
"It's a cool thing to do for me because it's different," D'Elia says of the role. Later this year, he'll be exercising his action chops in Zack Snyder's new survival flick Army of the Dead. "It's a big role for me," D'Elia notes. "What I want to do is stand-up and action movies."
Before his new special No Pain drops on Netflix April 14, D'Elia spoke to EW about how he got the role on You, the story behind that epic Eminem impression, and what it was like to come up in Hollywood with his father and brother.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your intro and outro for the special is a Logic song featuring Eminem. You actually played a version of Eminem for that music video. You have this special relationship with him now. What has that been like?
CHRIS D'ELIA: Eminem is a whole different thing. He's so big that when that video of me rapping came out, foreign people would come up to me and be like, "Hello, can I get a picture? I'm a big Eminem fan." If you were to have told 20-year-old me that I was going to be in an Eminem video with him and he was going to be playing me. I would have s--- myself.
Didn't you say on your podcast that you actually s--- yourself before meeting him in his studio in Detroit last year?
On the road, you don't know what you eat. I must have been drinking my coffee and we pulled over to s--- in someone's yard, yeah.
You've been acting here and there for a long time, but how did your part on You come about?
My agents were sending me all these scripts, whether they had been auditions for the new comedy movie that everybody's talking about or offers for a lesser-known comedy that they want me to be on board with to help get made. Some of them were fine, but some of them were really bad. None of them had me be the type of funny the way I want to be funny. I told my agent, "The best version of me being funny is being on stage saying what I want to say." So if you're going to give me an audition, have it be at least something interesting like a drama or, what I really want to do is action.
For You, they were like, will you audition for it? If I hadn't seen the show, I would not have auditioned for it. But I had seen it and was a fan. It was fun. You know, I don't know if fun is the right way to put it. Because, you know, I'm tied up in a chair and being tortured, but it's a cool thing to do for me because it's different.
I noticed in the credits of your special that your brother was the director. It's usually your father, Bill, who has worked on shows like Northern Exposure and How to Get Away With Murder, helming your specials. What happened?
My brother still knows my sensibility better than anybody. I asked him to do it. He had never done a comedy special before. But I like that he's never done a comedy special because, like one of my favorite directors John Cassavetes once said, the first time somebody does something, they will bring something fresh and unique to it.
Your brother is younger than you but came up in Hollywood around the same time. Was that always the idea?
I remember the first time our dad ever took us to go see The Godfather, and Citizen Kane too when it was re-released in the theater, he was so happy. Him showing us stuff, it shaped our upbringing. It made us who we are, at least when it comes to performing in comedy. Later, I started writing and then doing stand-up later. My brother went to film school, so yeah we started around the same time. We grew up in like the La Cañada area near Pasadena.
In your special, you talk about the theory that comics need to feed off the pain of their backstory to be good on stage. Why do you think that is?
I used to feel insecure about not having that underdog vibe. I would always hear people are really funny because they’re hiding their pain. People do use it for that, and I applaud them for it. That's great. But that's not what I do. Who you are is only who you are in your head. Like, you know, just because you don't look like an outsider or were brought up like an outsider, doesn't mean you don't feel out of place in certain situations. A lot of comedy can spark from those kinds of situations.