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Chris Diamantopoulos On Career Highlights Like Mrs. Davis And The Office - Exclusive Interview

Chris Diamantopoulos is at it again, and this time, his role revolves around one of the most delightfully chaotic characters in TV history for the upcoming series "Mrs. Davis." The actor has been in front of the screen for over 20 years, taking on a hefty number of live-action and voice-acting roles, including "Red Notice," "The Three Stooges," "Silicon Valley," and "Arrested Development." He's also been in the boom mic business, which any fan of "The Office" can attest to from his role as sound man Brian. Diamantopoulos comes from a Broadway background, and fans can even listen to some of his vocal work in "American Dad!," "A Christmas Story Live!," and "Animaniacs."

Looper spoke to Diamantopoulos during an exclusive interview where he discussed his wild "Mrs. Davis" character JQ and his time working with the cast. He also went down career memory lane to defend his character from "The Office" and gush about working with Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, and Dwayne the Rock Johnson on "Red Notice." As for what's next? He teased his work on the upcoming show "The Sticky" with Jamie Lee Curtis.

Bruce Willis meets Tyler Durden

Your role in "Mrs. Davis" is so wild, and I love the chaotic energy of your character. Were you inspired by any performances or characters from other projects?

The show is such a strange and unique mashup and amalgamation of so many pop culture and cinematic tropes. I was given a couple of clues [about] this guy's ego or simply how he presents himself. There's this Bruce Willis from "Fifth Element" meets Tyler Durden from "Fight Club" — this totally amped, sort of bro energy vibe. 

It was so much fun to dive in. Working with Betty Gilpin, I've been a fan of hers for a long time. She might well be one of the most talented people I've ever worked with. She's about as collaborative and genuinely kind as you can be on a set. That's what a number one on a set should be, just like Betty was.

I also get little hints of "Monty Python" inspiration throughout the show.


Especially with the Holy Grail plot. Was that something that you ever talked about on set, or were there other projects that help[ed] inform the show?

With two brilliant minds like [series creators] Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof, it's one of the first times in a job that I didn't necessarily question the tone — mainly because I was so confused through[out] a good portion of it because the scripts were coming out sometimes non sequentially.

Like some of the cast members in "Lost" did, I had to leave a lot of it to faith, no pun intended. But [there] was something beautiful about doing that, because then I could let the character be free of any prior or past knowledge. I could let him be in the moment. It feels like if Tarantino and the Cohen Brothers had a baby and then decided to make a TV show about it.

Tackling the insidiousness of AI

There's a timely aspect to this show with the AI component. Why do you think 2023 is the perfect time to tell a story like this?

We're at a place right now — even in the industry, with regard to AI-rendered voices of past actors and [the] de-aging process — where it's a perfect moment to stop and ask ourselves how to best utilize these tools that are becoming so advanced that we can almost interact with them.

We're living in the greatest moment in [the] history of humankind, and that brings with it an immense level of responsibility and reflection. Certainly, the majority of the population recognizes or at least can conceive the implications of an AI that is so advanced — what that would mean to something spiritual and non-formed as faith or religion? What happens when this technology that we've created is so advanced that it can answer our prayers? It's an excellent question. It's compelling enough, it's funny enough, and it's odd enough that people will glean different things from it.

What was the most exciting component of tackling such a unique and genre-bending project, and has it changed your perspective on any of those subjects in the real world?

It was very brave of the writers to tackle some of those tropes head-on without shying away from the fact that they were either poking fun or trying to poke holes. If you can draw me in with a compelling story, if you're borrowing from something from the past, if you're borrowing from something from pop culture — as long as you can give me a new way of telling it, I am in. My wife, who's also an actress, said to me, "That might be the most unique TV show I've ever seen," and I think she's right.

Sticking to the script

Are there any former co-stars you'd love to see on "Mrs. Davis"? Do you have a particular historical figure or type of role you think they'd nail?

Wow, what a great question ... How great would it be to have Sean Hayes play a Jerry Lewis-type character in "Mrs. Davis"? He'd be fantastic.

That'd be cool.

Or to have Debra Messing do some sort of a regal character, like Catherine the Great or something like that.

How many of your character choices on "Mrs. Davis" were written versus just having fun and riffing?

I've worked in a number of capacities on set with different writers, some that are completely open to improvisation, and others [who] want you to remain quite strict and adhere to the text. The best work that I've done is a result of scripts that have been written so well that they don't require me to diverge. On "Mrs. Davis," there was definitely a willing and open collaboration, but the script and the storyline are so specific that divergence can lead you into trouble. I felt fortunate [to have] the deft hand of Tara Hernandez and Damon Lindelof and the other talented writers.

A stellar cast

You have some great scenes with Jake McDorman and Betty Gilpin. What were some of your favorite moments working with them?

Oh my gosh, we laughed so hard. Betty is like Meryl Streep cross-bred with Daffy Duck. There were moments where I would be in her face very seriously, berating her in character, and the look on her face is that look that Daffy gets when he breaks the fourth wall and looks to [the] camera when he realizes that Bugs is f***ing with him. It was the greatest f***ing thing ever.

Spider-Man has his web shooters, Batman has the Batarang, JQ has the constipator, right? Because it blocks s*** up. The constipator, much to the chagrin of our props department, didn't necessarily want to work, and it would sometimes fire when you weren't depressing the constipator button.

Betty lost her mind anytime that thing would go off. It was the funniest thing she'd ever seen. She was such a great scene partner. And Jake and I oftentimes were pretty much naked together, so there were some funny moments of us in the middle of the desert in 110-degree heat, dripping in sweat, me in a G-string and him in his skivvies looking at each other going, "Yeah, how long have you wanted to be an actor?"

Is there a mythology, sci-fi, or religious plot that you'd love to see the show tackle in the future?

Both [the] Old and New Testament Bible [have] some phenomenal opportunity for cinematic storytelling. But then you look at some of the literary greats like Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, and there is some of that windmill imagery in "Mrs. Davis." I love that notion of one's brain drying up from so much reading of "Legends of Valor" that one believes that they are on a crusade and that they are a knight. Gosh, I was a huge medieval history buff when I was a kid, and I loved the whole Robin Hood legend, and I used to read all the original books [by] Howard Pyle. A Robin Hood vein in that same medieval sphere could be quite interesting.

I want to see Merlin and Arthur up in here.

Ooh, yes.

Taking on The Office's most-hated character

You played Brian, the [boom mic guy], in the last season of "The Office."

I know; I apologize. I've already apologized for this, Xandra.

[Laughs] I loved Brian, honestly.

You're the only one.

What were some of your favorite moments from that experience working with John Krasinski and Jenna Fisher?

They are pros to the nth degree, and I'm such a fan of what John and Jenna did both on the show and how their careers have exploded — rightfully so — off the show. I showed up on that set very penitent and deferential with the notion that I am here to help if I could, and I know this is a very tricky situation because it's got to be wrapped up very delicately. I ascribed to the adage that we were given two ears and one mouth and used them proportionately. I sat back, and I listened. They were very sensitive with regard to what we did with my character and his introduction into the lives of Jim and Pam.

I knew that any instance where the character pushed into the territory where the audience might perceive that there's a threat there would leave me, the actor, probably being reviled, but that's my job. I have to do what I'm hired to do. As a fan of the show, it broke my heart to see their marriage in trouble, but as a professional actor, I was ready to give Jim a run for his money. Listen, maybe Pam really liked Brian — sorry, Jim, but you got to deal with it.

I thought Brian was a great way to bring the mockumentary angle full circle while giving Pam and Jim a realistic hurdle to work through, because we hadn't seen them go through anything tough like that throughout their entire run.


What would you say to "The Office" fans who threw shade at Brian for getting between Jim and Pam with such a meta storyline?

First of all, I would say, "Wake up and smell the reality, folks." A garden needs tending, and you've got to make sure, like in every relationship, you got to put the extra work in. Sometimes things go by the wayside, and yeah, that's reality. The other thing I would say to them is, "Hey, people watching screens — I'm an actor. I didn't try to break up Jim and Pam. I didn't do this. I was hired." The last thing I would say is, "You can see in Pam's eyes that she's a little more into Brian. I'm sorry. She doesn't go there, but she wanted to. So you know what, guys? Sorry, but f*** you."

I think Brian helped make them stronger in the end.

That's true. By the way, Brian's doing great. Brian's living in the Turks and Caicos. He's a fly fisherman. He's really good.

Getting villainous on Red Notice

You also worked with Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryan Reynolds on "Red Notice." What were some of the highlights of working with such an all-star cast?

[Jokingly] I feel like they were all lucky to have such a well-known actor like me give them some notoriety. It was the second job I'd done with DJ. We did a movie called "Empire Stick" together a few years before, and it was interesting for me to see that in the wake of his meteoric rise, [the] same humble, f***ing sweet, lovely, gregarious, open pro was on set. I truly was blown away by what a good man that guy is to the crew on set, with his director, with his fellow actors, conscientious, gentle ... [He's] f***ing pro; a movie star.

That goes for all of them. Ryan is so unbelievably funny, whip-smart, and [a] very generous actor. Gal, to her credit — I'm sure people that work with her know this — but she's incredibly intelligent, incredibly funny, and such a team player, a terrific collaborator. That was a dream job for me because Rawson Marshall Thurber is such a gifted writer [and] such a great director. There's something great about being able to show up and play the mustache-twisting villain. Some things are meant to be enjoyed with popcorn, and that was a great opportunity for me to jump in and have fun.

Ryan is known as a bit of a troll. Did he do anything chaotic on that set?

Look, everything that he did was in terms of what his sense of humor is. He certainly had people on the floor laughing. I don't know that there was a single take that we did [where] he utilized the same punchlines or the same jokes. He was so fast. I referenced the late, great — God rest his soul — Robin Williams, but that's how fast Ryan was —unbelievably funny. Watching him and DJ try to get through a tape, or even Gal, was a movie in and of itself to watch how much they were laughing at each other. It was terrific.

A not-so-sticky situation

You're working now on "The Sticky" with Jamie Lee Curtis as a producer. Have you gotten the chance to work with her at all?

Not only as a producer, but she's also going to be in the show for a few episodes. How cool is that? Not only that, but our characters have a major plot line, and I can't f***ing wait. It's remarkable. [It's] not only Jamie Lee Curtis, but the great Margot Martindale, who is also in "Mrs. Davis" and who is also brilliant in that. This show [is] a whole new genre. It's a half-hour format, but it's not a half-hour comedy. It's like "Fargo" in half-hour TV form. It's this f***ing bent, thriller, violent, funny heist. It's terrific. I'm really excited for people to see this.

What was it like working with Jamie?

First of all, she's all over everything. She's unbelievably involved in scripts, script notes, [and] revisions — everything from character looks and what we're wearing to locales and all that stuff. As far as producers go, she's got her hands involved. She's been delightful. Somebody that's got the breadth of wisdom, talent, and experience that she has ... For me, it's like a playground because I get to sit back, listen, and learn.

The secret to stunt work

Your show "Inside Job" has a similar conspiracy-like angle to "Mrs. Davis." What draws you to these kinds of wild roles, and do you have a personal favorite conspiracy theory?

It all begins and ends with the writing. I'm the kind of actor that [likes] to play against type, so any time there's a chance for me to shape-shift or morph into someone different, I'm in. It just so happens that those opportunities tend to be more innovative [in] a sci-fi format because it allows for that kind of larger-than-life performance.

In terms of conspiracy theories, I'd love to believe that there's something happening. The Bermuda Triangle — wouldn't that be great? I'd love to believe that there are minds and powers greater than me, some sort of magnetic pull. Boy oh boy, wouldn't that be cool if there was actually something to it, rather than some pretty bad storms?

What draws you to action-oriented roles, and what has your stunt work been [like]?

I love doing stunts, and I want to say that 99% of the stunts that I've had to perform have been me. Much to my wife's chagrin, I'm not 20 years old anymore, but I think I am, so I throw myself headfirst into these things. I've been doing some stunt work this past week, and I had to run up on something, jump over something, then slip and fall. It's fine doing it once, twice, three times, but when you have to do it all day for every single different camera angle, that's when you start getting the, "This is going to be arthritis five years from now, for sure."

I have a lot of energy, and I started out working on Broadway. I did that for 15 years straight. Any chance I get to do something in that vein where I get to use my physicality, use my strength, my agility — I'm all for it.

Transitioning between voice and on-screen work

You've done a ton of voice-acting work. Do you approach your on-screen and voice roles the same way?

I've been lucky. I do tackle characters the same way, whether they're on screen or voice. If I can't find the voice, I can't figure out how they stand, so finding the voice is key for me.

In the instance of "Mrs. Davis," I'd never tried Australian before because it's such an odd accent. I'd never really attempted it. My friend and contractor is a fellow named David Sweetman, and he's an Australian, he's an actor, he's a standup, and he was more than willing to help guide me because they wanted the character to have that Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, epic Australian sound. It was challenging to find the nuance in the diphthong and where it resonated in the mouth and in the chest and the face. It was great fun to try something I hadn't tried before.

The first four episodes of "Mrs. Davis" premiere on Peacock on April 20.

This interview has been edited for clarity.