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Jim Piddock ~ Family Tree

Jim Piddock as Mr. Pfister

Jim Piddock as Mr. Pfister

Jim Piddock is executive producer, writer and star of HBO’s hit comedy series “Family Tree.” The first season is available on DVD and digital starting October 29. To celebrate, Jim agreed to a written interview with Amused Now about his stage work, films and television series projects. We’re thrilled to share that interview with you.

Cynthia : You created the show with Christopher Guest. When did the two of you decide to work together and create the show? What was your inspiration for the series?

Jim: We had lunch a couple of years ago and, because Christopher was doing some delving into his own family tree at the time, we talked about the idea of writing something about a young, rootless, somewhat impressionable man trying to find his bearings through investigating his genealogy. The inspiration was simply that we could see the comic possibilities of the subject matter and that it also contained the more universal and serious themes of questioning who we are, where we fit in the world, and what our place in the chain of history is. All fundamental questions that every human being thinks about at some point or other.

Cynthia: You began your career as a stage actor. Tell us about that experience.

Jim: I started in regional theatre in England, then did a 1-man show in the U.S. that got some attention and awards. Soon after that, George C. Scott cast me in a production of “Present Laughter” that he was directing and starring in, and I went on from there to do several other Broadway shows, including the first US production of “Noises Off.”

Jim Piddock - Family Tree

Filming “Family Tree”

Cynthia: You continue to act on Broadway and in LA. What is it about a live audience that keeps calling you?

Jim: Actually, I’ve only returned to the stage twice in the last 5 years and for very, very short runs. Both were projects originated and directed by my friend Eric Idle. One was a 40th year anniversary tribute to Monty Python, called “An Evening Without Monty Python,” which we did for a couple of weeks in L.A. and a week on Broadway. The other was “What About Dick?,” a staged reading, with the amazing cast of Eric, Billy Connolly, Eddie Izzard, Jane Leeves, Tracey Ullmann, Tim Curry, Emily Mortimer, and little old me. We then did it again a couple of years later, and filmed it for DVD and internet release (which you can buy right now), with the addition of Russell Brand and Sophie Winkleman, who took over from Emily who was unavailable the second time round.

Cynthia: Stage acting sounds so serious. Why did you transition into films and comedy? Who can we credit with influencing you?

Jim: I always wanted to work more on the big and small screen. And I always had a flair for comedy, even on stage, so I tend to do more of that. Although, I also do a fair amount of drama. Especially when it comes to my writing. In terms of comic influences, I’d say Peter Cook and Dudley Moore would be big. And Monty Python.

Cynthia: You’re a multi-talented screenwriter, producer and actor. What aspect of filmmaking would you say is your true passion?

Jim: Multi-talented sounds so grandiose. Perhaps multi-faceted is more appropriate. I honestly love doing them all. When I’m in the midst of writing, I’m very happy. And when I’m acting in something I really like and doing a part that’s challenging, I’m very happy. But I always tell people that if someone held a gun to my head and told me I had to choose one, I’d probably say acting — as long as I’d be working a lot and getting well paid was part of the deal — because to be honest it’s much easier.

Jim Piddock - Family Tree

Cast of “Family Tree”

Cynthia: You have an impressive list of credits. Given all of your accomplishments, tell us about your most memorable filmmaking experience.

Jim: My favorite two films to watch, that I’m in, are “Best In Show” and “See This Movie.” The best experience of actually making something was doing “Family Tree,” because it utilized all my various skills at once and Christopher and I were effortlessly in sync throughout the whole creative process. Having said that, I also had a lot of fun making all of Chris’s movies too, because it’s an actor’s dream to improvise with so many great, fun, talented people. And I also really enjoyed making “The Five Year Engagement,” because Jason Segel and Emily Blunt and the rest of the cast were so enjoyable to be around, as was the director Nick Stoller and producer Judd Apatow. I just wish us “golden oldies” playing the parents — Jacki Weaver, David Paymer, Mimi Kennedy, and myself — hadn’t ended up on the cutting room floor so much. But I’m fully prepared to forgive Nick and Judd, with no strings attached, if they cast me in another film!

Cynthia: So, what’s up next on the horizon for Jim Piddock?

Jim: I shot “Think Like A Man Too” in Las Vegas this Summer, playing Kevin Hart’s butler. That comes out early next Summer. I’m also hosting some shows for the Travel Channel. I’ve written a 6 hour mini-series based on Tom Franklin’s incredible novel “Hell At The Breech,” and I’ve just completed shooting a pilot called “The Royals” in England, which is E! Channels first foray into the world of scripted drama. Quite a productive few months. And we’re still trying to figure out if we’re doing a second season of “Family Tree.” The will is there, we’re just trying to find the way.

Cynthia: We started the Amused Now blog as a place for artists to help artists by sharing information and supporting each other. We’re also building a platform where independent artists can post their music, films and e-books for sale and profit from their creativity. Since Amused Now is about artists helping artists, what advice do you have for filmmakers who are just starting out?

Jim: Keep at it. Keep moving. Develop a thick skin. And avoid non-digestible carbohydrates.

Cynthia: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We appreciate your time and your spirit of sharing. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Jim: Yes. I had a very good bowel movement this morning.

Jim Piddock - Family Tree

Chris O’Dowd star of “Family Tree”

Well Jim, I’m glad everything came out all right! I look forward to purchasing season 1 of the “Family Tree” on DVD next week. Cheers!

Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Jim Piddock
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Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now
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Click on the image and get your very own copy of Family Tree on Amazon.com