Best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the woman-chasing, Segway-riding magician G.O.B. in Arrested Development, Will Arnett will next be seen opposite wife Amy Poehler in the figure skating comedy Blades of Glory, out March 30, kicking off a slew of big-screen gut-busters. We could’ve discussed the criminally canceled cult series, but wouldn’t you rather hear about his “drop the soap” moral and cute Clooney crush? Come on!
The Advocate: Did you know you had a big gay following?
Will Arnett: I didn’t know I had any gay following. I mean, I knew that I had a couple gays following me, but I didn’t know I had an actual gay following. I feel honored. If I do have a gay following, they have great taste.
Do you fancy yourself a handsome man?
In the scope of things, no. All you have to do is spend 10 minutes out in Los Angeles and you don’t feel very handsome anymore. There are lots of very handsome young actors who make you feel old.
You’ve got about a dozen films listed online as either in development or in production. Are you some sort of cyborg?
I’m planning a full-fledged attack on the movie business and trying to make every movie as bad as possible by inserting myself into it. No, I figure, you know, make hay while the sun shines, as it were. But yes, I am a cyborg, but that’s totally unrelated.
Which upcoming project will gay fans enjoy the most?
Actually, I’m playing a gay character on 30 Rock that I just shot. I’m a West Coast executive who’s vying for Alec Baldwin’s character’s job. When it’s revealed that I’m gay, he uses Kenneth the page to seduce me to distract me from taking his job. I do get blinded by him for a while, but I’m able to overcome it. I get to make the statement “I’m gay and I want your job!” I think that’s the only man-lovin’ I do, although — well, we play brothers, so it’s not exactly the same — there’s a lot of intimacy between Will Forte and I in The Brothers Solomon, which comes out in August.
In Blades of Glory was it hard to maintain your masculinity in those skating outfits?
Some were more difficult than others. There’s a scene where I’m wearing pink, faux snakeskin-y leather pants, and I don’t think I’ve ever worn anything so tight. But my favorite skating outfit had to be the JFK suit, which was essentially a one-piece leotard that looked like a suit with a tutu thing over that. It was absolutely absurd and very revealing — I constantly had to be on “revealing” alert. We were shooting outside in Montreal; it was about 20 below, and I’m chasing Will Ferrell in this ridiculously thin, stretchy outfit on the top of a hill with the Canadian wind whipping through it, and I just thought, Oh, my God, this is the worst.
In real life are you more Nancy Kerrigan or Tonya Harding?
I honestly don’t know which one I’d rather be. The plus is that neither of them is in the news anymore — that’s a big plus to the world. I’m probably more Tonya because I’m kinda shitty.
In Let’s Go to Prison your character, Nelson, has an odd romance with one of the other inmates. Did you see Nelson as gay?
It’s interesting because he does end up in this really nice relationship with Barry, the character played by Chi McBride. In the beginning he’s such a spoiled brat, and maybe at the heart of that was because he hadn’t come to terms with the fact that he’s gay. It’s sort of part of the justification I used. I’ve never shared that before, Brandon. What a momentous occasion! Look, you make a prison movie and there’s always going to be the prerequisite rape jokes, but I liked that Nelson and Barry end up together. I hope that the audience enjoyed that aspect of it.
So is the moral there that sometimes it’s OK to drop the soap?
Yeah. Sometimes when you drop the soap, you might pick up who you are. That’s going on my gravestone!
Do guys hit on you in real life?
Maybe I’m oblivious to it. I used to live in Chelsea for years on 21st Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues, and at one point I was the only straight guy in my building. I had a friend come over once and while she was looking confused at the buzzers, this other guy who lived in the building walked by and asked, “Are you looking for the straight guy?” and then pointed to my apartment. But I was psyched to be the only straight guy in my building. There were a few times walking my dog when guys would try to strike up conversations with me, like, “So, what’s goin’ on?” And I’d be like, “Uh, just walking my dog?”
Do you have any man-crushes?
A bro-crush? George Clooney. He’s just the ultimate cool. How can you say a bad word about the guy? He’s handsome as you want to be, he’s got that perfect salt-and-pepper hair, he looks like he was born in a tuxedo — did you see him at the Oscars? I mean, c’mon, that’s just not fair. He’s got it going on.
By the way, I’m not asking you any Arrested Development questions because I’d rather dish about your guest-starring roles on Will & Grace and Sex and the City.
That’s fantastic! As long as you don’t ask me what it’s like to play a magician, we’re good. Will & Grace was so fun. I’d kind of known Sean [Hayes] before, and he’s since become a really good friend of ours. We had so much fun playing around on that show.
You played one of Janet Jackson’s backup dancers. Were you tight with Miss Jackson?
I couldn’t have been less on her radar — or gaydar for that matter. I honestly don’t even know if she knew I was alive, but she was very nice. When we were shooting that episode, [Jason] Bateman came by just to annoy me, and it turned out funnily enough that Bateman knew Janet Jackson. Totally random. I think they worked together years ago — maybe on Good Times when she played Penny.
If conflicts could really be solved by a dance-off, which moves would you pull out?
I’m going to be honest — I have a pretty set standard of moves that are fairly deadly. It involves some kind of awkward hand-flailing and backing-up move with pursed lips, then goes into a spin and ends in a split. Look, I’m not really supposed to break it out just because of federal guidelines on weapons in the workplace, but I’m proud that I’m 36 and can still do the splits. That’s something.
Do you mind being known from Sex and the City as “that guy who has sex in public?”
First of all, it’s fantastic for my rep. Plain and simple, that just makes me look old-fashioned cool. When Michael Patrick King brought me in and offered me the part, I was really excited to play a part where there were really no rules. I just got to be this randomly sexual guy who wanted to get it on in dangerous places. Maybe the most chilling part of the episode is when [Miranda and I are] having sex in my house, and it’s upon seeing my parents walk in the room that I’m able to orgasm. I remember my mom saying, “Oh, I saw your Sex and the City’s going to be on the air!” And I said, “Yeah, don’t watch it.” I don’t need my mom seeing an episode where I orgasm upon seeing my parents.
Did you have much interaction with Jennifer Lopez while working on Monster-in-Law?
I did have interaction with J. Lo. A lot of people are fooled by the rocks that she’s got, but she’s just Jenny from the block. She was a sweetheart. She was awful to everybody else, but to me she was a sweetheart. [Laughs] Please don’t put that down — I’m just joking!
You did a high-profile voice-over commercial for GMC in which you recited the slogan “It’s not more than you need. It’s just more than you’re used to.” Ever use that as a pickup line?
I’m contractually not allowed to because GMC knew immediately that I’d try. It’s potentially the best pickup line of all time, right? If you pointed to your downstairs area and said that?
I don’t know how you did it with a straight face.
I didn’t! Luckily you couldn’t see my face.