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Interview: Seth Rogen did not prep to play a dad in 'Neighbors'

Seth Rogen discusses his new comedy "Neighbors," how he only generally fears aging, how he's never been in a frat house and how he doesn't prep for roles.

Seth Rogen plays a young father combating a frat in "Neighbors." Credit: Getty Images Seth Rogen plays a young father combating a frat in "Neighbors."
Credit: Getty Images

Seth Rogen isn’t old; he’s only 32. But he has more responsibilities than many his age, even if the work he puts out — including last summer's “This Is the End,” which he also co-directed with his longtime friend Evan Goldberg — is generally about youngish men struggling with responsibilities and maturity.

In “Neighbors” he plays Mac, who’s not only married (to Rose Byrne), but also a new father. Their boring life is upended when a frat house, led by Zac Efron, moves in next door.

The writers talk about how this was borne out of anxiety about aging. Is that something you share?

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I had no specific fears about turning 30. It was more the general compiling of responsibilities, coupled with the lack of time to do the stuff that you used to do more of. And the physical repercussions of trying to do the stuff that you used to do more of. [Laughs]

The hangovers suddenly get brutal when you turn 30.

They’re much worse. It takes me weeks to recover now.

The frat boys aren’t completely demonized here. They’re sympathetic at times.

I think in earlier versions of the script the frat was much more villainized. But Zac is just such a good dude, and Chris [Mintz-Plasse] and Dave [Franco] and Jerrod [Carmichael] are all such nice, sweet guys that it inherently made them not that bad. It made them more sympathetic, in a great way.

These films seem to have such a democratic way of being put together. Everyone chips in.

Definitely. The audience is probably the most important element. That’s the loudest voice in the process, in some ways. We test the movies a lot, we see what gets laughs, what doesn’t, and we really listen not to the words they’re saying but the feeling that you have when you’re watching the movie with the audience. We really will change the movie heavily when we do that.

Has that happened a lot?

Yeah. We don’t change the story that much, but the specific things that people are saying, we do change. If they don’t laugh we’ll try different jokes. And that’s one of the good things about improv, is you get a lot of options. So if one joke sucks you have other options you can use.

Seth Rogen tries his hand at re-embracing youth in "Neighbors." Credit: Glen Wilson Seth Rogen tries his hand at re-embracing youth in "Neighbors."
Credit: Glen Wilson

How did you prep to play a dad?

Uh, I did not prep for this role. [Laughs] I do not do preparation for my roles as an actor. [Laughs] I just do it. I couldn’t even tell you what Mac does for a living, honestly. I don’t know what we’re doing in that place. Just working in an office. It just seemed like a place people … work. [Laughs]

You did a straight-up drama in Sarah Polley’s “Take This Waltz.” Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future?

I guess depending on who is doing it. I wasn’t sitting around thinking, “I want to do a dramatic movie.” But when Sarah Polley asked me to be in her movie, that was very exciting. If it was a comedic one I would have done it; if it was a dramatic one I would have done it. I just wanted to work with her. I’m not trying to do specifically dramatic work.

Has becoming a director changed your approach to acting?

To some degree. I see the value of getting a lot of options and variation. We did that anyway, but when you’re in the editing room you see the value of having a lot of different things to chose from.

As an actor, you don’t always fully grasp that someone has to put this together at some point.

A lot of actors don’t.

Do you have any experience with frats?

Not really, no. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a real frat house. I didn’t go to college, and in Canada they’re not that big. I wrote an episode about frats when we did the show “Undeclared,” and that was probably the most experience I ever had, up until this movie. After seeing the movie, though, it seems like it’s not that bad. It seems fun.

One extra story:

One of the big scenes was shot outside of the Abercrombie & Fitch on the Universal City Block in Los Angeles. We won’t spoil it, except to say that there’s a scene outside of an Abercrombie & Fitch. “It was open. People were really shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch,” Rogen recalls. “But it was 8 in the morning. So only really weird people were shopping at Ambercrombie. Who goes there at 8 a.m.? It’s a weird time to think, ‘I need cargo shorts.’”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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