Ed Helms would have you believe he’s nothing like the sweetly innocent nerds he’s played in The Hangover, The Office, and most recently, in Miguel Arteta’s Cedar Rapids. But as he gets settled into a hotel room on New York’s Fifth Avenue, jumping up to open all the shades and let sunlight in, it’s obvious he’s every bit the lovable geek he plays on big and small screens.
“I had a heart condition as a teenager and my doctor was like, ‘If you ever do cocaine, you could die,’ so that instantly sealed my fate as a nerd,” says Helms.
He’s referencing a scene in Cedar Rapids where as buttoned-up insurance agent Tim Lippe, he finds himself at a backwoods meth party. Tim’s an earnest, sheltered man whose trip to an insurance convention in the titular location is nothing short of an emotional and intellectual awakening. It’s that unworldly naivety that draws Helms to these sorts of characters.
“I am a genuinely naïve person,” Helms says sarcastically. “No, I don’t think I mean as well as Tim Lippe, although I wish I did more often. But I envy that idealism and optimism. Tim has such faith in people and most of us who have been around for a while have lost a bit of that.”
But is the real Ed Helms anything like say, his character Andy “Nard-dog” Bernard from The Office? The two share a love of a capella, after all.
“Oh you’re trying to get at me, like who am I compared to these guys?” he asks. “Well I think like a lot of people, I try to do the right thing most of the time but I mess up a hell of a lot and maybe sometimes I don’t try hard enough.”
Taking over for Michael Scott?
One person who is trying hard is the Nard-dog, whom Helms says would be eager to take over Michael Scott’s role at Dunder-Mifflin once Steve Carrell leaves The Office at the end of this season.
“I know Andy is desperate to replace Michael Scott, but what I want is for Andy to be in the most frustrating predicament possible because that’s usually where he’s the funniest,” he says.
“I know that Andy wants the job, but so do a lot of people in that office. I’m not really worried about how things are going to shake out because I think it will be fun for everybody.”