The actor and comedian returns to TV for the first time in over 20 years with Showtime’s new dramedy, Kidding, and while his decision to go back to acting was a challenge, jumping into his new character was not.
“Projects find you when you're ready to express them. That's what I find. The ones that you're drawn to are the ones that for some reason you've just experienced something very similar, or something in your past is lit up by the script when you read it,” Carrey recently told ET’s Nischelle Turner at Showtime’s Summer Television Critics Association press day. “You go, ‘I understand this person completely.’”
The 56-year-old stars as Jeff Pickles in the series, a beloved children’s television icon created in the vein of Mr. Rogers. The character served as a beacon of hope and happiness for generations of Americans, but when his personal life starts to implode around him, he struggles to keep his career -- and self -- from spiraling out of control.
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Unlike his character, Carrey got his big break in sketch comedy, starring on the Fox series In Living Color in 1990. He left the show in 1994 as his movie career took off with the release of massive hits Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber.
Personally, however, Carrey appears to share more in common with Jeff Pickles. He’s been open about his past with depression, and recently experienced private turmoil with the 2015 death of his ex-girlfriend, Caitriona White, and subsequent wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by her family. Carrey has maintained his innocence, and the lawsuit was dismissed in January.
The actor took a two-year break from the spotlight, telling The Hollywood Reporterlast month that he “just didn’t want to be in the business anymore.”
"I didn't like what was happening, the corporations taking over and all that,” he explained. “And maybe it's because I felt pulled toward a different type of creative outlet and I really liked the control of painting -- of not having a committee in the way telling me what the idea must be to appeal to a four-quadrant whatever."
With Kidding, however, Carrey pretty much got to be himself. The show’s pilot reunited the comedian with Michel Gondry, who directed him in the 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. “There’s not a lot of acting that has to go on here. It’s right there,” he told ET. “This is kind of me, in a weird way.”
Rounding out the cast is Judy Greer as Jeff’s estranged wife, Jill, Catherine Keener as his sister, Deirdre, and Frank Langella as his father, Sebastian. “This cast is tremendous, incredible. Everybody in this cast is an accomplished, amazing artist. I feel super lucky,” Carrey raved. “The first day I met Frank Langella, I looked into his eyes and I went blank. And I haven't been that way ever since.”
“He put a curse on Jim,” Greer hilariously told ET. “It's so unfair to watch Frank Langella, because he just says a word and it's like, a hundred percent true.”
Carrey, who deadpanned that “Leo DiCaprio in Romeo and Juliet” was his inspiration for the role, really couldn’t be more convincing in the series, which aims to defy convention.
“It's so odd. I was going to say there's a family involved, but it's not necessarily about a family,” Keener explained.
“And there's a tragedy, but it's not about a tragedy,” Greer added.
“It's this beautiful family drama. It's about a TV show, it's about a connection with people and the world. It's about the importance of resource and childishness and innocence and, all of those things working at the same time,” Carrey continued. “It's about what happens on the lightning storm when you get hit you know when the family gets hit by lightning. And the lighting is meant to be. There's something about it that's meant to be that is the craziest, hairiest blessing that could ever happen.”
“It's about a nervous breakthrough,” he said.
Kidding premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime.