"I want people to think of me and I'm always there. I'm still present because of the things that I've done and how I've affected their life." - Greg Grunberg, actor Star Wars, Alias, Heroes, Lost, A Star is Born
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ABOUT GREG GRUNBERG:
Greg Grunberg works really hard to never slow down. From appearing in TV shows like Alias and Lost to movies including Star Wars and A Star is Born, Greg joins the podcast to talk about his career, his love of coffee, and more. Plus hear about his amazing charity work with Talk About It to help those suffering from Epilepsy, and also his graphic novel Dream Jumper, and his brand new stay-at-home series The Insiders.
Jeff: Greg, thank you so much for joining me today. I want to just start off by talking in the now, how are you doing? We're in the strangest, weirdest time ever, are you okay?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, yeah. We are okay, knock wood. We're hunkered down, and so let's talk glass half full because that's the kind of guy that I am. It is absolutely the worst time. Obviously, this is just so, so scary. All the stuff you see on the news, you hear about these numbers and you get desensitized to the fact that these are people and people that love them. People are sick and they're terrified and people are dying alone and all of that. I will get to the class half full part, it's so scary.
Greg Grunberg: I think maybe that's why my brain as being an optimist and a positive person goes, "All right, what's the spin?" In my head I'm like, "I can't let that consume me, I won't be able to sleep." Elizabeth and I have three boys and they are athletes, and one of them is playing college ball and the other one is working in film production, and the other is in high school, hoping to get a scholarship. We're on this treadmill where everybody's just going, going, going. And now suddenly, we have these adult boys basically back home with us, and it's treasured time, I've got to say.
Greg Grunberg: We never thought we'd get this back, and now it's like having my pals hunkered down in quarantine with me. Obviously, family is the most important thing in the world. We really, the other day, and we constantly do this, we're like, wow, we never thought this was going to happen again except on maybe a vacation here or there or a little … My son is, even summer ball, he is away. He plays ball at LMU, and it's like as soon as the school ... he'll have a week at home and then he's off to Colorado or somewhere playing ball.
Greg Grunberg: So, it's really been great. Had to make a few adjustments for stuff here, but having them home also, it just kicks my ass. I got to work out, I got to do ... They won't let me sit still. I just want to be in the prone position as much as possible, but I'm in awe of all of the people that are stepping up, that are the definition of the troops in the frontline and the first ... There's so many people that make up that group now.
Greg Grunberg: From an Instacart delivery person to obviously the doctors and the nurses and everyone, the clinicians. But it's just incredible how people are saying … and we have to do it. What are we supposed to do? It's a very long winded answer, but we're doing well, and I've also found a way to do some production while I'm at home. We'll talk about that. But I've been keeping busy.
Jeff: That's good. That's good. Because I know all of Hollywood's on pause, the entire world is on pause and we're all going to come out of this the other side. Hopefully we're all going to come out a little bit better and a little bit wiser. I can't wait for that, but it's great to hear that you're doing so well.
Greg Grunberg: And also, by the way, I know you're a professional chef for many, many years, you were. I have really been experimenting in cooking and baking. I discovered mamey sapote, this fruit, I'm like, "What?" Melissa's Produce is this great company, they supply … Anyway, they're friends of mine and she's been sending … she's like, "I want you to discover this." I had a yellow dragonfruit for the first time.
Greg Grunberg: I'm discovering produce and things and then making different recipes, and again, it's like these are the things that you ... even in retirement, which you and I will never retire, you and I are going to be doing what we're doing forever. But now's the time to go, "Okay, I've always wanted to try this, I wanted to get better at that." So, I've been doing a little of that here and there.
Jeff: It's the same with me. When I was a cook, I would hate to come home and have to cook, because it's bringing your work home. But even working for Death Wish, there are days that I put long hours in at the office and then I come home and my wife and I are like, "Order pizza or whatever." I don't feel like doing it. Because I either didn't feel like I had the time or I just wasn't up for it.
Jeff: But because of the same thing, because I'm stuck inside, because it's like I feel like I have more time even though I don't, I've been cooking up a storm. So has she. We've been baking and cooking. I've been eating better than I've ate in years because we're just cooking up everything. It's awesome.
Greg Grunberg: But it's not just like in quantity, it's also in quality. Literally I'm like, "Okay, I'll make a cup of coffee." No, no, no, no, no, now I'm taking Death Wish and doing the French press and really trying to get the flavor out. There's so many things that you can do, and I'm discovering that. And then, by the way, thanks Death Wish. Don't get rid of your coffee grinds, take them out to the garden and you can ... I'm like, "You know what, shut up.
Greg Grunberg: "I'm done. I just want a cup of coffee." But it's like that with everything. I've been ordering meat from ... trying to support local businesses, so I more ordered steaks from a company in Pennsylvania from a farm, and then they come and then you just want to take the extra time to, because you have the time, to make it special.
Greg Grunberg: That was another thing, Death Wish. The coffee, put it on the outside of the meat. I was like, "All these recipes, all this stuff's available." Anyway, it's enough of a Death Wish plug, but it's that thing where it's like, my drums ... I play the drums. I'm writing. I'm just trying to ... I didn't realize how many loose ends I have, interest wise and project wise. I'm now able to finish them off and expand on more.
Jeff: I'm so with you. By the way, I won't stop you ever from praising us here and our amazing recipes. That meat rub recipe, that was mine actually. The Death Wish [crosstalk 00:06:21]. I'm pretty proud of that one.
Greg Grunberg: Okay, we got to talk about that one because I've got a skirt steak that I think that might be great for, so I need tips on that, if you could give me tips on that. No, dude, I've been a death wish fan for a long time.
Greg Grunberg: Death Wish [inaudible 00:06:38]. I just discovered you guys years ago and then Phil X, my buddy, is a huge fan. Phil X, let me just talk about this guy for a second.
Jeff: Please do, please do.
Greg Grunberg: Everybody knows him, but if you don't know who we're talking about, Phil is probably ... sorry, John Mayer, may be the best guitar player on the planet right now. Everybody in the music industry knows it. If you don't even realize it, you're listening to Phil X a lot. He's the guitar player for Bon Jovi and many others. So, he's session guy and he's got Phil X & The Drills, his band. He is one of the sweetest, kindest people. I met him through friends, and I do this epilepsy charity thing every year.
Greg Grunberg: Our oldest son, Jake, has epilepsy and seizures. He's doing well, thank God, but a lot of people aren't, and so I do this thing, this telephone to raise awareness and money. I'm always reaching out to people going, "Hey, will you play? Can you come and do a TSA or this and that?" Phil is like, "Oh yeah, no, you got the Drills. You got Phil X & the Drills or I'll bring buddies or whatever." And he's put together an all-star band one year, he got Phil & the Drills another year.
Greg Grunberg: It's just been such a great relationship with this guy and his family, Lindy, his wife. Everybody that I know that knows Phil, it's one of those things, man, where it's this ... Somebody mentions Phil's name and I'd go, "Okay." Immediately, I know that's a good person. He's just a great guy. He's so freaking ... am I allowed to swear on this?
Greg Grunberg: Oh, good. Good. That's right. Yeah. He's so fucking generous and so fucking talented, it's crazy. Anyway, a little shout out to Phil because he's just the best.
Jeff: We love Phil so much. Phil's always rocking our t-shirts on stage, and I always tell people, if you want to know more about Phil, he's not only was on this very podcast, but one of my favorite documentaries in the world is Hired Guns, and he's a part of that. It just proves just how versatile and amazing he is as a musician, and he's just such a stand up dude, like you said.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah. And also, if you fall down the rabbit hole of YouTube videos, musicians YouTube videos, if you look up Phil X too, there's some ... he loves Sabbath, he loves playing some of the classic covers. Oh my God, like crazy. He is insane, and singer. He's just amazing. Anyway, enough about Phil. I'm going to send him an invoice. That was ridiculous.
Jeff: If you guys are just joining us, welcome to the Phil X Love Podcast, where we just profess our love to Phil X. No, I love it, I love it. Thank you for joining me. Let's talk about you for a little bit here.
Greg Grunberg: Please.
Jeff: I definitely want to jump into your career, but I sometimes like starting at the beginning. Because you are known for not only a lot of different roles on TV and movie, but you're known as a hard working motherfucker in Hollywood. You're always out there, you've got your hands in a thousand different pots because you're doing every different thing, and I want to talk about a lot of that. But I always wonder where that stems from. When you were a kid, did you have a watershed moment where you were like, "I want to pursue acting." Did you act in school or did it happen later in life?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, acting, absolutely when I was a kid, I just loved reacting and I loved the reaction that I would get from people. Everybody talks about how you were the class clown and you ... but it was really true. I was just always that guy. I loved having many different groups of friends. You want to go really, really go back, people have their clique and they stayed with the jocks, or they stayed with this or that. That wasn't me. I was friendly with so many different types of people.
Greg Grunberg: I could cite five examples off the top of my head where I'd be with somebody and then another kid would be like, "Hey, Greggy, what's up?" And he'd be like, "How do you know that guy?" And I'm like, "Oh, he's in my so and so class." People tended to stay to their own, not me. I love people. That goes way back, and that's from my parents, I think, just always being interested in people and friends.
Greg Grunberg: Anyway, through that, you learn how to adapt and not entertain, but be social with a bunch of different groups. That, along with just a real interest of clowning around and having fun, I was always in the drama program in elementary school and I was always acting. Back then when I was a kid, it wasn't like there were a lot of private stuff outside of school. So, if you didn't get it out in school, the arts in schools were so important, as they are now and underfunded.
Greg Grunberg: So, I was always in the school play and I was always doing that. And then my friends, when I was really young, they were also very creative. One of my oldest friends, my oldest friend in the world is J.J. Abrams, who everyone knows and he's brilliant. When we were nine, 10, 11, 12, we were making these stupid little movies and he was shooting them and writing ... not even writing them, I guess writing them, shooting them, cutting them, everything, and I was starring in them.
Greg Grunberg: Like fake commercials and spoof of this and that, and we would make prank phone calls. We were just always being creative in that way. His father was in the business, very successful producer, and so J.J. followed in his father's footsteps, but he was writing and I was acting. And then, I was like, "Well, you know what?" After college. I went to college for business, my dad was always a business person, so I've always got that business brain and that's why my hands are in so many different pots.
Greg Grunberg: But when I realized that the easiest product for me to sell would be myself, I was like, "Okay." And so, you just apply that. A lot of actors just sit around and wait for the phone to ring. I don't do that, I can't do that. I'm producing my own stuff. I'm making my own content. I'm writing. Here, I'll show you this, might as well [inaudible 00:12:47].
Jeff: There it is. The graphic novel, Dream Jumper, yeah.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, Dream Jumper. This one's signed. If you go to Amazon, you will not get a signed one. But anyway, I'm writing and I've got a band for charity and another band for Comicons, I'm just always selling and grabbing opportunities. I love just the fact that I can do stuff. I'm like, "Okay. Well, I have to try it." I don't have a lot of loose ends. If I get an idea, I'm going to try it, I'm going to take it. Just like everything else, 70 to 80% of the ideas don't work, but who cares? 20% do, and it's a blast to make that stuff happen.
Greg Grunberg: I've always been an actor, I've always done that. And then growing up in LA, when your friends start working and you start working and then you want to work with your friends, that's how my career really developed, because if you see, I've been in most of J.J.'s stuff, and then I left the nest and did Heroes, which was a big thing for me. But it's just like any other business, you work with people that you've known for a long time.
Jeff: Of course, of course. I definitely want us to talk about some of those, but I got to go backwards. Those original childhood commercials and prank calls, did they exist somewhere?
Greg Grunberg: No, they don't. And I mean, yes.
Jeff: Are you lying?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah. They do on little 16 millimeter, eight millimeter or whatever tapes and stuff. J.J.'s got them. He was on Jimmy Kimmel and he's like, "You don't do any projects without your best friend. You tend to want to put him in everything." J.J.'s like, "Yeah, Greg's good and I love him and we want to work together and whatever." And all of a sudden, I'm in the band. I'm playing [inaudible 00:14:30] in the band on [inaudible 00:14:31]. And he's like, "Oh, this is ridiculous."
Greg Grunberg: Before that though, he was talking about how he used to make ... J.J. made movies when you were a kid, and they showed this thing called The Attic, which was these kids, they're like 11, and they're playing at this one kid's house. One kid comes over and they're like, "What do you want to do?" "I don't know." He looks up and he goes, "What is that?" And he said, "I don't know, what is that?" And it's a latch, and they pull it down and he's like, "Is there an attic?" He goes, "I didn't know we had an attic."
Greg Grunberg: And they go up there and they unleash this monster. It's just really crazy. But I remember very vividly how creative J.J. was, and he was a one man band. And then, we met Matt Reeves, who was one of the greatest filmmakers too. Matt's on The Batman right now. Matt was a friend way back then when we were 14 years old. And then Mark Sanderson, a great writer. There was this group of people, and now we're all still close.
Greg Grunberg: Jesse Alexander, all these guys, Brian Burke, they're all still in our circle of friends and they're all really, really successful. For a guy like me, an actor who … I can generate as much as I can generate, but as an actor, you're waiting for people to hire you. You really want … and so, it's not a bad thing to have a lot of friends that are very prolific and are actually working.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. But it's great though to hear that you guys are friends at such an early age and you remained friends, not only just remaining friends, but remaining friends in the industry too, working together, it makes Hollywood seem like a family, which in the most perfect sense, it really becomes that. I think that's awesome.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, that's true. A lot of the times, you spend more time with your ... If you're on a show or a movie, with the crew and the cast and everything, than you do with your family. So, you better like or be able to adapt and be generous. The people that I've worked with, I've been so lucky over the years to work with some of the greats. Really, I look at my career now, and it sounds so like, "Oh, I worked with the greats." But dude, if I wouldn't have done-
Jeff: You did.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, I have. And every year, it's somebody else, it's like, wow. Last year was ... Bradley Cooper and I have known each other a long time, but I did A Star is Born and Star Wars. And then right before that, I did a movie called Paterno with Al Pacino and he's like, "What?" Harrison Ford and all these people, it's nuts.
Jeff: You played Pacino's son in that movie, right?
Greg Grunberg: I did. I played Scott Parteno. A real guy who has become a very good friend of mine. Joe Paterno, everybody looks at Joe Paterno and says, "Okay, one of the greatest, if not the greatest football coach ever." If you really look into what he did, he was also just the greatest mentor for … His graduation rate of guys that played for him and their GPAs and everything, just through the roof, just absolutely incredible. The movie was obviously an HBO movie about the Jerry Sandusky disaster and that terrible, terrible man.
Greg Grunberg: And Joe, what did he do? Did he do enough? Did he not do enough on all of that? And everybody has their own version of it and ... No, not their own version of it, their own opinion of it, and it's very strong opinions, and I have a very strong opinion of it. But at the same time, I tried to play it as fair as possible. And to hear from the real guy, to hear from Scott, he's like, "Dude, my friends are calling me going, ‘you nailed me.'" He's really smart, he's an attorney, he was a lobbyist, he's really smart guy.
Greg Grunberg: And when shit's going down at the school, Scott in the family was the one going, "Guys, you got to take this seriously. Sandusky's a fucking asshole. He's doing some shit, this is fucked up. Let's take this-" The way it was portrayed in the movie, and I'm sure there was some of this, is single-minded tunnel vision of we have football. We have to take care of the football. That's where the blinders are on, and someone says, "Okay, I did enough.
Greg Grunberg: Maybe I didn't." To me, he didn't do enough in certain areas, and then other areas, he did. So, it's not a black and white, but what a great ... For me to be able to work with Barry Levinson and Al Pacino and then to now have a relationship with a guy who ... Talk about another sweetheart of a guy, man. He's super opinionated online and we disagree about a lot of things politically and everything, but dude, he is smart and he's become a friend, and I played him. It's so weird.
Jeff: That's so weird.
Greg Grunberg: It's so weird. I want to meet the real Snap Wexley, because that's going to be-
Jeff: Yeah, definitely. I definitely want to talk about Star Wars. Before we get into that though, I want to just tiptoe through your career a little bit because you were talking about, when you got out of college, you were like, "I can sell myself" So, you start to work in Hollywood. I'm always curious what it's like when you're a green actor and you're on an actual production. I'm going to say to you actually going all the way back, I saw one of your first ever credits because back in the day.
Jeff: My buddy and I, one of my oldest friends in the world, Eric Donovan, we used to go to our local video store … for all the kids out there listening, it was a place that you'd go to rent videos, and they had this awesome deal that was five for five Fridays. So, you could go in on a Friday, and we went through their entire horror section, through three summers and would just go in every single Friday, get five movies, crush them and then return them and then go back the next week. And so, I saw, 100% saw you in Witchcraft V, which is one of your first credits ever.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah.
Jeff: Do you have any memories of that movie? I know you were very, very bit part. You were, I think the hotel manager or the bartender.
Greg Grunberg: The bartender, yeah.
Jeff: The bartender.
Greg Grunberg: No, no, no dude. Of course, I remember every one of my projects. There are some projects that people will say and I'll be like, "What?" And then I'm reminded. No, no. There's a buddy of mine, Michael Pfeiffer. Michael Pfeiffer is a very prolific producer. And those budgets, those movies were so, so low. He's now doing real movies. But that was something where ... As an actor, you get an opportunity, "I've never done this before or whatever."
Greg Grunberg: That was at the beginning of my career, I was so thankful that he gave me the opportunity to do something like that. Those movies are ... Dude, I've done my fair share and then I've done movies like Big Ass Spider! dude, which is like a cult classic. That was, "Hey, let's get together and make a movie." I have another one coming up. I have two right now … Three right now. Everybody's quarantining, right? I give you three to watch. Okay?
Greg Grunberg: One is called Group Sex. Group Sex, I co-wrote, I star in and Henry Winkler, Tom Arnold, Josh Cooke, Odette Annable, Kym Whitley, Lombardo Boyar, all these amazing actors. It is so funny. It's a romantic comedy set in the world of a sexaholic recovery group. It's so good though. I know I co-wrote it, but it's really fun and funny. You got to search for it, but it's out there. The other one is one that just dropped. It's a first person shooter movie, and it's called Burning Dog.
Jeff: Right, I heard about that.
Greg Grunberg: It's pretty cool. Hardcore Harry came out, and that though had a much bigger budget, even though that was a small budget, but great stunts and incredibly done. This is more of the comic character side of it, but it follows ... You're the star of the movie. You're watching the movie and I keep looking at the camera going, "Come on, let's go. What the fuck? What are you doing? Keep up with us." And then we arrest you and all this stuff. It's a cool thing.
Greg Grunberg: Trey Bachelor is a really good filmmaker, he's been in the business for a while and this was his dream, and I'm proud of it. I think people enjoy it. It's a fun movie. And then I've got a new movie that's coming out soon called Max Reload and the Nether Blasters. That is really cool. We're working on the distribution strategy right now, and we signed a deal and just check my Twitter feed if you're interested. But that's a movie. That's got Kevin Smith in it, Lin Shaye and me, and all these great people.
Greg Grunberg: These two filmmakers, Scott Condit and these guys at CineForge Media, Scott and Jeremy, Jeremy Tremp. They're incredible and they're in Arizona. And again, another dream, they were like, "We wrote a movie, we really want you to be in it." I produced it with them, and it's been a blast. The movie turned out great. It's a throwback to original arcade games and console, like the old Colecovision console game and a game that they thought was dead, the guy that runs a game store.
Greg Grunberg: This kid, Tom Plumley plays him, he's great. He puts the cartridge in, and he opens up, brings the ... It's like this whole thing and now we have to get it back, put the genie back in the bottle and save the world. Hassie Harrison is in it from Tacoma FD. There's a great people in it. It was a lot of fun.
Jeff: Oh, that's awesome. That's awesome. I will put links to those in the liner notes because I'm always looking for new stuff. Like you said, we're all stuck at home while we're recording this, so I'm always looking for new stuff to watch. That's so great. I want to talk about some of your other earlier credits. Speaking of being someone who loves the ... not the genre, but the idea of what you get to do.
Jeff: You can tell that you just love being in everything and you want to work. Like you said, you're not just waiting for the phone to ring, you're out there. Two guys who have proven that consistently, and you got to be a part of one of their earlier movies-
Greg Grunberg: I know where you're going with is.
Jeff: ... is Trey and Matt with BASEketball. Not only did you get to be in BASEketball, again not a giant part, but you're in one of the most iconic scenes because he psyched you out with the tinfoil, and that's always there. But that was one of your first four ways into, I think a bigger production, right? This isn't Witchcraft 5, this is BASEketball.
Greg Grunberg: Exactly. No, this is another one where it's like I really want to just get as much experience and get as much ... whatever I can do. And also to work with Jerry Zucker and [inaudible 00:25:01], those guys are legends. Airplane and all those types of movies. And Matt and Trey are, I think maybe two of the most creative, funniest guys ever, they really are.
Greg Grunberg: When you look at everything they've done, they just ... excuse me, blew me away. And the fact that they perform as well as write and direct and produce and all of that. Back then, it was like, okay, these are South Park guys, and I heard about this movie. It is literally one of the dumbest movies ever-
Jeff: It totally is.
Greg Grunberg: ... and one of the best movies ever. It's just one of those things where you just get in the mood, don't judge, just enjoy, and it's such a fun ride. The actors in it, Matt and Trey are the worst. I told them, I was like, "Hey, you guys are a couple of the worst actors I've ever ... and by the way, they're two of the best actors out there, they really are. They're so funny, their timing, there's no one better with comedy and timing and writing.
Greg Grunberg: But I remember that thing just thinking, "This is ridiculous." Now, I did Malibu's Most Wanted, that one. I've done a few of these movies, Big Ass Spider!, where you're just like, "Dude, this is ridiculous." When I do Comicons, people come up and they have me sign a ball, they have a BASEketball they want me to sign. It's just so cool. I should reach out to those guys and try and see if they have a ball. I should have a ball.
Jeff: You should have a ball.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, even if it's a replica. I've got this, dude. This is obvious.
Greg Grunberg: But this is not my helmet from the movie.
Jeff: Nope, but it's-
Greg Grunberg: This is not it. This is from Disneyland. I bought it at Disneyland, and people bring them up to me all the time. They're like, "Hey, will you sign this?" And I'm like, "I need one of those." Dude, I'm a fan. I'm a fan just like everybody else, and I'm so lucky. Even if I've had a small ... like in Star Wars, my role is not very big, but I just love it. I love just working, like you said.
Jeff: Yeah. And you can tell and you can tell. Moving to the smaller screen, you mentioned Heroes, one of your biggest roles out there. Before that you had giant runs on some of the biggest television shows, Alias, Felicity-
Greg Grunberg: Lost.
Jeff: Lost. The second guy to die.
Greg Grunberg: Exactly. I crashed the plane. If I was the pilot, if I didn't crash the plane, show would have been called Hover.
Jeff: Yeah. Come on, you're the one who made Lost, Lost. Thank goodness for that.
Greg Grunberg: Exactly.
Jeff: But is there a preference? Do you prefer a big budget movie where you're working for a few months and then it's over with a character or something that you really can sink your teeth into over a lot of seasons like Alias or Felicity? Or is it just two different monsters that you really can't compare?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, it really is. To me, it's all about what I get to do and who I get to do it with, it doesn't matter. Like Max Reload, we had the best time and we were working all nights in Arizona. That was their choice. I will never do that again. But all nights in Arizona and 20 nights, and it was very, very little budget and it was all like, "Okay, we're in summer camp here and we're hoping we're making a great product."
Greg Grunberg: And then you've got Star Wars where at any given time, there's 300 people eating because there's a meal and then there's another 300 people working over there. And then there's a crew over there and a crew over there, and these guys are working on monsters and this and that. I mean, creatures. I enjoy both, but again, it comes down to the people, and I don't take any of it for granted. I feel so lucky. A Star is Born was like, what? My buddy Bradley from ... Bradley and I were in Alias together.
Greg Grunberg: He's one of my close friends and so brilliant and so talented. And he's like, "Hey, come play." Because, people don't know, some people do, but one of my early jobs in Hollywood was as a driver for a movie producer named Joel Silver. I was Joel's driver, and that was about a year, a little over a year, and I gained so much knowledge and experience just being next to him, just shadowing Joel. He didn't know it.
Greg Grunberg: I was his driver, but I learned just about how to be persistent and hustle and be smart and say no to things and take advantage of opportunities and just ... he's an amazing producer. And so, I learned just as his driver, just being there, and because I had that job of dealing with ... I drove some of the biggest celebrities in the world around, literally. Bradley called me up and said, "Hey, my character needs a driver in A Star is Born.
Greg Grunberg: "Why don't you do that? Why don't you be the driver?" And Ronnie Rifkin from Alias, he's in the movie, and so there's a little bit of a reunion and we had a great time. And so, a movie like that, even though it ended up being one of the most successful movies in a long, long time financially, it felt like a small movie. It really felt that way. And Bradley made everybody feel safe, which he always does, just so comfortable.
Greg Grunberg: Such a safety net having someone like Bradley or J.J. or someone that's so prepared and doesn't freak out, and is so in control and so passionate and giddy, and ... you do something little and Bradley runs up and he's like, "Dude, that was [amay 00:30:20]." As an actor, that's what I need. I need that reassurance. I have one audience member and that's the director. If I make the crew laugh, it's what we call a hat on a hat.
Greg Grunberg: It's like, okay, the joke is on paper, now I say it and it works. It worked in my head, I'm like, "Okay, that's good." Then the director comes up and goes, "Yeah. That was really good. That was really funny. I was behind the monitor. I was watching. It was really funny." Now, I'm like, "Okay, well, how do I up that? How do I make it even funnier?" Don't. Just do it a different way, you don't have to make it different, just take the rhythm of it and everything.
Greg Grunberg: I'd do something … I learned this many years ago, you do something and now the crew laughs, those are never funny. Because it's only funny because you're already ... Now you're decorating the hat that you've already put on. So, it's like all these tricks and things that you learn. But with Bradley, it was just to get that reaction out of the director and your best friend and your good friend.
Greg Grunberg: And J.J.'s the same way. J.J. will come up to me and in one take, he'll say, "Dude, come on. That was awesome." And he walks away, and then another take he'll walk up and go, "Dude, that was the worst thing I've ever seen. Let's not do it that way. Okay? Let's go again." And you're like, "Thank you." Instead of beating around the bush and being uncomfortable, how do I talk to this actor or whatever? It's great. Working with your friends is the best.
Jeff: That's so amazing. And that leads me into, obviously what I wanted to talk about, which is Star Wars. Was it hard for you in the beginning, working on set on The Force Awakens? Because not only are you a fan, obviously you're a Star Wars fan, but you're onset of the movie that you did, the franchise that you're a fan of, but also with your best friend in the world. Is it hard to be like, "Oh shit, I got to work now." and pull yourself away from that?
Greg Grunberg: Yes, absolutely. No question. There was one time in The Force Awakens where we're all standing around and it's like, what's the game plan and whatever? I'm in this yellow jumpsuit, I'm a big guy, I'm standing there, I'm right in the middle, and J.J. walks up to me and he goes, "Hey dude, at first take, you're watching the movie." And I said, "Yeah, I know. There's Anthony Daniels, there is C-3PO and R2-D2 and blah, blah, blah."
Greg Grunberg: And my best friend ... and by the way, other times where we walk on set together, because I would hang out with him 100% of the time. So, if I wasn't working, I'd go to set and hang out. We're best friends, it's just a dream. You're on fucking Star Wars, dude.
Jeff: Star Wars.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah, it's crazy. There were many times where we would pinch each other, we would just be like, "What is going on? Look at this set. Look where we are. That's a real X-wing, that's a real A-wing, that's a ... and [inaudible 00:33:06], everybody, I'm standing with Chewbacca." I'm like, "Oscar and I are fucking around between tags." It's a dream, it's a dream.
Jeff: I can't even imagine, from a fan perspective, not just ... you're there to do a job, you're a professional, but having to bottle it up and be like, "Oh my God. Oh my God, it's Star Wars." The whole time, that's a whole other level to bring to work, basically.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah. I got to do it once, and then J.J. says, "Hey, I got good news. I got better news." I'm like, "What?" He goes, "I'm doing episode nine." And I'm like, "What? That's the greatest thing ever." As a fan, I was like, "Oh, that's going to be amazing." And then he goes, "I got better news. Snap's back." And I was like, "What?" That was absolutely just the gift that kept on giving.
Greg Grunberg: And then, I went to London and I was there for a long time and we shot a bunch of stuff and then stuff gets cut, and then he's like, "All right, I need another something." I fly back to London, and ... because they were on that for a long time, and then we did a couple of pickup things here. I was just like, "I don't want this to ever end man."
Greg Grunberg: And then the aftermath novels, and my characters is ... it's not me, it's my character, but it looks like me and they're drawing the comics and all of that stuff. This is a canon that just keeps giving. I'm in the Star Trek canon too because of J.J. It's ridiculous. Ridiculous.
Jeff: It's so amazing. I'm sure I know how amazing it was, but I just want to hear your take on it because one of my favorite actresses in the world you got to work with, Carrie Fisher. What was it like sharing scenes with her onset?
Greg Grunberg: On and offset, absolutely amazing. My first meeting with her, I met her and I was like, "Oh my God, this is princess Leia. It's Carrie Fisher." She doesn't let that last five minutes. Dude, she's such a warm, wonderful person, and she breaks that down right away. Not that she sees it or anything, I've worked with a lot of people. So I'm like, "Hi, it's such a pleasure to meet you."
Greg Grunberg: And she's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut the fuck." She gets right to it. It's like, "I love her." Anyway, an example of that is, and I've talked about this before, I'm shooting and the camera's over my shoulder ... whoops, [inaudible 00:35:28], there it is, over my shoulder, I'm right next to the Mapbox. So, I'm here and she's on camera and she's supposed to walk towards me and then walk off camera, just like cross frame.
Greg Grunberg: So, we have this thing and she's like, "Snap, you know what? Listen up, blah, blah, blah." It's this great thing that J.J. established right away, and this is on The Force Awakens. She walks towards me, and instead of walking off camera, she walks up to me and she gives me a hug and she grabs my ass. And I'm like, "What the hell is going on?" J.J. comes up to me and goes, "Welcome to Star Wars."
Jeff: Holy shit.
Greg Grunberg: I'm like, that broke my cherry if you were. And then you meet everyone around her. You meet her daughter, Billie Lourd, just apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Billie is so great. She's so brilliant. She's really good actor. She was just starting acting. Now she's done a ton of stuff and she's ... but we became friends and I'll treasure my relationship with Carrie forever, on and off screen. There's stuff off screen that I can't even talk about that just was just unbelievable, so memorable.
Greg Grunberg: I have videos, I have things that I'm just never going to let go of. It's stuff that I have and only I have, and she's a big part … again, I didn't get to spend enough time with her. I think everybody, no matter if you were friends with her forever, will say that about a person like that. You realize how special that is, but I realized it right away when I met her, I'm like, "Oh, I love this person. Carrie Fisher is amazing." She was, man. She really was. She's with me. She's with us.
Greg Grunberg: She's just awesome.
Greg Grunberg: By the way, is that a Kevin Smith? That's a Kevin-
Jeff: Yeah, secret stash exclusive actually.
Greg Grunberg: I love that. Kevin's an old buddy of mine. Kevin's in Max Reload and the Nether Blasters. We did a show together on AMC called Geeking Out, which was just a blast man. We hosted the show together, and I love that man. He's a treasure, dude.
Jeff: I want you guys to do more. That geeked out show was so much fun, and I wish you guys could do a thousand more projects together. You guys are great together.
Greg Grunberg: I know. Well, I'm always pitching him. I just talked to him a couple of days ago and I was just ... I said we made a pretty cool distribution deal on Max Reload. So, I called him up, I was like, "Dude, the guys in Arizona, they're really excited." And he's like, "Oh man, that's so great, man. All right. Well, let me know what I can do to support everybody." The guy is all in. Money? Yeah, we all want to be successful, money-wise. That's never going to be an issue for a guy like that.
Greg Grunberg: He is as genuine as you ... What you see is what you get. He's got a heart of gold and he's so brilliant, and so he's such a film historian and geek. He's also so humble. He will always say, "I don't know how they're letting me get away with this, man." He called me up one time and he's like, "Hey, I'm doing The Flash. I'm directing The Flash, and I'd love you to come up and do something on it." I'm like, "Absolutely."
Greg Grunberg: And he goes, "Well, let me tell you what it is first." I'm like, "No, no, no, I don't need to know. If you're involved in something, and it's something as cool as that-" Greg Berlanti, I'll do anything that Berlanti is doing too. But I was like, "I'm coming." I went up there, we had such a great time. On that set, he was like, "I don't know why, I just yell action and cut, man. I don't know." I'm like, "Dude, no. Stop, stop. No one's buying it. You're brilliant."
Greg Grunberg: But he knows again, he knows how lucky he is to be, as we all are in the position we are. But he's one of the hardest working guys I know, and he's got great … Jordan and everyone around him, he's got a great team. Anyway, ingenious. Those guys, they're really, really good guys. I'm really lucky again to ... and this goes back to when I was a little kid, right? Hollywood's like that, all different groups, different types of people that you ... I'm doing a project right now, by the time people see this, it'll already be out.
Greg Grunberg: We're doing five episodes, I'm partnering my production company, Bandwagon Media partnering with Warner Media's OneFifty, which is to support people during the quarantine, they said, "We want to support writers." I was like, "Well, I've got ideas." So, we're doing these five page or under scenes, we've already shot three of them. They're unbelievable, and I've got the ... imagine the actors I've worked with, I called on them, I'm like, "Let's do-" And we shot them all over Zoom.
Greg Grunberg: We have two more that we're going to shoot, and the writers who wrote them that Warner Media, OneFifty brought to me, and then I have a great producing team, Diego Cantu and Brad Savage at Bandwagon. This was actually Diego's baby. Diego contacted OneFifty and said, "Hey, Greg and our team can do this." It's been amazing. At times like that, and also with my charity stuff and with my band, those are moments when I go, "Oh wait, I do know a lot of people, and they're all really good hearted people that I've never let go."
Greg Grunberg: I meet somebody and then that's it. I'm like, okay, if you're not a good person, I file you away like everybody else does. But if we get along and I see your heart's in the right place, in my mind, I'm just like, "I really want to work with this person." Dude, you and I will be doing stuff together. I can just tell you're a good guy.
Greg Grunberg: It's one of those things, you want to keep working with good people.
Jeff: That really is inspiring to hear from someone who's been in the game as long as you have and has worked as hard as you have. Because you are a hard working guy. It's very easy, especially in Hollywood and in the industry that you're in to become jaded, to become just disenfranchised with the daily grind like anybody does with work.
Jeff: But you have such a positive attitude, and it's very inspiring to hear that. That brings me to the theme of this show. We're all fueled by the same thing. We're all fueled by the finish line. Death is inevitable, it could happen tomorrow, it could happen in 100 years from now. I hope for you and I, it's 150 years from now.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah.
Jeff: But we all want to leave this world a little different before we leave it for good. What fuels you to keep going? What fuels you to keep getting out there? Not only acting, but playing music, writing, producing, coming up with ideas, what keeps you creative?
Greg Grunberg: I think leaving a mark. I want to leave a mark on people, I want to leave a mark on everything I do. I want to leave a mark on my kids mainly, I want them to always have me with them, and what I try and do, everything that I do. It's interesting, when I was thinking about this show, and death's a part of life. You always just think about it and you go, "Hey, I just want to make sure that when I'm gone,"
Greg Grunberg: Especially right now, what we're seeing. It's numbers. Everybody's a number, it's like, "No, I don't want to be a number. I don't want to be a number." It's not just that I've done stuff that's always going to be on ... It used to be celluloid, it's always going to be a on streaming, it's always going to be on the cloud that people can watch. No, I want to do something where ... I'll give you an example. It's a personal thing, but J.J.'s mom, Carol Abrams, she was like a mom to me.
Greg Grunberg: But more than that, she was just absolutely so sweet, so generous, so caring and brilliant. I oftentimes think about her, and she's no longer with us. I want that. I want someone to always think of me. I want someone to always go ... or smile or laugh thinking, "What would I have done?" I'm done pleasing people. That's not what I'm talking about. Sam, my son, the other day was like, "You're like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm." I'm like, "What?" He goes, "No, dad. Just that you don't put up with anybody's shit."
Greg Grunberg: And I said, "Yeah, I just don't." Somebody opens a door, if they're the nicest person in the world and they open that window or they open that door, I am jumping through it. I want to be a part of that. That's what I want to do for other people. But if somebody's an asshole to me, they've opened up the asshole door. They're going to get the response they deserve from me, and I'm not going to hold back. I'm not yelling at them, but if you say something really out of the ordinary and rude or whatever, I'm going to call you on it.
Greg Grunberg: Telemarketers, I love telemarketers. I just love them. Call me and start asking me questions, dude, you're going to get up. I'm fucking with you, and I'm going to keep you on the phone until you realize, "Oh shit," That's silly or whatever. I'm talking about just ... I just want to be a part of people's lives enough and make people think and make people ... so that we're all in this together. We only have a limited time here, so affect people. Do something good for people without expecting anything in return.
Greg Grunberg: People use the word charity, charities has a negative connotation with a lot of people. And right now we're showing that. If there's somebody that's down the street from you, in the next apartment over, upstairs, whatever, and you know that they struggle with their bag, an old lady struggles with her bag or this or that, go up and knock on their door. If somebody is in a situation that you know that they could use an extra hand, don't ask, "Hey, if you ever need anything."
Greg Grunberg: Do it, just do it. There are only a few times in your life when you can affect people, and they'll remember. The birth, the death, and ... I'm Jewish and mitzvahs. If it's a wedding or bar mitzvah [kinsiniere 00:45:12] or something like that, show up. Be there. Be there for them. If you can't be there, go the extra mile. Phil X, I talked about Phil. Phil X and Lindy, they dropped off food for us. They just made a meal. We don't need food, we're fine. I told you, we're cooking, we're doing ... No, it wasn't about that.
Greg Grunberg: It was about, "Look, we're all in this together, we love to cook and we're dropping off meals for our friends." They did it once, and it was just the most wonderful gesture ever. We didn't ask. Don't ask, and don't be afraid to get help. I'm rambling, but the theme of this show is so important. It's like, man, who knows how much time. There's so many incredible people, Andrew Jack, talk about Star Wars.
Greg Grunberg: He's a guy who I met. He's a great actor, great dialect coach and he's worked with the greats and I met him on Star Wars and he's ... J.J. said, "Man, that guy's great. He's got a great face, whatever." He made him a character that you remember in Star Wars. It's a small role like mine, but he succumbed to COVID-19, and that guy lived a life. When I think about Andrew Jack, I think about how he just was such a warm and wonderful guy, and everybody remembers him so fondly.
Greg Grunberg: He lived on a tug boat. He bought a tug boat, an old tug boat, flat big, long ... Not a short one, but maybe it was a barge. Sorry, like a barge. He sold his house and lived on a boat and parked it in a river somewhere. Just lived a unique, original life that I will always remember. Carol Abrams, she's obviously family, but someone like that will stay with me forever.
Greg Grunberg: If somebody comes across an email after I'm long gone, and they haven't cleaned out their emails and they come across … or they go to send me an email and realize, "Oh shit. He's not around anymore." That's what I want. I want people to think of me and I'm always there. I'm still present because of the things that I've done and how I've affected their life.
Jeff: That is so excellent. I think more people should be inspired to feel that way, because we're seeing that now, especially with the world changing the way that it is. Like you said, be present, be there, do it, do the thing. You mentioned Kevin Smith before, that's his mantra. Do the thing. If there's something out there in the world, whether it's making a movie or dropping food off at your neighbor's house, go do the thing. Go do it. Yeah.
Greg Grunberg: Do it. Absolutely. If I have an idea, first person I call is J.J, right?
Greg Grunberg: He's my best friend, so I'm, "Hey, what do you think of," as soon as I say that, he goes, "Is it a great idea? Is it something amazing?" I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "Write it." I'm like, "No, no, no, no. I want to get your opinion on it." He's like, "You don't have to." And then this is the creative side of this though. He doesn't say this, I've said this and it really is true. The energy that it takes, the excitement, whatever that is, the passion, if I pitch you an idea for a story, right? This is all the up and coming screenwriters out there or actors that want to make their own content or whatever.
Greg Grunberg: If I have an idea and I say, "Hey, what do you think of this?" The excitement and the energy that it takes for me to pitch you, and then you reacting going, "Wow, that's pretty good." That then satisfies that whatever it is, the endorphins that are going in my head because of that. And now the same energy, the same amount of passion that it took me to pitch you, will drive you to finish that project and do that project. Do it. Do it. When I was coming up, I needed a camera and a friend and this and that. No. Now, this is all you need. That's all you need [inaudible 00:48:49].
Jeff: That's all you need.
Greg Grunberg: That's it.
Jeff: Oh, God, that's inspiring. Man, I want to go make stuff right now. That's just awesome.
Greg Grunberg: Let's go.
Jeff: Let's got do it. At the end here, I want to make sure everybody obviously can follow your journey. I know the best way to follow you is on Twitter. You're very active on Twitter and I'll be putting that in here as well. I do want to shout out. You mentioned earlier your son has suffered from epilepsy and you're such an advocate for this. You started talkaboutit.org, and everybody can go there, learn more about epilepsy and donate to the cause, which is amazing. The amount of stuff that you do for that cause is just so heartwarming and amazing.
Greg Grunberg: Thank you. Thank you.
Jeff: I know, like I said, Hollywood's on pause, but you got stuff. We got movies that we talked about. The-
Greg Grunberg: And the Insiders. If you look up the Insiders, that's the series that I'm doing with Warner OneFifty, and it's really fun. There's five of them. We're hoping to do 10 of them. We'll see. But it's been great to get a limitation of saying, "Well, we can only do this through Zoom. We can't get together and shoot." Sometimes the constraints will boost creativity and go, "Okay. Well, if we're only limited to this, what would be a fun story?
Greg Grunberg: "Oh, what if there was a music therapist and he's getting two people together, brother and sister, that haven't talked in years and they fought when they were in a band together and he's getting into together. But can't talk, only through song. We're going to talk to each other through song." So, Robbie Benedict, Kate Micucci and Drew Powel, and I directed it and it was written by [Herula 00:50:22] Rose, amazing writer, OneFifty, Diego and Brad and I produce. It's just like, "Okay."
Greg Grunberg: And it turned out great. We have five of those that are out there and people … actually, I don't know when this is going to air, but look for them. We're going to be putting out one a week and we're doing it through Legion M. Legion M is an amazing organization. Kevin Smith's worked with them. These are fans that actually invest in projects and there's over a 100,000 of them.
Greg Grunberg: They have been so great with coming up with ideas and we're screening it on Legion M's Twitch page. So, you can always find it there and on YouTube. But yeah, I agree with you. Look, again, we were given terrible, terrible lemons right now and we're trying to make lemonade out of it. And it's good. There's a light at every tunnel.
Jeff: There really is. Finally, I have just a few last comments I wanted to say, just as a fan of yours. I really love what you brought to the table in Star Wars. Even for a small part, I love parts like Snap because as such a fan of that genre, I was such a fan of that whole story arc, you obviously gravitate to the people that look like you. And also the people that feel like they're in the same position.
Jeff: Snap, feels like someone … and you embodied this character perfectly. He felt like a character like any of us, the every man that is just now thrust into this incredibly dire situation. Especially in Force Awakens when they turned to you and they're like, "Snap, do some reckon. Tell us what it is." There's a moment on your face where you were just like, "Okay, here's what I've got." You know?
Greg Grunberg: Yeah.
Jeff: And I resonate with that. Just that subtle moment that I resonate with that. Because, I'm not Han. As much as I'd love to be, I'm not Han Solo. I'm not Luke Skywalker. In a situation like that, I'm not going to be the hero. I'm going to be the Snap. That's who I'm going to be. So, I'm so happy that you embodied it.
Greg Grunberg: It's so fun. Thank you. Look, be careful what you wish for. That's my life. Be careful what you wish for. I have a piece of art in my house that I've made and it's something that … it's a quote from one of my favorite movies and I said it to my wife when we got married. It's in Willy Wonka where he says, "Hold on tight. I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen." That's the way I live my life. I hope my kids live that way too. Follow your dreams. Go for it. My boys are going to be professional baseball players.
Greg Grunberg: And if they're not, they're going to get damn close and that's because that's what they want to do. And if they don't, then I'm going to encourage them in any way that they are excited and passionate about. That kind of embodies all of it. I played characters where you go, "Whoa, hold on tight. I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen." And I love playing those characters. They're very relatable, very identifiable characters. I appreciate. When you use the word every man, that's my dream. That's what I want to play. That's the most relatable character you can play.
Jeff: Wow. You're doing it in spades and that's awesome. I can't thank you enough for all the work that you do on and off the screen. Like I said, I'm such a fan of not only the movies and TV, but you voice video games … one of the most underrated video games out there, LA Noire, everybody go pick it up. You got be part of that. I also want to mention just another one of your credits that I think did not get enough credit out there, another small part, but in such an incredible ensemble piece you were part of the incredible anthology Tales of Halloween from a couple of years ago.
Greg Grunberg: Yeah.
Jeff: I found that random. I'm such a Halloween nut and all that type of … like I said, I rented five-
Greg Grunberg: By the way, that's Mike Mendez, which if people don't know Mike Mendez, you need to follow him. He's doing stuff on Instagram right now. That's just brilliant. We did Big Ass Spider! together, so if you haven't seen Big Ass Spider! And so those characters, Claire Kramer and I were those characters in Tales of Halloween, which, it was just awesome. Yeah, that was an Epic films and [Choquet 00:54:33] Berenson and I love those guys. It's great.
Jeff: Oh, it's so great. That's another testament to you and your work ethic too where it's not like you've been in the business for a while and yeah, "I'm jaded by this." Or, "I've done this before." "This is too small of a part." Or something like that, because just … again, seeing you through your career and knowing that you play those types of characters and those characters that I can relate to, discovering something like Tales of Halloween, which I didn't even know existed until like a year or two ago and put it on. And then the first vignette you're in, I'm like, "I know that guy." So, it's like a full circle thing and it's just awesome.
Greg Grunberg: I love it. love it.
Jeff: So, I can't thank you enough for everything you do. You're an inspiring motherfucker.
Greg Grunberg: Thanks man.
Jeff: Also, I can't thank you enough for being on the show. It was a pleasure talking with you.
Greg Grunberg: Dude. Again, hate to be that guy, but thank you to Death Wish Coffee for doing this. Not every brand sees the importance in doing something where you're not just talking about your brand the whole time. And that means a lot. It's a big deal. And Death Wish does a lot, but this is one that I'm really excited about and I'm proud to be here. Thank you and thank you to them.