Interview by { Misty Milioto

Edited by { Bonnie Davidson

Photography by { Tony Duran

Coat by { Emporio Armani  

Sweater by { Zara

Pants by { Helmut Lange

 Shoes by { Prada

“I never thought that I was funny,” says actor Reid Scott, who got his big break on the ABC sitcom It’s All Relative, and went on to make ’em laugh playing a girl’s best buddy on TBS’ My Boys, a self-centered monologue writer in Amazon Original feature film Late Night, and a slimeball political operative on HBO’s Veep. “There’s a lot of similarity between comedies and thrillers because you are trying to elicit a physical response. In comedy, you’re trying to get people to laugh. And in thrillers, you’re trying to get people scared. And both are really hard to do.” 

Scott had no problem evoking a mix of emotions when he played a hunky oncologist on Showtime’s dramedy The Big C, or a nice-guy doctor battling a monstrous, human-inhabiting alien in sci-fi blockbuster Venom. He has two more opportunities to thrill audiences in his latest projects: Why Women Kill, a limited series for CBS All Access; and recently released action thriller Black and Blue.

What inspired your interest in acting?

My dad’s mom was one of the first female English professors at Syracuse University, and she exposed me to theater and reading plays as literature at a young age. I never really thought I would pursue it as a career until it was time to decide what to do in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I thought, “I’ll go to film school.” So I actually started off splitting my time at Syracuse between film school and studying theater, but really thinking I would end up writing or directing. I was pulled into acting more at the behest of a phenomenal professor at Syracuse who said, “If you really want to be a director, you need to understand the actor’s language. And the only way to understand their language is to try it.” So I was in a couple of plays. That same professor helped me get an agent, and I moved to New York.

What was your first job in showbiz?

I did a pilot for Steven Levitan, creator of Modern Family. It didn’t get picked up, but it was my first real professional paying gig. This was the first time that I was actually on a real production on a real set. The good people at ABC said, “If you move to L.A., we’ll get you some more work.” So I packed my bags and drove across country and booked another pilot called It’s All Relative for ABC, which ended up getting picked up, and it ran for a full season.

What kind of role do you most like to play?

I certainly have a penchant for playing darker characters, more sinister stuff. Horror is my favorite genre. I love horrors and thrillers and good old-fashioned, hard-boiled detective noir. [Dan Egan on HBO’s Veep] was a great character to play. He was such a prick. He was so dark. He had all these faults and you wanted to laugh at him. You were sort of rooting for him in a way, but you also wanted to see him fail. He was a modern-day Sisyphus. That was really fun. 

What’s the difference between working on a TV series and a film? 

TV versus film, the day-to-day isn’t so different. You’re getting out there, you’re slipping into your wardrobe, you’re getting into character in front of cameras. In terms of cultivating a character, I really enjoy working on a character over a long period of time, as you get to do on a series. There’s something so fun about every episode and every season, peeling back another layer and discovering something to take things further. Veep was exceptional because we did smaller seasons; we went out on our own terms. Contrasting that, on a film, there is also something that’s a different challenge to come in hot, to dig down deep and as fast as you can on a character because you know you only have a month to work on this thing. It’s fun to parachute in, do your thing, then get out.

How was it to work with Mindy Kaling on Late Night?

She is all about authenticity. It was immediately apparent upon my first reading of the script. She said, “These are some of the ideas I have for the character,” and I said, “Oh my God, I know this guy. I’ve worked with some version of this guy for the last 20 years.” I sort of made Tom [Campbell] an amalgamation of two really wonderful guys, but I’ve definitely worked with those spoiled, nepotistic, misogynistic white beards. I really loved the journey that he got to go on. It was important that we didn’t just paint him with one brush as a white, privileged asshole. He is intelligent and emotional. He has depth. Mindy absolutely knew who he was. We just clicked with it. I saw her vision.

Can you describe your leading man role in Why Women Kill?

I’m always looking for something that is a bit of a departure from what I’ve done before. Eli is an out-of-work writer who had success but is currently in a very deep rut. He is very much the beta, and his wife is the alpha. That was intriguing to me, to do this gender role reversal. It was exciting for me to play a role that put the woman on the pedestal and the guy is content to back her up. There’s a lot more to it, but, as we move through the season, Eli has a very dark past that comes to the surface. Marc Cherry writes these really rich, really fun, very erratic characters—and it’s a limited series, we’re only doing 10 episodes—but when he showed me the trajectory of our storyline, I get to do so much with this character because he covers so much ground. Those roles don’t come around a whole lot.

What aspect of the upcoming film Black and Blue are you most excited about?

It is an indictment on police corruption and police brutality. I love New Orleans [where the film is based and shot]. It’s a city that’s been through so much, and it deserves so much more than the hand it’s been dealt, both by the politicians in charge and the media coverage of certain aspects of it. It was fun to shine a light on some of that stuff. It was an opportunity to be in a movie with a strong female. Naomie [Harris] is a phenomenal actress, and she and I got on so well that I really wanted to work with her and Frank Grillo. He’s such a classic tough guy, but he’s also really smart. It was fun to be in some of the more badass scenes with him. People are going to love the movie. It’s a good, classic cop thriller, but it also says something too. It will stick with you a little bit.

If you could work with any director or actor, who would it be? 

My favorite actor of all time was Paul Newman. Actually it may be a tie between him and Gene Hackman. My dad was a big film buff and, growing up, he would point at them and say, “Watch these guys. They are just awesome.” They were strong, masculine leading guys, but they had a sensitivity to them, and they were both so funny. I don’t know if either of them was ever in a straight-up comedy, but there is nothing more charming than Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. And I think Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor is one of the best comedic performances of all times. They were masters. As far as directors, I hope Quentin [Tarantino] isn’t serious about retiring. 

You directed a theatrical production of The Elephant Man in L.A. back in 2012. Do you have any other directing projects planned? 

One of my running partners, Josh Close (he’s also an incredible actor) and I are writing a technological thriller that we think people will really dig, and we are directing that together.

Do you support any charitable organizations?

Oceana is one of my favorites. The work that they’re doing is paramount and it’s incredible. I got to go with them to lobby Congress about five or six years ago. It was terrifying but also really an honor. I love the fact that they walk the walk.

As an avid skier, what are some of your favorite resorts? 

Vail is probably my favorite. Vail has my heart. I spend a lot of time there. I know it like the back of my hand. That’s my happy place. I also like Mammoth in California, but there’s just something about Colorado.