Jim Rash has a leg up on the rest of Hollywood — and we’re not just referring to his spoof of the peculiar pose Angelina Jolie struck right before handing him an Oscar in 2012 for co-writing “The Descendants.”
In addition to appearing as the perverted dean on NBC’s “Community,” Rash and his work partner, Nat Faxon, are collecting accolades for “The Way, Way Back,” a summer sleeper starring Steve Carell that they co-wrote and co-directed.
Then there’s the new series “The Writers’ Room,” in which Rash grills scribes from “Breaking Bad,” “Parks & Recreation” and “Dexter” about how they develop great scripts while restraining the urge to use their ballpoint pens to poke each other to death.
Rash, 50, pulled over his car in Los Angeles earlier this week to talk to us about his latest endeavor.
Q: The timing of this series couldn’t be better. Why do you think so much great television is being developed these days?
A: I think a lot of these shows are driven by darker, morally ambiguous characters, and that makes for rich stories. Social media is helping this conversation and fans can be much more vocal than they used to. You realize now, more than ever, that talking about TV is no longer limited to the water cooler. The Internet is the water cooler. We’re picking up on that, both inside and outside the industry.
Q: Do you think it all started with “The Sopranos”?
A: Yes, but don’t forget “The Wire” and “Lost.” Network television is part of it, too.
Q: Did you watch a lot of television as a child?
A: Yeah. I was a child of TV. I was a latchkey kid and when my mom got home she would feel the back of the TV set to see if it had recently been on. I’d have to turn it off well ahead of her arrival. The first stuff I got hooked on, other than Saturday morning cartoons, was “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Silver Spoons.” I also was into “Dukes of Hazzard.” Hey, I’m from the South.
Q: What was the first show you remember watching and knowing this was something special?
A: I guess “Seinfeld” when I was in college. But my first experience chatting with other fans online was with “Lost.”
Q: What are the main differences between writing for TV and writing for movies?
A: Well, in TV you have a little more control and you’re running the show day in and day out. With a screenplay, you’re generally handing it over to the director. With TV, you also get a faster reaction. If they don’t like it, they simply pass. If they do [like it], you’re off and running. With movies, it could be eight years before you find out if anyone is interested.
Q: You wrote an episode of “Community” last year. What was that experience like?
A: It was just an honor. I mean, I love the show. It wasn’t as daunting as writing a whole screenplay. You know the show so well and you have the help of the staff to break the story down and then you go off and do the fun stuff. Then again, writing in general is never easy.