Rob Corddry on ‘Ballers,’ His ‘Childrens Hospital’ Spin-Off, and Playing Second Banana
Season 3 of HBO’s Ballers comes to a close in just a few weeks. Rob Corddry, who stars as financial advisor Joe Krutel on the series, has officially “made it.” But this isn’t the first time he’s made it in the course of his career. For Corddry, success in acting has been a series of incremental steps, achievable goals, and choosing the projects he loves — the ones that he says are good for his soul. Ballers is making it. Childrens Hospital was making it. His early days performing mediocre-at-best Shakespeare plays counted as making it. I talked to Corddry more about his current projects, an upcoming Childrens Hospital spin-off, and the power of saying no.
When you first signed on for Ballers did you have any idea it was going to be as successful as it’s been?
I never think anything anymore. I only do things that I love. It’s a pretty simple policy, my modus operandi. My opinion is always so skewed. I always think, “This movie is going to be great,” or “This show, people are going to love this.” And then my dad watches it. I have zero objectivity about anything. But, this one I had every reason to think was going to be a big hit, the biggest reason being The Rock. He’s a recipe for success, if nothing else. But still, I was like, “Whatever it is, it is.”
It sounds like you’ve gotten good at managing expectations. Was there ever a point in your career – maybe earlier on – where you were wide-eyed and thought everything was going to be good?
Yeah, I pretty much thought everything was going to be good. I’m definitely an optimist, probably to a fault. But I was also easy to please. I knew I was going to “make it,” so there was no pressure on me. I had different ideas of what “making it” meant and they changed all the time. I was doing Shakespeare for crappy junior colleges all across the country on this year-long tour, performing horrible versions of these plays. I was onstage once and there was a part where I had a break, because we were all onstage the whole play. I was lying in this woman’s lap and she was feeding me fake grapes. I had about five minutes to appreciate the situation. I looked around. The crowd was loving it, I’m eating grapes, the lights are on, I’m making $350 a week, plus an extra $50 if I teach a workshop on iambic pentameter. I was like, “I made it.” I could have done that for the rest of my life. But then you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I made it again.”
Can you predict what the next level is going to be? You’ve had a good measure of success, you’re becoming more recognizable, and you’re getting steady work that you enjoy. Can you see what the next level of “making it” is for you?
I don’t know. It just happens and I say, “Oh, there it is.” But if I try to look objectively, I guess it would be consistent major roles in movies. I’m always comfortable being #5 on the call sheet, so somewhere around there. But more of a consistent…see, I don’t know. I don’t have a good idea of what it is.
I don’t want you to think too hard about it because then it might ruin it for you. Let’s just put it this way: Do you have a career goal you’d like to hit in the next few years?
I would like to write and star in a movie, something that I created from the ground up. That’s the next goal for me. Other than that, my goals don’t really have time limits. They’re like, “I want to play this and I want to play this.” Then you have to think, “What are the stories I tell myself that are preventing me from just doing it?” I’m never going to be a leading man. In fact, I’m very comfortable not being one. Taking my sensibilities into account, it’s better to be the second banana. You get the funnier lines, you have more opportunities to play, you understand your character as a plot device, the potential of adding to the script, it’s a whole thing. If I had hair maybe I would be a leading man.
There are bald leading men. Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart. I wouldn’t sell yourself short.
Well, that’s on my goal list, to be in an action movie. They’re always action guys like Bruce Willis. That’s the niche that our people are allowed to play in.
You said earlier that you choose projects that you love. Have you ever turned down something lucrative because you didn’t believe in it?
Absolutely. I’ve done it a number of times. You really come into your own as a performer in this business when you realize that your only real power is the power of no. Young actors are so accustomed to just saying, “Yes, yes, yes. Thank you. Oh my God, this is a gift” to every job no matter how terrible it is. Often jobs are not good for your soul. If I don’t think it’s going to be good for my soul I just don’t do it. What’s the point?
It was recently announced that you’re going to be in Benjamin. I’m interested in this project because I love Mary Lynn Rajskub, Max Burkholder killed it in Parenthood, and Bob Saget is directing and starring in it. What can you tell me about it?
We just finished shooting it. I got off that movie about a week ago. I was doing nights for five days, so I’ve sort of separated myself from it a little bit. But I can tell you that the script is amazing. I did it for that reason and because I’ve been a fan of Bob Saget’s standup forever. I love the weird dichotomy that he’s been able to pull off being America’s dad and then maybe the second dirtiest comedian working, next to Gilbert Gottfried. I was like, “This is a guy who I would be very interested to see starring in a movie like this.” Plus, the cast is amazing. My impressions at this point are based on exhaustion. It was a hard shoot. It was low budget. We really had to cram it in and the nights were hard, but the cast definitely huddled together like war buddies keeping each other warm to survive the night.
Do you also have a new Childrens Hospital spin-off coming out?
It’s in the development stages right now, but I will say that yes, there is a spin-off of Childrens Hospital that has been picked up and is in the works. We’re hard at work on writing it right now. It’s everything that Childrens Hospital was in terms of comedic tone, but everything it wasn’t in terms of everything else. Where Childrens Hospital almost shunned continuity as a running joke, this show will be a season-long serial narrative. And where it all took place in a children’s hospital, this is going to be kind of a global thriller from country to country. It’s really exciting.