Maniac: Justin Theroux Discusses His Hammy Character

Actors Justin Theroux and Billy Magnussen along with writer Patrick Somerville share their thoughts on Netflix's Maniac

Before he joined the cast of Maniac as Dr. James Mantleray, Justin Theroux was the lead actor on one of the best TV drama’s in recent memory: The Leftovers. Aside from his role as Kevin Garvey on HBO’s dour masterpiece, however, Theroux is mostly well known for his film work.

That’s why with so few TV roles under his belt, Theroux is naturally going to get some questions regarding the similarities and differences in these two major characters. We were happy to throw out some of those questions. Here Theroux talks about what it’s like to be Dr. Mantleray and is even joined by fellow actor Billy Magnussen (who portrays Owen Milgrim’s brother, Jed) and series writer Patrick Somerville to discuss the show further.

“I always thought that he was so over serious that he came across as hammy,” Theroux says of his character. Viewers who have seen a few episodes of Maniac should know what he’s talking about. Dr. Mantleray is an interesting creature as evidenced by the…uh, compromising position he is introduced in. 

“Part of that is Justin plays a very serious, very troubled, very grounded character in The Leftovers,” Somerville says. But I also knew he had this ability to do this whole other range of stuff.”

“It’s basically the same character,” Theroux cracks.

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He’s got a point! If Kevin Garvey got a Ph.D before he endured the Sudden Departure, maybe he would have been a touch hammier. 

Magnussen finds his character to be similarly complex to Mantleray, if not more so. 

“I’m pumped to play multiple characters even though one of the characters is in Jonah Hill’s character’s mind,” he says. 

Magnussen has been a welcome character actor on television and in the movies for a few years now. He’s turned up in films such as The Big Short and Game Night and portrayed Kato Kaelin in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. Maniac presents an interesting change of pace since he gets to technically play two characters. Jed Milgrim is both Owen’s privileged and awful older brother and also a hallucinatory specter in Owen’s mind. Magnussen plays both characters who look the same but couldn’t possilby be more different.

That’s not a bad description of Maniac, itself. It certainly looks like some other shows but couldn’t possibly be more different.

Alec Bojalad is TV Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his stuff here. Follow him at his creatively-named Twitter handle @alecbojalad

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