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Undeclared: Handicapping the Regulars’ Chances of Escaping the Apatowverse

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on March 28, 2008

One of the less talked about positives about the recent unequivocal success of everything Judd Apatow has touched in the last three years (well, I guess I haven’t checked Drillbit Taylor‘s first-week receipts yet…) is how it has the possibility to foist a fresh new class of comedic talent into the general acting pool–a number of breakout comedic actors who, for the first time in ages, actually seem like they’d be tolerable in real life too. It’s not surprising that this doesn’t get mentioned more, though, since it seems like so few of them seem interested in joining said pool. Some are merely sticking to the general role types that shot them to stardom, and some prefer instead to stay in more Apatow-directed and produced flicks, staying inside the bubble, almost daring it to burst at any moment. How will they fare once (and if) they venture out into the real world?

Jonah Hill

Apatow Credentials: Roommate Jonah in Knocked Up, Seth in Superbad, Nate’s Ghost (Adult) in Walk Hard

Upcoming Apatow Projects: Matthew in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Notable Non-Apatow Roles: Adam Sandler’s teenage kid in Click, Lionel in Rocket Science, the guy who yells “ASK ME ABOUT MY WIEEENERRRRRR!!!” in the preview for Accepted

Role Type of Choice: The high-strung, antagonistic, sex-obsessed fat dude.

Odds on Escaping the ‘Verse: Not great. Not his or Apatow’s fault necessarily, since having his body type certainly relegates him to certain types of roles right off the bat. But not only was his appearance in Superbad a career role, it was as a character who was significantly younger than Hill himself, despite the fact that you’d never know it from watching him. Doubt either of those are good signs. His best hope is to stay away for long enough until the memory of his Apatow roles is a little more distant and he starts to look like a person you could actually take seriously as an adult, and maybe he can be the Jackie Earle Haley of 2020.


Jason Segel

Apatow Credentials: Nick in Freaks & Geeks, Eric in Undeclared, Roommate Jason in Knocked Up

Upcoming Apatow Projects: Peter in  Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Noteworty Non-Apatow Roles: Mike in SLC Punk, Marshall in How I Met Your Mother

Role Type of Choice: The jocky-looking wimp.

Odds on Escaping the ‘Verse: Hard to say. In a way you could say he already has with How I Met Your Mother, in itself a show (and role) good enough to justify a career. My worry is that the overly sensitive twenty-something Marshall is too much a continuation of the overly sensitive high school slacker he played in Freaks and the overly sensitive frat boy he played in Undeclared, to be considered a true breakout role. And if the previews for Forgetting Sarah Marshall are any indication, he’s not looking to break further any time soon. At least he has his SLC Punk role to point to as at least being one example of him being decent in a different kind of role, more than we can say about some names mentioned in this article.


Seth Rogen

Apatow Credentials: Ken in Freaks and Geeks, Ron in Undeclared, Eager Cameraman in Anchorman, Ben in Knocked Up, Officer Michaels in Superbad

Upcoming Apatow Projects: Dale in The Pineapple Express

Notable Non-Apatow Roles: Uh, apparently he was in You, Me and Dupree. And Donnie Darko at some point (?!?!?)

Role Type of Choice: Sarcastic but generally well-meaning stoner underachiver

Odds of Escaping the ‘Verse: Poor to Even. He could be one movie away from being Will Ferrell at the age of 25 (despite looking like he’s at least a decade older than that), but that movie has to come sooner rather than later, and it has to not involve Apatow in any way. To be considered a comedic great on his own, he has to be able to be the strongest presence in a movie, and he’ll never have that if he never steps out from under the umbrella. There’s no shame in being the post-adolescent Anthony Michael Hall of the 00s, but a la AMH, his career might drop off as well once his partner in crime’s cachet ain’t what it used to be.

Leslie Mann

Apatow Credentials: Miss Foote in Freaks and Geeks, Nicky in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Debbie in Knocked Up, Lisa in Drillbit Taylor, Marriage in Real Life

Upcoming Apatow Projects: Untitled Judd Apatow Comedy (’09)

Noteworthy Non-Apatow Roles: Robin in The Cable Guy, Corinne in Big Daddy, Krista in Orange County

Role Type of Choice: Inconsistent, but usually involves being shrewish in some respect

Odds of Escaping the ‘Verse: It’s a little weird in Mann’s case, because she was the only one of these actors to be fairly established even before meeting Apatow. But now that she’s the Judd’s main squeeze, she seems mostly content to skate along with plum supporting roles in his movies–I even remember a small amount of Best Supporting Actress nod buzz, or at least yipping about her inevitable exclusion, in some Oscar predictions for her Knocked Up role. You could say that she’s had a long enough career to be established outside of hubby, but as long as she’s sitting right beside the throne, I can’t imagine her ambition will be much to reach that again.


Michael Cera

Apatow Credentials: Evan in Superbad

Upcoming Apatow Projects:  None

Noteworthy Non-Apatow Roles: George Michael in Arrested Development, Bleeker in Juno

Role Type of Choice: Extremely nervous and uncomfortable teenager.

Odds of Escaping the ‘Verse: Looking pretty good. Really, despite him having the best performance in Ap’s best movie, Cera’s connection to the Apatowverse is minimal, since its arguably still the least iconic of thre three roles everyone knows him for. His only downside is that he’s yet to play a character not in the George Michael mold, leading many to speculate that he might not even be acting that much. But look at some of his upcoming projects–The Year One, a bible comedy by Harodl Ramis, Nick adn Norah’s Infinite Playlist, with Cera as a queercore bandmember, Parental Guidance Suggested, a teen sex sketch movie by SNL people, and Scott Pilgrim, an action/adventrue based on the graphic novel of the same name. Is there any way they all end up being no good? Is there any way he still plays George Michael in each one? Think the future might be bright for young Cera.

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