It was funny to see Jim Carrey so serious about his Showtime series “Kidding.” At the recent Television Critics Association’s summer press tour the actor who made his reputation doing outrageous comedies, including the box-office hits “Dumb and Dumber,” “Ace Ventura,” “The Mask,” and “The Cable Guy,” made a point of emphasizing the seriousness of his new role.
In Kidding, Carrey plays the relentlessly optimistic host of a popular children’s television show Mr. Pickles Puppet Time. Mr. Pickles is silly and delightful, engaging children with his kindness and wisdom, but the man behind Mr. Pickles is a normal guy named Jeff whose personal life begins to unravel after a family tragedy. This crisis provides Carrey the opportunity to be both hysterical and heartbreaking. This is similar to the territory that Carrey covered in his acclaimed film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind directed by Michel Gondry, who is back with Jim for the ten half-hour episodes ordered for Kidding.
The stars and the creative team were at Showtime’s TCA panel at the Beverly Hilton on August 6 to talk about the show. On hand were executive producer Jim Carrey along with his co-stars Judy Greer and Catherine Keener, plus executive producer-writer David Holstein, who conceived the show with Carrey in mind and executive producer-director Michel Gondry. Frank Langella has also joined the cast.
Now sporting a long “Buster Brown” haircut and looking comfortable dressed in a black leather jacket and tee-shirt, during most of the interview Carrey had a big grin on his friendly face. But it gave way to intensity as he talked about the idea of playing a kind man in a cruel world. He explained, “I think the idea of identity—the search for identity, what it is, who we are, what’s an authentic person—is a theme that’s always been attractive to me. There’s definitely something in this piece that calls to me. The idea of being hit by a freight train in life and trying to hang on to the idea of yourself that you had before it happened. That’s an incredible concept to me.”
Kidding is fortified with comical moments as well as drama, and it is Carrey’s first major return to television since the comedy sketch show In Living Color. His next major movie project is as the arch-villain in the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog.
Nowadays he seems comfortable with the production end of his career as well as being on camera and reported, “This (Kidding) is a jewel that came my way and was presented at a perfect time when I am well-schooled and experienced enough to do this part. I am really glad because I’m thrown into this piece with an incredible collection of artists. So I hope it culminates into something that really touches people and gives them a little bit of hope.”
Judy Greer, who plays the wife of Mr. Pickles, noted that she is grateful for the challenge her role presents. “I was so excited to not be on the telephone in the kitchen saying, ‘Where are you and when will you be home?’ Which is what most of my roles seem to be. I was excited to play a character whose heart was breaking, consumed with guilt and fear of this new version of her life, and still navigate through the sticky relationship with her ex-husband,” Greer said.
Fatigued by antihero characters, producer-writer Holstein (Weeds) explained, “It was less about finding a character whose journey was a nervous breakdown and more about actually trying to find the journey of somebody who didn’t want to break bad but wanted to stay good. So it was about finding someone who had a crisis of faith but really wanted to preserve their goodness in a world that was populated by all the dark edges of premium cable. This is about a character in this age of lies, bullying and darkness who just wants to be good.”
Kidding premieres on Sunday, September 9 at 10pm on Showtime.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.