James Marsden was in the only place he could be. Not in his acting career, which has been fruitfully darting this way and that for years—quite literally, sitting for a recent phone call in his car in the driveway of his Los Angeles home, the only spot where he gets decent cell reception. “If it sounds like I’m talking from a submarine, let me know and I’ll change positions,” he said sheepishly.
Marsden has, over nearly three decades in Hollywood, proven surprisingly amenable to change, recalibrating his hunky star profile to best fit each disparate role that has come his way. He and I were talking during the COVID shutdown because I, perhaps like many of you, recently noticed in my unending watching of things just how ubiquitous James Marsden seems to be. Especially, of late, on television. Marsden wrapped his two-season run as a hapless and later murderous robot cowboy on HBO’s massive sci-fi series Westworld in 2018; in the spring of 2020, he appeared in both the lauded FX on Hulu period series Mrs. America (as a smarmy politician and TV host who doesn’t do right by Cate Blanchett) and the Netflix sleeper hit Dead to Me, as the (spoiler alert!) twin brother of a man murdered by Christina Applegate in the season-one finale.
In the fall, Marsden will migrate to CBS All Access as part of the ensemble of a much-anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s doorstopper 1978 novel The Stand. From science fiction to historical drama (with some satire), to contemporary dark comedy, to plague apocalypse is a pretty wide range to walk, yet Marsden has never seemed uncomfortable in building his curio cabinet of roles. He has become a true journeyman actor, one whose matinee-idol good looks can sometimes belie the thinking, shape-shifting performer behind them.
James Marsden is everywhere. He knows it too. “I get texts from people saying, ‘You are on my TV screen all the f**king time. How do you do this?’ I’m like, ‘I’m sorry!’”
There’s truth to the ubiquity of his Hollywood existence. Since coming onto the scene in the early ’90s, Marsden, 46, has amassed an extensive resume of more than 75 credits (and counting), featuring roles so different from the others that it’s nearly impossible to put him in a box. If you’ve thought it, he’s probably done it. From playing the hot guy on The Nanny’s first episode to earning superhero cred as Cyclops in the X-Men franchise, to capturing hearts as the dreamy leading man in 27 Dresses, to dipping into the secretive world of Westworld as an innocent cowboy, Marsden has led a charmed career — a fact he’d be the first to acknowledge. (When you can check Disney prince off the proverbial bucket list, you’ve reached a different level.) More impressively, he hasn’t slowed down since.
When Marsden hops on the phone on a Tuesday afternoon in June, he opens with an apology for mixing up the interview times as his Oklahoma niceness peeks through. “I told my PR rep, ‘I’m an actor. I never said I was smart,’” he playfully jokes. Somehow, we doubt that to be true; after all, he’s been more than a little busy. By mid-March, right before a nationwide lockdown was ordered, Marsden wrapped three incredibly varied TV projects during a six-month span, hopping back and forth from Netflix’s dark comedy Dead to Me to FX on Hulu’s period piece Mrs. America, to CBS All Access’ upcoming Stephen King drama The Stand. Ask him how he pulled off triple duty and even he doesn’t know.
The Season 1 finale of Dead to Me could have easily been the end of James Marsden’s involvement with the Netflix dramedy. His manipulative and malicious character Steve Wood was undeniably dead after he confronted Jen (Christina Applegate), who knew he was responsible for her husband’s death, and aggressively demanded access to his ex-fiancée Judy (Linda Cardellini), who’d been living with Jen. Apart from flashbacks that might explain exactly how Steve wound up face down in Jen’s pool, it was hard to envision a future for the character on the series.
Creator Liz Feldman had an idea for how to bring Marsden back for Season 2, though. He’d return as Ben, Steve’s “semi-identical” twin who looked exactly like him but was his polar opposite in terms of personality. And yes, the show leaned right into the soapiness of that development, starting with an absurdly comedic introductory scene, which finds Jen opening her front door to find the man whose body she stuffed in a deep freezer suddenly standing right in front of her with a cheesy grin.
Ben’s arrival on the show is just as stunning for audiences as it is for Jen, but it’s virtually impossible not to be won over by the guy as the season progresses. Instead of oozing arrogance and cruelty like Steve, Ben is completely disarming and leads with self-deprecating humor. His surprise arrival does more than just keep Marsden in the picture for Season 2. As Ben, Marsden becomes an essential component of the show’s action, heart, and humor and remains an absolute scene-stealer — quite a feat considering both Applegate and Cardellini are still firing on all cylinders this season.
,video Comments Off on ‘Dead to Me’: Linda Cardellini and James Marsden Talk Season 2 Twists and Mourning a Toxic Man (Watch)
The second season of “Dead to Me” on Netflix started with one hell of a twist: Steve (James Marsden), who Jen (Christina Applegate) killed and then secretly buried with a little help from her friend — and his ex — Judy (Linda Cardellini), had a twin brother. The two had the same face but seemed to be worlds apart in personality — but by the end of the season they ended up sharing a more cosmic connection: Both were responsible for dangerous hit-and-runs.
“I love the perversity of the show,” Marsden tells Variety. “To me, that comedy can come from that is more of a mirror on the way we are in real life.”
As a series as a whole, “Dead to Me” began with the aftermath of Steve and Judy’s hit-and-run — although it was not known from the start that they were at fault for the car accident that took Jen’s husband’s life. Instead, the show started with her meeting Judy in a grief group, which Judy was attending to get to know Jen after the guilt from her role in the accident was weighing so heavily on her. The truth was slowly unraveled over the course of the first season. Similarly, the truth about Steve’s death gets unraveled over the 10 episodes in Season 2, and at the end of that second season, Ben learns his missing twin’s body has been found and he falls off the wagon, resulting in him drunk-driving into the side of the new car Jen just bought for her son. Thankfully this time, both Jen, who was driving, and Judy, who was in the passenger seat, lived.
Crayen interview Comments Off on A Few Minutes With James Marsden, a Man We Love
Is James Marsden’s character alive or dead? A reasonable question to ask when watching him in almost anything lately: For two seasons he was repeatedly killed and brought back on HBO’s Westworld. Then on his next big TV show, Netflix’s Dead to Me, it seemed like he was finally playing a mortal human, killed off in the final episode of the first season, only to return in season two. Even his Sonic movie came back from certain doom. Perhaps the problem is Marsden is just too damn charming to kill off for good.
“I remember people saying… You got a good look. You’ll do well in this town,” he told me when we chatted in on May 13. “I never wanted to really lead with that. I wanted to be treated more as a character actor than a marquee-idol, good-looking dude with nothing else behind him.”
Ah yes, the classic challenge of being too good looking and too charming. I relate. But sure enough, Marsden’s character work is seemingly unending; in the past few years, he’s played opposite Cate Blanchett, Christina Applegate, a robot played by Evan Rachel Wood, and Sonic the Hedgehog. He knows how to stand out alongside Oscar winners just as well as he does, um, a CGI hedgehog.
Crayen interview Comments Off on Netflix’s ‘Dead to Me’ killed off James Marsden. In Season 2, he steals the show
The first season of “Dead to Me” ended with James Marsden’s character dead in the water — face down, eyes open, blood coming out of his head. The lying, cheating, money-laundering Steve Wood was a floating corpse in a pool, and Jen Harding and Judy Hale — played by Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini, respectively — were trading panicked glances when the finale cut to black.
What really happened that night is revealed throughout the second season, which premiered Friday on Netflix. While the 10 episodes are sprinkled with flashbacks of a cold, harsh Steve, they also include scenes with his warm, semi-identical twin brother Ben, also played by Marsden.
Yes, having an actor re-enter a show as a previous character’s never-before-mentioned twin is a tired soap opera trope. But anyone who dismisses this season because of it would be missing a standout performance by Marsden, one that defies expectations after a career playing suave, powerful men.
Crayen interview Comments Off on Sonic the Hedgehog: James Marsden Talks Possible Sequel, Working With CGI, and Video Games
In case you weren’t already aware, Sonic the Hedgehog is now available to purchase on digital home video. The video game adaptation managed to take the top spot for U.S. box office for a video game adaptation before everything went a bit wonky thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and it released earlier than expected on home video with a physical release still yet to come in May. As part of the release, ComicBook.com had a chance to speak with actor James Marsden, who stars in the movie as Tom Wachowski, Sonic’s cop (human) friend.
In addition to asking Marsden about what he’d like to see in a sequel and how it feels to earn that top spot for video game adaptations, Marsden spoke with us about working against a CGI character, working with Jim Carrey while doing that, video games in general, and whether he’d be game for reprising his role as Tom in a video game. And, uh, we also spoke about Hop, the 2011 Easter Bunny movie in which Marsden also starred.
Keep reading to check out our full interview with Sonic the Hedgehog star James Marsden!
Crayen interview Comments Off on James Marsden on ‘Sonic’, the ‘Enchanted’ Sequel, and His Thoughts on ‘Westworld’ Season 3
The fun family flick Sonic the Hedgehog is now available to watch in your own home (currently available on digital from Paramount Home Entertainment, and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and for rental on-demand on May 19th), and some versions even have a variety of extras that include a new animation, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, the origins of the speedy little blue character, and commentary. In this adventure, helmed by director Jeff Fowler, Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) embraces and is enjoying his new home on Earth, until he accidentally catches the attention of evil genius Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey) and finds himself needing the help of Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) to save the planet.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor James Marsden talked about why he wanted to sign on for Sonic the Hedgehog, acting opposite a non-existent co-star, what stood in for Sonic on set, and whether he’d be game to do a sequel, after production picks back up again. He also talked about where things are at with the Enchanted sequel, and whether he’s watching Season 3 of Westworld while he’s having to stay at home.
Collider: This is not the only, or even the first, time that you’ve had a co-star that doesn’t actually exist, in real life. Could you ever imagined that would have happened to you once, let alone have that not be the only time that it’s happened to you?
Crayen interview Comments Off on James Marsden’s Stuck at Home Binge List
Many of us are spending this extra time at home catching up on shows we’ve long been meaning to binge-watch, movies we’ve been wanting to stream, books we’ve been meaning to read, or video games we’ve been waiting to play. And with the film industry on hiatus for the foreseeable future, that means even usually busy stars now have time to catch-up on their streaming queues and reading lists.
We reached out to Sonic the Hedgehog, Westworld, and X-Men actor James Marsden to see what he’s doing to keep himself entertained these days.
What Is the Last Thing You Finished Watching?
Crayen interview Comments Off on James Marsden Admits To Being Baffled By Sonic’s Incredible Bar Fight Scene
During Sonic the Hedgehog, while the eponymous protagonist and his human pal, Sheriff Tom Wachowski, are on the run from Dr. Robotnik, the duo end up at a roadside bar to relax a little bit and cross some things off Sonic’s bucket list. Eventually though, a bar fight breaks out, one which Sonic puts an end to using his super speed.
The Sonic the Hedgehog bar fight was reminiscent of Quicksilver’s memorable scenes in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse, with both speedy protagonists getting into shenanigans while everything around them moved in slow motion. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with James Marsden, who played Tom Wachowski, about his time on Sonic, and when I asked what the process of shooting this particular scene was like on his end, he responded:
“Not understanding the technology and just saying, ‘Just tell me what I need to do and how to stand and how long to hold by breath and how I long I can’t blink for.’ A lot of times I’ll go in and try to understand. ‘Okay, how is this going to cut together?’ Jeff Fowler was like, ‘Just trust me. Stand here, hold this beer.’ So it was very technical, but you knew you were being part of a sequence that was ultimately going to work and be cool. It was one of those things where I was like, ’This isn’t my wheelhouse, so I’m gonna let the real nerds step in and show me how this is shot.’ Because this is definitely not something actors are used to. We’re used to trying to get scenes to come to life with dialogue and eye contact and movement, and this was definitely like, ‘Okay, you’re a pawn in this big, fun thing that they’re putting together.’ So it was cool.”
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