Since his breakthrough role as the deadpan “geek” Bill on the acclaimed but woefully ratings-deficient TV show “Freaks and Geeks,” Martin Starr has carved out a successful niche for himself playing characters who fortify themselves against the slings and arrows of the world with deadly, razor-sharp wit. But in his new film “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy,” Starr backs into that persona from a different point of view, playing a cool rock musician who is secretly paralyzed by quandaries as simple as whether or not to wear a hat on the cover of his debut album. When asked how much he could relate to in the new comedy, which was written and directed by Alex Gregory (a “Late Show with David Letterman” alum) and Peter Huyck, Starr confessed he shared more than a few similarities with his character Duquez, down to his physical description in the original script.

“Well, I can definitely relate to him having a huge dick,” Starr said. “That definitely got me moving in the right direction.” He admitted he was surprised that the script offered a much more personal story than the prurient title suggested. “Me and Pete and Alex sat down and started talking about the script and character, after I read it I felt like it was a lot more intriguing,” he remembered. “It was such a sweet story about friends, and the character himself was just so human, just as a guy who didn’t believe in himself.” He also acknowledged that those sorts of insecurities are hardly unique to him.

“I can relate to that, and I think it’s a pretty common thing amongst artists,” he observed. “It’s such a fickle business - there are people with an immense amount of talent who never make it, and people with in my opinion very little talent who can go very far just on drive and ambition. And it’s really about finding a combination of the two.”

According to Starr, the character was actually based on someone Gregory and Huyck knew, and as a result didn’t require a lot of reinvention from Starr for him to find stuff to connect with. “All of the characters in the script are kind of based on Pete and Alex and their friends, and that was a big part of someone’s life that was close to them,” he revealed. “I don’t know if I should tell you about this because I feel like they’ve been pretty secretive, but it’s too late! But he’s a guy who struggled a little bit in his life trying to get this particular avenue to open up, with music, and there was an internal struggle.”

In terms of his career, Starr has enjoyed increasing success since the debut of “Freaks and Geeks,” finding a variety of roles on TV and in films such as “Knocked Up” and “Adventureland.” He indicated that part of overcoming his own doubts is making sure he knows what he’s getting himself into, and then finding out who he’s getting into it with. “I feel like I’ve been fortunate in the decisions I’ve made when it comes to my career and maybe decisions that can be a little paralyzing, and whether or not to take a job is certainly one of those things,” he said. “But I feel like I have a lot of information going into something like that by knowing who I’m working with.”

“But you never know what the outcome is going to be,” he continued. “Whether it’s going to end up as something that everyone put their heart and soul into from top to bottom, from soup to nuts, to create this thing and then it becomes something that everyone can be proud of, or whether maybe some people are in it for the wrong reasons or whatever, and it ends up being something you’re not quite as proud of. But I feel I’ve been lucky to make good decisions.”

He credits his experience on “Freaks and Geeks” as a big part of the reason he’s been on a successful career trajectory for the last ten-plus years. “I was very fortunate to start off with ‘Freaks and Geeks’ and get some sort of respect from I guess my peers,” he admitted. “[But] I guess now I take the initiative to talk to them before I take a job anyway, because first and foremost, enjoying the process is something I focus on in every aspect of my life. I don’t want to be around people who are going to make it more difficult to enjoy my life day-to-day, especially because there are times when things can be more stressful.” He clarified his approach a little more succinctly: “I guess I just try to avoid assholes, is my basic principle.”

It often seems as if success can be as big of a trap as failure in Hollywood, since a performer can easily get stuck doing something over and over specifically because they do it well. But even with a lot of these sorts of smart, sardonic characters under his belt, Starr said he wasn’t thought about the prospect of being typecast. “I guess I haven’t really worried about it much, he confessed. “At the moment, I’m mostly working on developing my own things so I can start from the ground up and build everything – collaborating with other people but figuring out exactly what I want to do next.”

“I just feel lucky to be able to do what I love to do, and I’m not as worried about the little things, like if there are similarities between my characters,” he continued. “But I definitely enjoy working with my friends. I mean, that’s an amazing thing that I get to do in this business that a lot of people don’t get to do. They usually hate going to work and love coming home and drinking a beer, and I get to really thoroughly enjoy every day at work, if I map things out right.”
[Photo Credit: Adam Kissick]