When comedian and actor David Cross took a role in “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” he received endless criticism from fans used to the alterna-comic’s anti-authoritarian stance. His memorable response suggested he was aware of how it looked, but hey, kid movies pay the bills. Well, it's four years later, and Cross is appearing in "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked" opening this weekend. "I’m contractually done," he said during press rounds for his television show "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret." "I was contractually obligated to do three, which is kinda standard." But now his outlook on the work is considerably less positive.
"This last film was literally, without question, the most unpleasant experience I’ve ever had in my professional life," he says of 'Chip-Wrecked,' where he reprises his role of record executive Ian. Without naming names, he says, "It’s safe to say I won’t be working with some of those people ever again. Not the actors. And the director [Mike Mitchell] was great. We got along. There were a couple of people, though…it was just a really awful, unpleasant experience." Which isn't to say the entire 'Chipmunks' experience has been rotten for him. "I got recognized in China," he says, listing off the places 'Chipmunks' has taken him. "I got recognized in a teeny tiny town in Mozambique. In Zimbabwe. Botswana. It’s crazy."
Right now Cross' energies are focused on 'Todd Margaret.' The IFC series, created by Cross, begins its second season in January. It follows Cross as the title character, an executive at an energy drink company who encounters a series of unfortunate personal and professional setbacks. Season two will begin with Margaret standing trial for a series of crimes, though each episode will take a different approach. "There’s different dialogue each time which will give you an idea of what will happen in the episode," Cross says. "Season two opens with Todd in a military bunker in North Korea surrounded by armed soldiers and he’s got his hands hoisted above a nuclear bomb button, and he’s saying, 'I don’t know if this is such a good idea, guys.' "
'Margaret' mixes the bizarre and the mundane into a series of complex comedic storylines, though Cross is mostly happy to be working free of studio interference. "They haven’t really given me too many notes," he says of IFC. "Some of their notes about story structure were actually good, which is not always the case. They would say things, and we’d go back and forth, and I’d be like, 'Are you fucking kidding me? There’s no way I’m doing that! And eventually they’d let me get my way.' " But creating, producing, writing and starring in his own series has given him a new appreciation for his other acting jobs. "It’s way more work, but it’s more satisfying at the end of the day," he sighs happily. "Not that I’m not proud of my work in other things, but the writing is fun, shooting is fun, editing is fun. I love all aspects of it, and they all satisfy different [interests]. It allows me to treat acting in other jobs the way it should be approached by any actor, which is, this is like a paid vacation. Unless it’s something like 'Alvin and the Chipmunks,' you don’t bitch about it. You’re so thankful to be there, y'know, they feed me well. You’re getting paid to have fun."
Cross also has a role in the upcoming indie "It's a Disaster." The film follows four couples trapped in a home as the world ends around them. "That was a fucking blast," he says of the microbudget indie, which co-stars Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, and Erinn Hayes. "That was so much fun. In part because it was such a low budget movie. And it was really just myself and seven other actors. It was a real labor of love, miniscule budget."
In the film, "Dirty bombs are going off in the downtown area, you don’t see it, you just hear it," Cross describes. "You hear cop sirens, helicopters, you see a guy in a hazmat suit, and [the characters are] just not putting two and two together. It’s a very talky, comedy indie. And it was a character I don’t get to play very much. Kind of a straighter guy who has a little secret that’s revealed at the end."
Of course, when it comes to 2012, most people are ready for Cross to get started on "Arrested Development." He's plenty excited too, though unless you're Mitchell Hurwitz, he knows just as much as you do. When asked about the story, he can only offer, “I’m not part of the writing process. We’re still several months away from getting scripts." According to Cross, no one in the cast is signed but everyone is "verbally committed. No one wants to be the asshole who ruins it for everyone else. But no one doesn't want to do it, everyone’s excited.”
What most 'AD' fans don't know is that apparently Cross, who memorably played noted "never-nude" and accredited "analrapist" Tobias Funke almost had a shot at playing one of the infamous Bluth brothers. "When I read the script, Tobias was the one where I got him immediately," Cross says. "I said, 'I know exactly who this guy is, I know how to play him.' And that was the deal, that it was recurring. I had just moved to New York after living in LA for nine and a half years. I had been here for three years and was like, 'Man, I’m not going back there.' And, we were shooting maybe the second [episode], and I called my girlfriend, and I told her, 'This thing is fucking great, I have to do this.' So I jumped on right there."
"The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret" begins its second season January 6th on IFC. Meanwhile, you can get more Cross when 'Chip-Wrecked' opens this Friday.