“I didn’t have any stigma around mental health. I’ve always had a lot of problems with anxiety and depression,” says Jason Segel. “You ask for help whenever you need it in life. I found help. That’s why I’m here.”
On a chilly Los Angeles afternoon, the 43-year-old actor, comedian, screenwriter, and producer doesn’t mind being personal. His Zoom interview became part of his therapy session.
“Mental health is genuinely a comfortable area for me to explore,” he says. “I hope that what I’m doing now will remove any stigma and remind people that true mental health isn’t a one-and-done fix.”
What he’s doing now is “Shrink,” a new series on Apple TV+ that poses a provocative question: What would happen if a therapist set aside ethics and training and said what he really thought about the patient?
Siegel portrays “psycho vigilante” Jamie Laird, a brutally honest man dealing with a full emotional palette: death, divorce, estranged daughter, and an older mentor (Harrison Ford).
Oh, it’s a comedy.
“Watching someone in the gutter as they try to find their way out with the help of their friends and maybe help others is the setting,” says Segel, who created and executive producers the series. “The message is by doing all this maybe he can even help himself, which seemed like a really nice concept to me.”
The 6ft 4in Los Angeles native gave up his early interest in basketball to pursue acting. An early role in the critically acclaimed “Freaks and Geeks” led to starring roles in TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” and films such as “This Is 40,” “Knocked Up,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him.” to “Greek”. He also voices Gru’s Vector’s rival in the “Despicable Me” franchise.
Siegel’s tips for living the good life:
Everyone has problems
“We are told as human beings that we have to rein in our feelings,” says Siegel. We have been told in the past not to let our emotions get out of control. I let them spiral out of control in this series.” He says the show’s origin was a therapist who makes massive changes in a patient’s life (and his life) by saying exactly what he thinks based on their pain. “One of the things the show does well is that it highlights That even your processor is the best too. It’s very comforting to think that the person sitting across from you has their own issues and isn’t judging you but is with you. I find some relief in this situation.”
Embrace stupid luck
How did Siegel get Harrison Ford to sign Shrink? He says: “God believed dumb luck.” “I don’t really know how to explain it, except we should trust dumb luck more in life. … We brought this up to Harrison Ford assuming he’d say no. Then he said yes. Next thing you know you’re struggling to figure out what to do when Harrison Ford arrives, writing the funniest part possible.”
Know that fear is normal
Siegel admits he was a little nervous, too, and that was okay. He mocked his fear. Yeah, Ford’s word was asking the prettiest girl in school to come to prom, and somehow she says yes. Then you’re in a panic, and you’re thinking, ‘Where am I going to take her to dinner?’ Then you say, ‘Oh no, I don’t know how to dance.’ Fortunately, fear passes.
“I’m here to work”
“Harrison Ford has a mentality: ‘I’m here to work.’ He once told me, ‘My goal at the end of every job is for the people who hire me to be happy.’ It’s good advice for anyone.”
Learn to stop
Siegel notes that patience is the key to self-preservation in show business and life. “You think of an idea for a new show while sitting on your couch, and a few years later, it’s there,” he says. “You have to embrace waiting in life or you will always be miserable. Life is about waiting.”
The river is to blame
“I love acting more than I can express,” he says, “but all this creative stuff like planning your river rafting trip, getting your gear and drawing your map. You know everything by way of you. You go to REI. You get more stuff. You think everything.” It’s settled. Then when you get to the river, you realize the river is in charge. All your plans are out the window. … The magic is that someone else is in charge, and life’s surprises are as close to magic as they ever are.”
Let yourself grieve
“I get sad in life. I never dress life lightly, but it’s worked out great for me,” says Siegel. “It made me want to write, so I could express things from my heart. I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that. Writing is therapy. I don’t have the energy to hide all that much when I write something. I write from a place,” we all have a hard time figuring out. That and maybe some fun figuring it out together.”
Share the joy
“In life and in comedy, most of the time you’re not hitting the ball,” says Siegel. “You put the ball in, so someone else can hit it. And that should still be good. Share the joy no matter what you do. Let the other person drive. Let me create the space for you to kill it. Help me figure it out for you, and we both win.”
What does success mean to you
“If achievement is what you put your value in, you will never achieve enough,” he says. “If it’s money, you’re never rich enough. But if you do something and you’re a part of what happens, you’re always in it and that’s always enough.”
“Kindness is the one thing that never goes out of style,” says Siegel.