Interview – Judge Reinhold

Dubbed the decade of excess, everything in the ’80s was bigger, better, and sometimes over the top. With that in mind, it was a prime time for young actors to become stars, and one of those was Judge Reinhold. Beginning his career in television, by the time Reinhold was in his early twenties, the Comedy film genre was booming and thus he landed a role in some major films including 1981’s Stripes, 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. A talented, tall, slender, young man, Reinhold’s delivery was unique within itself, possessing an innocent aura. Since, the impassioned performer has starred in an extensive list of features and television series, showing his talents extend far beyond the funny, handsome guy that burst onto the silver-screen over thirty years ago. Recently we caught up with the busy actor to talk about his career in film, his latest role in TBS series The Detour, how the industry has changed, and much more. – You have been involved in acting in film and in television for, believe it or not, nearly four decades now. First, tell us, what inspired you to get involved in the industry?

Judge Reinhold – Your math has to be off (laughs). The industry just was a step from getting on stage my sophomore year in high school and having this weird feeling that I was more comfortable on stage than I was in my normal life. I was about 15, I’d still be acting on a street corner I guess if they didn’t have such a great outlet for it, that eventually led me to LA in 1979. The movie Animal House (1978) had just opened and did well the year before it, so suddenly, there was the whole new genre of youth oriented comedies. I was in Stripes in 1980, so I kind of got on that train with those National Lampoon guys and John Landis, and eventually that whole group. I almost got Caddyshack (1980), it was between me and Michael O’Keefe, he was in The Great Santini (1979), which opened the week before, so they gave it to him. Those were the kind of movies that I was suddenly up for, the timing was really great.

Columbia Pictures
Universal Pictures – You had mentioned some of your well-known film credits from back in the ’80s such as Stripes, obviously Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), and the Beverly Hills Cop series. One could imagine that these were all different experiences for you.

Judge Reinhold – Very much so, they certainly are different experiences, I loved the genres. I feel the first Beverly Hills Cop was one of the best Action Comedies. I loved the idea of it. I think that one was more successful than a lot of them because the violence was very real. It starts with his buddy getting shot point blank in the head, it’s a very stunning moment. That somehow heightened the comedy even more. I am proud of that movie because it was really a successful Action Comedy. – It certainly was. The original strip club scene, etc, there are so many good scenes in that movie, it really has stood the test of time.

Judge Reinhold – That scene was the first day of work. I was meeting Eddie Murphy around the tiny little table the size of a steering wheel in a strip club. It was an odd first day (laughs).

Paramount Pictures
Columbia Pictures – Those are very good memories to have. You have built a diverse resume, but clearly you have been in a lot of comedic roles throughout the years. Do you enjoy the comedy side of things?

Judge Reinhold – I was just cast that way. Although, I was trained for both. I worked with the legendary acting teacher Stella Adler. She was one of the great inspirations of my life. She is one of the handful of people you just feel like you wouldn’t be anywhere without. She taught Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando. I credit her with raising the standards of three generations of American Actors. Anyway, all that to say she trained me well.

I think as I get older, the parts are more diverse now, and that has been really fun. I’m doing something now called The Detour. It is a TBS show that Jason Jones wrote, he was one of Jon Stewart’s news reporter correspondents on The Daily Show. He is a very funny guy that wrote this show with his wife Samantha Bee, who is also a writer on The Daily Show; she is producing it. Even though it is a Comedy, it’s quite a departure for me. I play a dangerously drunk mechanic. He is one of these guys who could fix your car in a second, but you’d have to drive him home. I don’t know if you’d ever met anybody like that. Not all mechanics, but some of them, some of these rural mechanics have a case of beer under them and they can fix anything at any time, but they can’t drive home. That’s been really fun. – It is a funny series doing well. In the series you play Davy as you said, how did the role come about for you?

Judge Reinhold – I was flattered because the director, Steve Pink, who was one of the writers on Gross Point Blank and High Fidelity; he discovered Jack Black. He and Jason got together when they were shooting the pilot and thought of me for this drunken mechanic role. We had a great time, Jason and Samantha are both from improvisational Comedy shows, there was really no safety net, but we had a great time. We stayed with the script, but we went off it quite frequently.

Still from Beverly Hills Cop. © Paramount Pictures – That is always fun when you have the ability to adlib like that.

Judge Reinhold – Yeah, they welcomed it. There was one point I am lying in a car blackout drunk, and the way he’s talking about me, I had to put my hand in my pocket and squeeze my thighs so hard it created a blood bruise at the end of the day because I couldn’t stop from laughing, and I was supposed to be unconscious. It is different every time, he and his wife are just extraordinary comic talents. I think he’s now the funniest man on TV as a result of this show and she has Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, which I have to say is the closest manifestation to The Daily Show. It’s a very strong social satire, very issue driven, and also from a woman’s point of view.

You realize, when you watch Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, that it really is a man’s world in the end in a sense that men choose the news. There are incredibly compelling stories. I really do think people should see the show. She did a segment and it was funny, but it was also painful in fact, that food stamps don’t pay for diapers, and diapers are very expensive for low income families. Who thinks about that? Unless you are in that situation. She raises things that maybe Jon Stewart wouldn’t, and some of them are from a woman’s point of view, they are all very poignant or hilarious.

Jason and Samantha, I guess have a deal with TBS and they are kind of running the station now with The Detour and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, they are a comic Juggernaut for that network. It’s very exciting because they are really fresh, I obviously can’t speak more highly of them, they are lovely people. I think they are both Canadians, maybe that would explain that, I don’t know. They don’t carry guns, they are really nice and really funny to work with.

TBS – (laughs) It sounds like it has been a great experience working with them. The show premiered on April 11th and it really had very positive reviews. People are saying it is very funny, but very blunt.

Judge Reinhold – A lot of the humor derives from what a family would normally talk about, which gives it a good grounding, but I wouldn’t call it a family show. It is a show about a family, but it’s off-color. It is because it is what a family talks about, but it’s probably for an adult audience (laughs). They are doing something really smart where the show premieres on Monday at 8 PM every week, but once that episode debuts, they show it throughout the day on schedule to familiarize the show with the audience. I think that’s really smart. – That is very smart, it gives people different opportunities to see it at different points in the day. You actually appear in two episodes, is your character going to be something that is possibly going to do another guest appearance or a re-occurrence?

Judge Reinhold – We talked about it, I don’t know. I’ve learned you just go on. You just move on, if they come up with something for me, that would be great. I can see it because it’s about a road trip, it’s a family on a road trip. I think it would be funny to have him show up again when their car breaks down. We just had a great time, it was a very funny character for me too, it was very different. – Well let’s hope you have that opportunity to come back on the show. You had mentioned earlier when we were speaking a little while ago about the National Lampoons. There are people that are drawing similarities between the possible influence from National Lampoons on The Detour. Would you say that is a fair assessment?

Judge Reinhold – I might say that it’s brighter, but I would have to say that some of the humor, and it is funny, is definitely in the Lampoon wheelhouse. It’s a gamut, it can be really funny and it grows like the National Lampoon, but it’s also about the political dynamics in a marriage. That’s what gives it its brain. It’s both brains and T -n- A, well no, it’s not really T -n- A, there’s not a lot of nudity to how I put it. It’s both lowbrow and highbrow.

That’s kind of the reason I liked it. If you just have lowbrow, then sometimes when you are acting in a show like that it gets a little sleazy feeling, but this goes back and forth. I think that’s why I’m going to describe the show from now on, it’s both low and highbrow. Thanks for getting that out of me. That’s pretty much it. – It is good to have a balance like that, like you said, as an actor and also as a viewer. Some people prefer highbrow, some people prefer lowbrow, but it is good to have a balance so there is something for everyone.

Judge Reinhold – Absolutely. That’s why I think I felt I was lucky to do the show as it debuted, because it really is fresh that way.

The Detour still. © TBS – Yes, and The Detour is signed on for a second season. Best of luck to them, that is excellent.

Judge Reinhold – I know, they deserve it, they really do. It’s kind of easier to get a second season than it used to be because of Netflix. Say TBS makes 10 episodes, it is easier to sell a series even when it runs out to Netflix to air. It used to be really hard, let’s say a 10, 12 episode pick up. It was always a pilot and then maybe 6 a few years ago. I have to say Netflix has made it easier for the executives in each network to consider a larger order of shows. They really deserve it, they hit the ground running, I think it’s going to be a popular show. – Agreed. You have worked in feature films and in television so you’ve done a good balance of both. You have had leading roles and supporting roles. Do you prefer working in television more, or in feature films?

Judge Reinhold – I’d probably have to say features, because you have more time. Any actor I think would agree, it’s the writing that drives you. It’s really what’s on the page. You really almost forget, if the writing is really good, you think, “I have to do this, whatever it is.” Television is painful in two respects – one, you don’t have the time to really sometimes get it as great as it could be. I don’t like to do a lot of takes, so that’s ok. The most painful thing is they have to cut it so tight.

If you do a half an hour show, that’s 20 minutes with no argument with commercials. An hour show is 40 minutes with commercials. A lot of really great stuff always ends up on the floor. That’s the hardest thing for me about TV, how tight it is. You can expand a few minutes with movies. If something is really funny or really great, they will make room for it. There is no room for it on TV. That’s just my subjective opinion. That’s the only thing that’s always been painful. In the end, it’s all about the material. – Very understandable. Honestly, it seems like within the past 5-10 years the material has grown stronger with a lot of series. It seems like there are so many great series now, some perhaps better than full-length features.

Judge Reinhold – I can speak to that. Warner Bros, maybe 5 years ago, they did about 110 movies a year, which was really low if you consider the history of movies and studios. I think this year they are doing 12 movies and the movies are huge budget Action Adventure movies that are made for global releases, which cost so much. You have your movie in Shanghai, Moscow, Paris, London all on the same day. There are fewer movies being made.

Also, the nature of them, it doesn’t really demand a lot of critical thinking or more writing skill. A lot of the talent has moved if you are not thinking about David Fincher, and some of the wonderful filmmakers out there like Jason Reitman, Alexander Payne, other than those guys, the writing talent is in TV. It’s more of a steady gig, it’s more reliable, it’s more secure, that’s what’s happened. You will never silence the true creative voices, as they decided to make fewer movies, it all moved to TV, and now, as a result, TV standards are higher. Now, if you look good in tights you can still work in movies, if you don’t look so great in tights, like me, then you really cut back on your opportunities. It helps to have a super-power as well, ya know. (laughs)

Fast Times at Ridgemont High still. © Universal Pictures – (laughs) Point taken, it seems to be the way that the big Hollywood films have gone. The dynamics are changing whether it be movies or music. Just the way we deliver our entertainment is changing dramatically at a rapid pace.

Judge Reinhold – It really is. I just read recently that, when radio first came out, it took 13 years of the advent of radio to gain 58 million viewers. TV was shorter, it was like 7 or 8 years, and then it took a few months for Facebook to have 70 million or something like that. This is a game changer, all of this digital age is a game changer, it’s like the wild wild west. There’s a lot more material available. It’s hard to keep up with all the platforms and how things are viewed. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out and how it’s going to change, it’s an exciting time, but for us in the industry, it’s a little nerve-racking. We don’t know which way to turn, sometimes we are taken advantage of because the rules haven’t been written yet in terms of who gets what. It’s difficult and it’s an exciting time too, the world is changing so dramatically. – It really is changing dramatically on many fronts. As you said, with the platforms changing, social media, it can be a little overwhelming at times.

Judge Reinhold – Oh absolutely, it’s hard to get to some stuff if you don’t know how. I had a friend, I told a friend I was doing The Detour, he asked me, “Does TBS stream because we don’t get it anymore cause we just have Hulu and Netflix.” I didn’t know what to say to him. Wow man, I didn’t know how to answer that question (laughs). – Well yes, it streams. That question could be a little perplexing though (laughs). Our last question is pertaining to movies, we cover music as well as movies, particularly Horror movies. If you have any favorite Horror films, what are some of your favorites?

Judge Reinhold – I love good Thrillers, I really do. That to me is what draws me to a Horror movie, it has to work as a Thriller first. I think the original Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (1967), if nobody has seen it out there, because it’s pretty old, I’m still amazed by that film. And of course The Exorcist (1973), I just think that was a seminal Horror film. Then there was that aura about it being true. It just scared the hell out of me, it was so well made. Just off the top of my head, I think those would be it.

I love Shaun of the Dead (2004), that’s kind of satirical. I love Zombieland (2009)Honestly, I know it’s kind of highbrow, but No Country for Old Men (2007), I consider a Horror film just because of how people are, what happens to them. I guess it doesn’t really qualify as a Horror film, but the first Coen Brothers movie in 1984, Blood Simple, I think it was a Horror film. I think it had the dynamics of a Horror film. If nobody has seen Blood Simple, I think that qualifies as a 5 star Horror movie. – Everyone has a different idea of what Horror is. People think Horror, they think blood and gore. Horror is much more than that, there is also reality of Horror.

Judge Reinhold –  In the case of Blood Simple, it’s got a lot of blood too and a really bizarre circumstance, that’s why I think that would qualify. It can be pretty gory. Like I said, it has to work as a Thriller to me first. Some people kind of short that part of it. To me, it’s about the suspense before and the circumstances surrounding it. Then I’ll watch it, I don’t care how gory it is.

Columbia Pictures
Warner Bros. –Right, as far as The Exorcist, yes, it has graphic moments, but what makes it effective is the suspense.

Judge Reinhold – Hitchcock said that’s what happens off camera, Shakespeare said that too, it’s what happens off stage that’s more terrifying.

Keep up with Judge Reinhold: Twitter
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