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Interview: Guest House’s Mike Castle

by Charles Trapunski

Mike Castle is a really cool dude! I figured that he would be happy to hear that we spoke with his Brews Brother Alan Aisenberg a few months ago, as well as his wife Lauren Lapkus about a year and a half ago, but he was super chatty from the first second that we spoke and he was pretty jazzed to talk about his film Guest House, in which he plays a Blake Renner, one half of a young couple (alongside Aimee Teagarden), on the lookout for an affordable house in Los Angeles. When they finally find one, it comes with a catch, as The Weasel himself, Pauly Shore, playing Randy Cockfield, is living in the guest house, and the comedy is very chill. Castle was happy to speak as well about Brews Brothers, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and how he has been staying active during the global pandemic.

The following is a condensed and edited version of a phone conversation with the remarkably down-to-earth and funny Mike Castle of Guest House.

*This interview originally ran on September 4, 2020* 

Brief Take: Hi Mike! What did you enjoy most about working with Pauly Shore in Guest House?

Mike Castle: Pauly is an extremely friendly person and made working very easy. Also, and this surprised me, he really liked to rehearse scenes and run lines – which, you know, makes him more professional than me. He also seems to like finding the funny in scenes, he liked reworking a lot of the stuff we were doing until we were both more loose with all of it. It was an extremely easy working environment.

BT: What attracted you to Guest House and to Brews Brothers, in which you and Pauly Shore are playing these kind of asshole characters but with slightly softened edges?

MC: I think it’s people with similar tastes or something is offering it to me. Basically what it is, [chuckles] I think my particular brand of funny, annoying, serious, whatever it is, [laughs] it resonates with similar people. It feels like those two jobs in particular, it was basically the same kind of thing was expected from me to varying degrees.

BT: Has this become your ‘brand’? Or did it extend throughout your entire career?

MC: More lately, and to me, a really essential part of it is like what I like to do. I love that type of comedy, like more than anything of it can seem mean in a moment and then suddenly can seem nice and relatable. It’s basically always playing its real sort of stakes, in which you’re not always a caricature. Like he always has a pun ready, but it’s like: “No”, sometimes he’s not in a good mood, sometimes he just really wants to joke around. Life is very moody and any time a job offers that, it’s pretty great.

BT: There are interesting people all over this movie, including Billy Zane in a semi-serious role. 

MC: It truly was every day, like “Oh my God”. First of all, we’re filming in Encino, I’ve seen Encino Man about 9,000 times, and then each new person who comes in, I love for some different reason. Like I love Erik Griffin and I love Bobby Lee and then also meeting comedians that I hadn’t previously known, like Punkie Johnson, she’s a stand-up who a lot of my friends knew, but I had never heard of her and she’s so funny. Every day, like if you didn’t know someone, and I didn’t know Punkie, then you go: “Well, I assume that person’s super funny or something” and you’re kind of excited the whole time in which you go: “Oh they are really funny”. Hanging out with Bobby Lee was so much fun, I’ve been a fan of his for so long and it was just awesome. When I first moved to L.A., one of my first friends, who is still my comedy partner and just a close, close friend, he would teach improv classes and he had taught Lou Ferrigno Jr. for a while and I used to see Lou all the time, but I was like a guy crashing at my buddy’s place [chuckles] while my buddy was coaching him, but then to be on set and be like: “Hey man! I used to hang out on Joey’s couch! We used to talk sometimes, it’s good to see you, man!” That was a pretty great time. And also, just Billy Zane. Just the name alone, it was such a thrill to work with him and so hilarious and just truly fun and easy to work with. Very, very collaborative and silly.

BT: When you are working with Aimee Teagarden, I am thinking about Friday Night Lights. Are you?

MC: Right when I saw her, I was like: “Oh my God, it’s Coach’s daughter.” I feel like Aimee is such a nice and funny person. And extremely low-key. We would both be on set reading books in the same room, sort of quietly and then she’d go: “Oh, what do you think about this scene? Should I say this or should I say this?” And we just kind of talked a little bit about the lines and kind of joke around and Sam, the director, is such a nice, like a good dude, and he wants everyone to sort of connect with the dialogue. It was also giving the lines in a way that felt real to herself, which is very easy to play off of because you’re like: “Oh yeah, I’ll help that along as best as I can”.

BT: How do you find the balance between really going for it and letting others have their moments? 

MC: I have done improv since…I did Second City improv when I was 13 and I basically kept doing that kind of comedy forever. It’s kind of one of those things that feels kind of second nature-y to you, that you go like: “Well, I want to honour whatever the other person is saying.” You are both doing comedy and acting simultaneously, so you want it to feel as authentic but also funny, and something I have learned along the way is that it’s very funny to be real. Because real people are petty, for one thing, and real people will say or do something that is so unnecessarily petty or why they care about thing is like: “Why do you care about that?, but that’s what is real life. I think that when you play a real character or you’re trying to find the balance, it’s equal parts being small-minded, self-centred, but then you also want other people to feel good. Basically, it’s like trying to be a good human being [chuckles] and then you find the comedy within it. It’s also very fun to go back and forth, to do or say something like insane and then immediately be like: [raises voice] “Whoa, but wait, whoa, why are you so offended, I was just saying that. Oh my God…” To go back and forth is a fun balance of which to play.

BT: Who do you think is funny?

MC: Well, obviously, my wife would be someone who inspires me and I think is so funny. I’m walking into the other room as I say this to make eye contact with her. [laughs] And I feel like there are a lot of Chicago comedy people who just watching them and now watching them flourish out here has been a great thing. Tim Baltz, who is on Righteous Gemstones, is one of the funniest people ever. Sam Richardson, Tim Robinson, so basically all of these guys from the Chicago comedy scene. In my first job I worked with Erinn Hayes, who played my older sister and I always see her and I go: “Oh, that’s so cool, that’s so fun and my first job”. Oh, and I got to work with Reggie Watts and that was truly one of those things that felt cosmically really great, because I had been such a fan of him for so long and then we got cast on a show together, like it was completely random, and I had spent years saying to people: “You gotta see this Reggie Watts video” or watching old YouTube videos of him recording in his apartment. And so yeah, getting to work with Reggie was absolutely amazing.

BT: What has having this time off kind of done for you?

MC: It’s been a moving experience. You go in and out of being…it almost feels very Twilight Zone-y, in terms of like: “Now we’ve had the free time that I’ve bemoaned not having”. Now I’m like: “I hate it!” I want to go back to doing things! I want to drive an hour to Santa Monica to do a meeting or whatever bullshit it was about which I used to complain. And then it becomes a thing in which it’s like: “Well, I guess that I’ll indulge in these weird things in which I want to indulge”. It’s like I play a ton of chess and then I watch non-stop streams of chess of Hikaru Nakamura. I find that very enjoyable, my wife makes fun of me every time she sees me watching it, because to watch [chuckles], I love watching professional chess games, but it’s almost silence. So you just hear the clock tick and then you hear people in the crowd coughing [laughs] and that’s the whole thing, and I can watch this for like 50 hours. And it’s been a lot of that stuff, in which you go: “Well, I’m going to indulge in that now, I guess”, because early on, I was trying to read as many hard, long, dense books as possible and then after getting through a handful of them, then I was like: “Okay. Now I’ll read easier things”. [laughs]

BT: Have you thought about what it will mean for your professional career?

MC: Yeah, absolutely! I’m definitely doing more stuff related to writing right now, because that all is just truly, it’s the thing that I love the most anyway, I love writing, I find it so much fun. And so I’m working on a script with Marques Ray right now. I’m basically trying to force a second season of Brews Brothers, it’s going to be like all of the same actors but a totally different premise. The main focus has been on writing stuff, but also are you aware of the phenomenon of Zoom comedy shows?

BT: Nope.

MC: A lot of comedy theatres are opening up this thing in which they will basically host an online Zoom show, like Lauren (Lapkus) and Paul F. Tompkins have done a few of them. And it’s weird, because you can actually get more people than you would get normally. Because you’re getting people tuning in from all over the world. You would usually play a show at Dynasty Typewriter and there would be like 300 seats or something and now they’re doing it online and there’s like 5000 people watching. It’s very strange. I’m about to do one at the end of September, but doing the live comedy thing on Zoom is truly strange, I’m already experiencing this weird dystopic, comedic future through that stuff.

BT: Brews Brothers did end on a bit of a cliffhanger…

MC: Exactly! That’s what I’m saying. I mean, God, just give me that season set in that Belgian Trappist monk’s Monastery. I would love to see all that. [laughs]

This was a favourite anecdote of mine, the scene in the last episode in which we are walking through various marshland and all that stuff and Alan (Aisenberg) falls into the water, he falls off of this rickety little bridge. That was not planned and he [laughs] he could not not fall into the water, like it was literally one of the last things that we were filming for the whole series and the director Dale (Stern) was showing us this bridge and going: “Okay, well it’s a little rickety, but don’t step on this part, don’t step on this part”, we filmed it two times, he falls in just up to his legs the first time, and we all go like: “Well, alright, well you just cannot step on that board, okay? And you just gotta go forward, alright?”, and it was one of those things in which it happens among like brothers, in which you know that your little brother is going to fuck things up? And if you watch the playback, it is a hundred per cent real when he falls in. And if you look, you can actually see that he literally steps in the first spot that he stepped in the first time he fell in, he steps on the exact same plank and falls in, so his disappointment when he’s in the water is not acting. [laughs]

BT: What was your experience like on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? 

MC: I mean that was really a bizarre one for me, that’s truly something I never imagined I would be doing. And when Lauren (Lapkus) asked me and I said this on the show, I did say no. It felt too crazy to me. I also just assumed that I would get every question. With that one, it’s really [chuckles] I’m not comparing you to my Mom, but my Mom also very curious how I did Millionaire, and that she was like: “That seems smarter than acting, in a way”. But yeah, it’s kind of just the same thing, in which you go: “I’m doing this”, I don’t know, it really relies on this improv perspective, in which once you get used to: “I’m going to walk on to this stage every night and not have had anything prepared”, or whatever. Then you kind of reach this point in which you’re like, well, it’s the same on set, it’s the same on this show, it’s the same in an interview. I don’t really have it, but I’m just going to say the truth and hope that I manage it articulately.

BT: You were also on Grace and Frankie, that must have been a blast.

MC: There is something for which I am really proud with that, which is that my Mom loves that show and I’m from Chicago and when I was in Chicago before I was on the show, my Mom would just, she would not stop talking about how much she loved it. And then when I was back in L.A., I called my Manager and I was like: “Hey, the next time you see any part for Grace and Frankie, just tell me and then I will audition for it, I don’t care if it is small”. And then basically that one came out and I auditioned for that and I got on it and basically the entire thing was for me to just not tell my Mom that I was on it, so that then when she would watch it, she would be like stunned. [laughs] It was one of the most complicated jokes that I think that I have ever done, like the show is so funny, getting to be on it at all was a lot of fun, but truly the most fun was like: “Oh, I can’t wait until Mom sees this”, freaks out and then I get to be like: “Yeah, I talked to Jane Fonda all day that day”, that was a very good time.

BT: Do you like to watch your own projects?

MC: I mean it used to be the typical when I would refuse to watch myself in something. But I started to realize that it was because I was in things that I didn’t like. [laughs] And so with Guest House and with Brews Brothers, I enjoyed it so much that I wanted it to be good and Lauren has really helped me with this kind of thing, in which she’s like you have to watch. And so I would watch it and go: “Oh, I thought that you wouldn’t hear me saying that as much, but you actually are hearing it, so I think that I should say it more clearly”, and you just start to go: “You have to watch”. You have to watch it, you have to think about it, and there’s this thing as well, in which I think that many people when they watch themselves act and certainly myself, when I watch myself, it’s very easy to go like: “God, so ugly, or why did I do that dumb thing, or why do I look like this or why did I do that?” And certainly part of my, I don’t know, getting better at this stuff has been like, you just accept all of that as a given. [chuckles] You don’t even try to talk yourself out of your negative thoughts about yourself, you just go like: “That is the case”. Even if it’s not actually the case, like if you go: “Well, you’re not…you don’t look like a fucking moron” or whatever you think, but if you go: “Well, I accept that I’m probably always going to think that”, because it’s weird to see yourself acting and talking and doing all of this stuff, you just accept that and go: “It is what it is”. And you watch yourself like do your best to make it work.

BT: What about in terms of husband and wife, do you watch each other’s stuff and critique it closely?

MC: We’ll watch it pretty closely but it’s more like we’re just each other’s champions. I’m such a fan of her and her comedy and just like since I first saw her perform, I was like: “Oh, this girl’s mint”. It’s mainly that, [chuckles] in which we’ll watch each other and go [raises voice]: “Oh, great job, that was really funny”. I feel like it’s the most actor-y thing that we’ll do is we’ll watch a scene from something in which we feature and then we’ll go: “Well, what’s crazy is that they actually filmed a lot more, I thought that they would use a lot of the other stuff and then they cut it down to 10 seconds”. [laughs] Otherwise, there’s not really much critiquing.  For me, Lauren is just so funny, that it’s so easy for me to just say that. When I’m watching her in something, it’s really easy for me to go: “That was so funny, that was great“, because I’m also very used to not thinking things are great, so it’s really awesome to be married to someone where you go: “You knocked that out of the park all the time”.

BT: What is something that you hope viewers will look out for in Guest House?

MC: I guess as far as looking out for things goes, I would say, look at what a good time they’re having! It was such an easy going and fun time on set, I feel like it’ll look like it’s from a totally different time period, when people were free to be recklessly stupid before the world was trying to destroy us.

Guest House is now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Lionsgate

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