Before "Get Shorty," Chris O'Dowd was known for his comic work in the likes of "Bridesmaids," "The IT Crowd," and many other, mostly nice-guy roles. Thus, his casting in the Epix series as a murderous thug breaking into movie-producing (insert Hollywood joke here) caught some off-guard – including O'Dowd himself.
"Initially … I was a little surprised because it's not what people generally know me for, but at the time, I was looking for something which didn't feel very familiar," he said during a chat at the Los Angeles Times video studio.
But there's plenty of dimension to his Miles Daly (the series protagonist, in place of the Elmore Leonard novel and 1995 film's Chili Palmer). Everything he does, including his attempted career change, his constant hustling and the sometimes-brutal actions that follow, is rooted in his love for his wife and daughter. In fact, "Shorty" is derived in the show from his nickname for his 12-year-old girl.
"He's almost got a bit of a Willy Loman quality, this Miles character that I play," he said, invoking the "Death of a Salesman" character.
When asked how the makers of "Get Shorty" settled on him, he said: "That's a good question. I'm not sure they're totally settled on me." He laughed and went on: "I think that idea was initially Allen Coulter's, who directed it. He's a terrific director who did lots of genres of this ilk, I suppose; he did a lot of 'Boardwalk Empire' and knew what people needed to look tough." The 6-foot-3 actor smirked and added, "I think he was taken by my sheer mass."
While audiences may not have thought of him as the punch-you-in-the-face type, and while O'Dowd studied boxing to change his physicality for the role, he admitted:
"I used to get in fights a lot as a kid. And you find that getting hit is … not that bad. Taking boxing back up kind of reminded me … you can tell people have been hit before if they're in a situation where that looks like a possibility and how close they stand to the other person. Getting close to people without ever feeling like you're intimidated was a large part of it, being still in those moments."
O'Dowd knew he was onto something when he felt the reactions of scene partners.
"Working with Ray [Romano] initially, I could tell he felt uneasy around me when we were doing scenes, which is kind of what I wanted," he said, then added with a laugh, "He's the loveliest man, Ray Romano. Making him feel uncomfortable is a real joy."
You can watch the entire interview below.