Jason Segel on how action hero Harrison Ford embraced his comedic side in Shrinking
The Hollywood stars lead the way in the hotly tipped Apple TV+ show from the makers of hit comedy-drama Ted Lasso.
Anyone who's had therapy has probably wondered at some point: What does my therapist really think? What's going on in their world or head right now?
It's fertile ground for a TV series - which is exactly what Shrinking, a new 10-part comedy landing on Apple TV+ this month, is built around.
With Hollywood big hitters Jason Segel and Harrison Ford leading the cast, and co-created by Segel plus Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein (both part of the talent behind the Emmy Award-winning comedy-drama Ted Lasso), expectations are high.
It follows a therapist named James (Segel) whose life has been thrown off course by grief. Ignoring all the rules and ethics he's been trained to follow, he begins telling his clients exactly what he really thinks - with some dramatic consequences for both them and him.
The premise came about after Lawrence and Goldstein got chatting in the pub one day and discovered they'd both been mulling over similar ideas.
"I had a version of this show that was much, much darker, and Bill had a version that was much lighter," Goldstein explains. "We were talking about it and went, well, let's put them together - it might actually be the best version of this."
Some of the inspiration "comes from real life," Goldstein adds. "Also, I think therapy is very important, and I think it has inherent dramatic state to it, because the best comedy and the best drama at the end of the day is about people - and therapy is really about people.
"And the intimacy of a relationship between a therapist and their patient is incredibly unique, and yet has boundaries and they're not your family, they're not your loved one, they might know you better than anyone, they might not. All of that is just interesting."
Lawrence notes how he and Goldstein shared an interest "in the world of therapists because we're both in therapy - and it's kind of stigmatised", he adds.
"But more importantly, we wanted to do a comedic show about grief. Because we found that in our lives - Brett's father has Parkinson's, as does Harrison Ford's character (in the show, he plays fellow therapist Dr Phil Rhodes), and my father has something called Lewy bodies, which is a kind of dementia - and so it doesn't matter where you are in your life, almost everybody right now, in a post-pandemic world, is tangentially dealing with some kind of grief or trauma.
"The challenge for me was I love writing about that shit comedically, because that's how I treat it."
Lawrence created Scrubs - the hilarious and hugely popular US hospital sitcom that ran from 2001-2010 - and recalls how that was a hard sell at first.
"The amount of people that were like, 'You can't do a funny, silly show that then has people dying!' And I was like, 'I think I can, if I just play in a sad indie song and turn the lights down, you know?'"
After joining up their therapy-themed ideas, Lawrence says Segel came on board to create Shrinking as he too was looking "to do a comedy with some emotional depth, and it just clicked".
Segel's character is depressed and unravelling - which executive producer Neil Goldman, also a writer on the show, suggests is not really as far-fetched as it might seem.
"Therapists are human too, and so also flawed," Goldman observes. "A lot of the times they go into it because they're pretty f***** up, at the end of the day."
There's a particular relatability within mental health themes too - "everybody now can tap into those feelings of wanting some sort of outlet, some type of help", Goldman adds.
Shrinking marks Ford's first time leading a TV series - and at 80 years old, the first time he's really shown off his comedic side.
"He's funny," Goldstein enthuses, admitting it's "insane" they managed to get the Indiana Jones star on board for the project. "And I think he was very excited as well, because I don't think he's had enough opportunity to show that he's funny - and he is funny."
What was it like for Segel sharing the lead with the movie legend?
"Well, it's interesting - it's actually a great juxtaposition because Harrison Ford is an idol and you are naturally in awe of Harrison Ford. There is a ton Harrison Ford has over me, including raw masculinity," he says, laughing.
"But I've also been doing comedy for a long time, I have this weapon on my side. So I had this thought, like OK - this guy may be a potentially much, much better actor than I am, and a much more heart-throbby kind of man, but I want to be funnier than Harrison Ford.
"And then this guy turns out to be hilarious! And so you're just kind of outmatched at every turn by Harrison Ford," Segel adds with a grin.
"But I was very happy for that. I literally got very, very lucky."
The first two episodes of Shrinking arrive on Apple TV+ on Friday, followed by one new episode weekly.