After spending the last few years taking bit parts on shows like "Nurse Jackie," "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and starring as one of the cult members in last year's indie hit "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Christopher Abbott has found his groove in 2012. You probably know him best as good guy Charlie on this year's polarizing HBO series "Girls," and this weekend he's poised for what might be his breakout role in the Sundance 2012 favorite, "Hello I Must Be Going."
In the film, directed by actor Todd Louiso (he played the babysitter in "Jerry Maguire"), Abbott plays Jeremy, a 19-year-old child actor who falls for Amy (Melanie Lynskey), a divorcee 16 years his senior. We chatted with Abbott, 26, about "Hello I Must Be Going" and what's in store for Charlie on "Girls" next season.
So with the attention the first season of "Girls" has received it must feel like premiering "Hello I Must Be Going" at Sundance was in another life, right?
Yeah. The thing is all the stuff coming out this year, including "Girls," was shot last year, so for me it's been like you do something and you move on from it. So hopefully when it comes out you're working on something else, so you forget about it. In a good way. [laughs]
Jeremy in "Hello I Must Be Going" is a little more aggressive with the ladies than Charlie on "Girls." Was there time to build a friendship with Melanie before shooting those steamy scenes?
We didn't really have that much time. We met one day about two weeks before we started shooting. Just to meet. And then we met again at the start of shooting. Luckily the first thing we shot was the dinner scene where we first meet [in the film]. So there was a natural energy for that one.
The thing about that process is we only had three weeks so aside from acting you want to build a rapport but you don't want it to feel forced. So somewhere in the back of your head you want to be close to this person because you want it to look good on film. If it rings false then people can always tell they didn't know each other. So we hung out and right off the bat we had practical conversations about the sexual scenes, just to put it out there that we have to go for it. And that was nice and made us comfortable.
With this being your first meaty role, what did you take away from the experience?
I didn't really do anything differently than I did on "Martha Marcy May Marlene," for instance. The thing with that was a lot of the scenes I was in were on the farm and were cut, but the approach to both were similar. I don't like to think about it being bigger or smaller — [you] just do it justice. If it is a bigger role then all you do is you just have to track it more. You have to know the growth of the character from beginning to end, where if you're just doing a smaller role then it's easier to track the life of it. But the environment on "Hello I Must Be Going" was great because it was nurturing and open and Todd the director is an actor too so he just let us be free in the scenes.
I've read that one of your jobs as a teen was working at a video store in your hometown. What were some of your favorite movies to play on the job?
We were usually playing the new releases and the ones we had to play in the store you had to keep them at least PG-13. I didn't really have a go-to but the store had a great foreign section so when it was late night I would tend to watch more of those.
Has it gotten to the point yet that you're recognized on the street because of the success of "Girls"?
No. I mean I've talked to [co-star] Allison [Williams] a couple of times and I think the girls deal with it more. Really once in a blue moon someone will know me from the show.
Is the second season of "Girls" currently shooting now?
Yeah. I've been kind of popping in here and there a day or two. I'm not doing as much as last year.
What can we expect out of Charlie this season?
Without giving away too much of the story, like with all of the characters it's more about people growing and realizing things that they've done wrong whether it's in their relationships or otherwise, so through ups and downs have some growth. So I guess for Charlie there are aspects where he's kind of starting to see the light more. He started to towards last season too but I think there's more of that.
Maybe a few more ladies for him?
We haven't finished filming so I haven't really seen all the scripts, but yeah, there's a little bit more, at least through the stuff I've shot so far.
You play a musician in "Girls," you have a track on the "Martha Marcy May Marlene" soundtrack ... do you have musical aspirations?
I'm not in the full motion of doing that. It's something that I'd want to do; I just don't want to force it too much. I don't know. In the future I kind of like the idea of doing music for film. I think that would be a nice job. I've always liked the sound aspect in movies. I guess once I have more instruments under my belt it could be something I could do.
My friend is doing her first feature and Brady Corbet helped write it and we're both going to be in it. It will be a nice "friends project" film. I think we'll do it in the fall.
What would be your dream role?
Man. It's hard to say because if it's a role that hasn't been made yet, it's hard to say. But I guess I would like to do a Western. I like Westerns.
Mac or PC?
I have a Mac.
Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest?
Um, none of the above.
So you're off the grid?!
Yeah. If I had to choose one I like Instagram. I don't have it yet but that's something I want to do. I like the idea of posting pictures and people looking at them, but otherwise I don't have those other things.
Beer or wine?
Rock or Rap?
I guess rock.
Manhattan or Brooklyn?
I live in Brooklyn but I'm not biased to Manhattan. If I have to give a one-word answer I guess Brooklyn, but I very much like both.