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Q&A: Nice Guy Jason Ritter Speaks Softly, Carries 'A Bag of Hammers'

Jason Ritter
Getty Images

We're just gonna say it: Jason Ritter is the nicest guy ever. Sure, he also happens to be crazy talented, but it's pretty clear that much of the heartfelt depth he gives to his roles comes from his naturally kind disposition -- which might be why he is one of the rare actors who can transition seamlessly from crime mysteries (NBC's short-lived "The Event") to dramedies (the series "Parenthood," also on NBC) to indie films, like his latest, "A Bag of Hammers."

Jason plays Ben, a silk-bathrobe-wearing car thief who has gotten "on the property ladder" early with his BFF and partner in crime, Alan (Jake Sandvig). When they rent their income property to a struggling single mom, however, they end up a wee bit (read: a whole lot) in over their heads. We chatted with Jason about the possibility of fatherhood, what makes Rebecca Hall so posh and why he's a proud Prius owner.

What first drew you to this movie?
Definitely the script, and also Rebecca Hall. I was already such a huge fan of hers, but mainly it was the script that was really funny and fun and then had this huge tragedy right in the middle of it, which was really intriguing. I like the idea that it's almost a buddy comedy -- they have fun together and they're playing around and nothing's really serious in their life -- and then all of a sudden everything shifts for these two guys. I like that. I like seeing these people have to grow.

Your character, Ben, is kind of a man-child.
Yes, he's kind of closed off. He won't really allow himself to be open up, but if there's one thing Ben understands on a profound level, it's loss. He's terrified of the responsibility of having to take care of a child.

A Bag of Hammers
MPI Media Group

In what ways are you like him and in what ways are you different?
Well, I don't regularly break the law.

Wait, so you're not operating a stolen car business?
Yeah, not yet. [Laughs] You know, I think I'm similar to him in that I enjoy my friends and I enjoy not having responsibilities -- but, well, we all enjoy that! But, you know, the idea of having a child is something that I want and would love to have one day, but right now I still feel ill equipped. But then you realize that every single set of parents feels ill equipped. How can you ever be so confident as a human being that you can say, "Oh yeah, I got this. I can raise this child for 18 years and not mess them up a little bit."

How was it working with a child? I hear children actors can sometimes be challenging.
That was actually one of the things that I was most worried about, because a lot of times child actors can be very, sort of, presentational, and this requires a deep, soulful performance. I was just so relieved when they got Chandler [Canterbury] because he's a real actor. He's not the way a lot of child actors are -- a lot of them feel like they need to be doing something all the time, otherwise they're not acting. He's really comfortable with just being in the moment and not pushing. And he also just didn't have that little attitude that some of them might have.

You mentioned that you were a Rebecca Hall fan prior to this movie, but is this the first time you worked with her? And how was it?
It was the first time I ever worked with her, and she was so great. She was so easy to work with and was so much fun to be around.

Was there anything about her that was different than you expected from being a fan from afar?
Yeah, I mean, I think I thought she would be more ... umm ... I guess the word would be posh, not in like a negative way, but in more of a like, "Eww, I'm not going to touch that," or "That's gross" kind of way. But she just was so relaxed and comfortable everywhere -- wherever we were shooting -- she was just the total opposite. It's funny now though, because I think the only thing I was going on for the posh idea was that she's English. [laughs] Well, also, I guess because she's done so many cool, high-end films and she's worked with all these incredible people. I was nervous that she'd be like, "Oh, now, I gotta work with this guy?"

What's a dream role you haven't played yet but would love to take on?
I'd love to play a really loose cannon, a guy like Gary Oldman in "State of Grace," or something like that.

Jason Ritter in The Perfect Family
Variance Films

And what upcoming projects are you most excited about?
"The Perfect Family" is coming out. It's another independent movie that I did with Kathleen Turner and Emily Deschanel. It was really a lot of fun. With independent movies, you do it and it goes to festivals and things and you just hope that one day it will really, actually come out. So I'm so excited that both "A Bag of Hammers" and "The Perfect Family" are being shown in real, actual cinemas.

You have an impressive resume now, but when you got your first Hollywood paycheck, what did you buy?
Gosh, umm, I've never been a big spender. I guess what I bought was my car.

What kind of car?
I bought a Prius. I didn't go crazy. I've seen actors who get a pilot and then they buy a crazy expensive car and they're like, "My life is about to change!" and then their show doesn't even get picked up. I've always been a little bit cautious and not wanting to go too far, so a Prius, for me, is about the right speed ... Did I just say that?

Who's your dream love interest on screen?
Oh, Juliette Binoche.

Why?
Oh my gosh. She's just such a powerful person and actress. I just, I don't know. I think -- I don't know -- I would just love to work across from her ... I think she's pretty incredible. I don't know, there's something about her I can't really describe, but I feel like she just has this really intense, loving energy that comes out through her acting.

It sounds like you like her.
[laughs] Yeah, I like her.

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