John C. McGinley: Stan Miller, the Opposite of Lancelot


John C. McGinley is a veteran actor of the silver screen and the small screen. From Platoon to Scrubs to his current series on IFC, Stan Against Evil, he has been a presence for several different generations. In real life, he is a force of nature. Passionate, outspoken and enthusiastic, it was a pleasure to sit down and chat with him about the season finale of Stan for That’s My Entertainment.

Delicious Finale

TME: In Stan Against Evil season two, everyone’s performances were terrific. I don’t think fans will be prepared for the finale.

JCM: I am so overwhelmed by the way episodes seven and eight came together. It took Dana and I 14 episodes and two years to yield the most stunning hour of programming that IFC has ever produced. This is epic! Obviously, I am really proud of it.

The Dynamic Duo

Photo Credit Kim Simms/IFC

TME: Stan and Evie have grown very fond of each other. I know when Janet spoke to us she compared the relationship to a father and daughter-type situation.

JCM: I agree. Dana has always said that Evie is the daughter Stan never had. Now, that’s not to disparage Deborah’s character at all. She’s the Jonathan Winters of a generation. She’s a genius improvisational actor. We have tailored her role to accentuate those strengths.

Janet…at first, you…almost want to say she is the son he never had but that’s not it at all. She’s the daughter he never had. That’s so great!  It’s not like he has an ax to grind or there is something inadequate about Denise. It’s just that Evie is such a bad ass. She’s the female Harrison Ford.

I am so overwhelmingly fond of both of these actors as we’ve tailored their arcs to their strengths. Both of them have just exploded.

TME: What is it about Evie that Stan has grown attached to and how do you think her character feels about Stan?

JCM: I don’t know the answer to the second question. But I will tell you this, I think when Dana constructed Stan to make him such an interesting anti-hero, that what compels Stan to do the right thing at the last second is ass backwards. It’s beyond delicious!

He’ll have to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing because he doesn’t want to hear about it if he doesn’t do it! Which is the best thing ever!

That is what compels you? Because you don’t want to hear people whining and complaining that you didn’t do the right thing? That’s great! It’s the opposite of Lancelot. It’s the opposite of any hero scenario, ever!

He just doesn’t want to hear about it. So, okay. We’ll go do the right thing and that’s what compels him. It’s great. It’s so subversive and fantastic.

TME: It is a very human response because not everyone wants to be a hero.

JCM: Stan has no interest! He lost his wife! That’s all he ever talks about. He lost his job. All he wants to do is watch the History Channel and he can’t even do that because Hitler comes on. Just no one will leave him alone and when he’s left alone there is a couple hundred witches that want to kill him! Everything has gone completely sideways. It’s fantastic. It’s chaos.

TME: Were you aware that the fans are calling both you and Janet the Dynamic Duo because of your wonderful chemistry?

JMC: No, it makes me happy! I hero worship Janet. She knows that. We wove a kind of screwball comedy tone into season two and Janet can do it in her sleep. Janet does a one woman show in episode eight. She should be nominated for an Emmy. She is just unbelievable!

Getting “Whole”

TME: How do you think the fans are going to respond to the finale?

John C. McGinley - Stan Miller the Opposite of Lancelot - Courtesy of IFC
Courtesy of IFC

JCM: Dana wrote this amazing arc for Stan this year. I’m always about finding the uber verb. Stan’s verb this year was to “get whole.” The only way he could “get whole” was to get Claire, his wife.

And she’s dead! That is the most ridiculous uber-objective but he’s undeterred. He does the right thing. He gets Evie back and then armed with that technology and a little bit of knowledge for Stan can be dangerous, he thinks if I can get Evie, I can get Claire.

It proved to be this overwhelmingly emotional arc for Stan. Whether it’s begging on his knees in front of Eccles’ daughter in the second episode of the year, which is absolutely the first time he’s ever been on his knees in his life, begging this child to take that note and send it back, and that kind of set us off.

Shooting it that night, it felt like we were playing the real stakes. If you, Stan are going to “get whole” and if the way you are going to do this is if you get Claire then okay, have at it!

TME: You have some very emotional moments this season. How do you as an actor prepare for those taxing scenes? They can be very draining.

JCM: Most everything for me goes back to my son, Max. I borrow from Max’s sensibilities and my relationship with him. I kind of tentacle out from there. When I talk to other special needs parents and caregivers and when I also advocate for our community, everything is fed by that love.

It’s this rich, rich deposit that I can draw from. Emotionally it is immediately available to me. I don’t have to dig very far. It’s right below the surface. All of my Max love is immediately available to me. I guess I triangulate it to serve moments like in Stan.

Spread the Word to End the Word

TME: We know you are a steadfast advocate for those with intellectual disabilities, especially Down Syndrome. You are also a board member of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. Over the years, you have written a few wonderful articles about the Spread the Word to end the R word campaign. Can you take a minute to talk to us about why the R word is so hurtful to those who may not understand?

JCM: The only way to do it in a work environment is to ask somebody if there is not a better way to put that. That’s the socially acceptable way and people will say but what?

And you say you just used the word “retard” to describe the party over the weekend. Then they say oh and you say, my cousin Steve was born with Down Syndrome and that’s really offensive to me. Then all of a sudden, you’re having a conversation. I wish I could do that more often.

Stan Has Something to Say

John C. McGinley – Photo Credit: Kim Simms/IFC

TME: Do you have a message for the Stan Against Evil Fans out there? They are a passionate group that really believes in the show and are

doing all they can for a season three. If you could do it in Stan’s voice, that would be really sweet!

JCM: Well, I know what he would say. “It’s in the bag!”

Catch the season finale of Stan Against Evil on IFC, Wednesday, November 22 at 10 p.m. Eastern 7 p.m. Pacific.

If you love the show tweet #KeepStanKilling #ShovelsUpForSeason3 to @IFC and @stanagainstevil on twitter.

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