Jason Ritter Goes Against Type In ‘7 Minutes’

Photo Credit: Starz Digital Media
August 31st, 2015

Jason Ritter has long made a name for himself that goes beyond his famous father John. This past summer, he further stretched himself in the thriller 7 Minutes as Mike, a hardened criminal from the wrong side of the tracks who teams with his younger brother and friend – played respectively by Luke Mitchell and Zane Holtz – to pull off a life changing bank heist.

This is a change of pace to those who’ve watched Ritter on TV for years, including his breakout on the 2003-05 CBS show Joan of Arcadia, the short lived but future star studded The Class, the recently departed Parenthood, his recent guest spot on Girls, his voice work on Disney’s Gravity Falls, and Comedy Central’s Downton Abbey meets the Kardashians satire Another Period. Yet with several independent movie roles currently in the works, Ritter is keeping busy in many avenues.

In advance of 7 Minutes coming to DVD on Sept. 1, Ritter talked to TMN’s Robert Dougherty on Aug. 24 about the role, working with first time writer/director Jay Martin, his many other past and current projects – and even his ties to the presidential race.

Starz Digital Media

(Jason Ritter in 7 Minutes)

TMN/Robert Dougherty: How did the project first come to you?

Jason Ritter: The script was sent to me, and I was supposed to read it and look at a couple of the different parts. And I went in and I met with Jay, and we talked about the part of Mike, which was my favorite one, the one that I felt most equipped to play, and somehow convinced him to let me do it. I was really excited to get to be part of this thing because it was totally unlike anything else that I'd ever done before.

TMN: How was it working with a first-time writer/director in Jay Martin? Did you feel an extra responsibility to make sure it went well for him?

Ritter: Yeah, I mean, you never know. You feel like you wanna make sure that they're not falling into any pitfalls that maybe you've seen other directors fall into. But at the same time, you want to let them find their movie and allow their vision to come to life. So I think with Jay, he did a really great job of doing a lot of preparation. He really had this movie in his head visually, but then for someone who has that strong of a vision for the movie, he also really was open to input from his actors in terms of what felt right.

And there would be times where he'd allow us to improvise, which is always fun. So it was a really great combination of structure and freedom that is visually really hard for first-time directors to find a balance with. Usually they'll err on one side or the other. And neither of those on their own make for a good movie. Too much freedom for actors is just as bad as zero freedom. [laughter]

TMN: With the limited screen time to forge a brotherly bond between these characters, what did you do with Luke Mitchell to convincingly portray that bond?

Ritter: Luke and I, we were all staying in the same place. It was a new place, Everett, Washington, for all of us. And so we really spent a lot of time hanging out with each other and getting to know each other. And that was really important to get a sense of each other as people first, so then we could get to know each other's sense of humors.

And that's one of the hardest things to sort of fake is a sense of history with someone, and the only way that I've figured out and even a way to approach it is, when you get to know someone on a personal level, you can kind of then take the knowledge that you have of them and sort of stretch it back. A lot of it was just spending a lot of time when we weren't on set just hanging out, getting to know each other, and making each other laugh, having a lot of fun. And that helped with some of the camaraderie that ends up in the movie and the way we're able to joke with each other. We found a freedom with each other that's real, so that was really fun to get to explore.

Starz Digital Media

(Jason Ritter in 7 Minutes)

TMN: This family is from the wrong side of the tracks, while you've been in a Hollywood family your entire life. Did that make any difference in drawing inspiration to portray this kind of family?

Ritter: I think that, for me, if I get a character that especially is not paid to look a lot different from me, I always try to start with where we're similar. And I do have a younger brother that actually Luke sort of reminded me of, my brother, Tyler, and I love him so much that I would do anything for him. And if I saw that he was, you know, had fallen on hard times, I would try to help him. So, there are elements of that that just to me felt like, "This is what would I would do." Then you take what they end up doing and you go, "All right, well, I wouldn't necessarily do that." [chuckle] But I see where it's coming from, and I understand that drive.

So, yeah, there's obviously, there's a lot of different elements and there are certain elements that I only can understand from an outside perspective, but there were a lot more than I would've expected. There were a lot more places in which Mike and I were similar. And so it was nice to get to sort of explore the parts of my life and myself where I have been a little bit desperate and been worried about the people around me and myself. And Luke was right there with me in figuring it all out and finding out who these characters were.

TMN: I talked to Jay Martin two months ago and he likened the story to a kind of fairytale. Did you get that kind of impression?

Ritter: I guess I could see that. It's a fairytale in that it's sort of fantastical. I mean I know that people really do try to pull off heists, but yeah, it's just like sort of a Grimm's fairytale. There's lots of blood and guts and a lesson at the end. You say "Don't go in the gingerbread house, because you're gonna get eaten by the witch". I guess it's a fairytale like that in one of those creepy, mourning ones. But the Shockheaded Peter, you know that German kid's book of fairy tales where it's like "Don't such your thumb, or Shockheaded Peter will come in and cut them off."

TMN: Yeah.

Ritter: And then the kid sucks his thumb and then he gets his thumbs cut off and bleeds to death, and then the mom says "Yeah, see? I told you. Don't suck your thumb." [laughter] It seems like one of those fairy tales.

TMN: Would you be interested in writing and directing in the future, like Martin did?

Ritter: I would. I'm not sure I have the mind for it. Especially as a director, you really need an ability to multitask, and I really have some problems with that. But I haven't ruled it out. I've been trying to tackle the writing thing first. I think if I were to direct something, I would want it to be something that I wrote so that if I ruin it, I don't have an angry writer that he worked for years on something that I ruined. So I would only want to essentially ruin my own.

TMN: Between all of the movies you've got in production and all the TV shows you've been doing, how did you find the time to film this movie?

Ritter: I was pretty lucky. One thing that's in the independent film world, because there's not enough money to really take our time, they always streamline a production. There was a really lucky thing where I really wanted to do something big, and there was a real problem with the dates. But I had exactly a month off, and they just slotted it right into this period of time when I was able to finish one thing and then go do 7 Minutes, and then get to this next job right on time, which has never ever happened to me before. There's usually plenty of downtime to panic between jobs, but this was one of those rare moments where the scheduling just completely worked out.

But one thing that really does always help that usually they just kinda, with these films, shoot for more than three and a half to four weeks, and this was no different even though it seems like it would be more complicated. There's stunts and guns and special effects, we've still really stayed and the production team really cranked it out.

TMN: I guess that explains why you have about half a dozen projects in development right now, according to IMDb.

Ritter: Yeah, and some of those are more real than others. I think it's gotten to a point with IMDb where... I mean not with IMDb, but people put projects on that are still just a gleam in the eye of their fathers or mothers.

TMN: Yeah, you have an untitled Clea DuVall project listed on there.

Ritter: That is true. That I shot, so I know that that is true. That was really fun, and I'm really excited to see that. We shot it in Georgia, and it's a really fun story and a great cast, and I'm excited for that one to come out.

TMN: Well, it seems you've been able to narrow your TV show juggling to Another Period and Girls, now that Parenthood and Gravity Falls are off the air.

Ritter: Yeah, well Gravity Falls is still airing, although there have been plenty of hiatuses. But the episodes are still coming out and the end of this season is gonna be really crazy. But yeah, Parenthood is totally gone, but it's been really nice to get to jump on Girls and do an episode here and there. And then I think Another Period just got picked up for a second season, so I'm really excited to do that.

Red Hour

(Jason Ritter in Another Period)

I think that job is one of the most fun jobs I've ever had. I've never done something that is sort of that wild of a comedy, so it's so much fun. The only tough thing is they'll have these people like Ben Stiller and Jack Black come in and they're people I've been laughing at since I was a kid, and so it's really hard not to laugh and smile when I'm in scenes with them because I feel like my entire life I've been...my Pavlovian response is just watch them with a big, old, goofy smile on my face. So it's been tough to keep a straight face with some of the people that we've worked with.

TMN: With a lot of old TV shows being rebooted or revived, it’s a wonder I haven't heard anything of Joan of Arcadia getting a reboot.

Ritter: [laughter] Well, I would love that. That would be great. Actually since most of my shows have been cancelled, every single one, I would love to see reboots of a handful of these. But yeah, Joan of Arcadia has a special place in my heart. The real bummer about Joan of Arcadia was that the end of the series, which we didn't know was the end of the series, we just thought it was the end of the season, was this episode that basically was like 45 minutes of "Get ready for season three, 'cause it's gonna be crazy." [chuckle]

But that, never mind. But, you'll never see us again. It was like the huge cliff hangers and the villain character introduced, maybe the devil... it's real sad. If they did a Joan of Arcadia reboot, I would definitely be there.

TMN: And The Class is coming up on a 10-year anniversary. That had a lot of future stars like you, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jon Bernthal….

Ritter: Yeah. That was an incredible moment. We all had so much fun doing that, and we've all kept in touch which has been really nice. But we haven't in a little while. But for a couple years though, we would all get together and hang out. And I just got to work on a movie with Lucy Punch, who I love so much. And so it's really nice to see everybody doing so well and it feels like a subtle revenge to the people that canceled that.


(Jason Ritter in W.)

TMN: You played a young Jeb Bush in Oliver Stone's W. With that in mind, have you been paying special attention to the election? Because if Jeb wins, you could be the answer to a very interesting trivia question.

Ritter: [chuckle] That's true, that's true. I mean, if it's between me having a trivia question or someone else be president, I don't need to be the emphasis of your question. That's that. But it is interesting to...I read so many biographies of Jeb and I feel like I have an intimate knowledge of who he is. So it's bizarre to be him, see him up there. And he's gotta just be going mad with Donald Trump having entered the mix.

TMN: So is everyone.

Ritter: He was the front runner, and now everything's just gone upside down. But good for him for not letting all the people saying he shouldn't run for president stop him. I think he's...Good for him. [chuckle]