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Rainn Wilson lives his dream on TV and film

His work as a mortician’s apprentice got him noticed. His turn as eccentric paper salesman Dwight Schrute made him famous.
/ Source: The Associated Press

His work as a mortician’s apprentice got him noticed. His turn as eccentric paper salesman Dwight Schrute made him famous.

Now producers can’t seem to get enough of actor Rainn Wilson. A star of NBC’s Emmy-winning comedy “The Office,” and an alumnus of HBO’s hit drama “Six Feet Under,” Wilson is being offered roles for the first time in his 14-year career. And whenever “The Office” goes on hiatus, he takes them.

The latest such role is as a disarmingly normal science teacher in the family film “The Last Mimzy,” which opens Friday.

He’ll be back to weird in “Bonzai Shadowhands,” a movie he wrote. Several other films are in line behind that one.

It’s a dream life for the Seattle native, who used to do odd jobs to supplement his acting career. Wilson, 41, talked with The Associated Press about what’s next.

AP: How has “The Office” changed your life?

Wilson: I get recognized a lot. When you’re an actor on a TV show that people love, and you play kind of a goofball, they instantly think that they’re your best friend. I’m there with my wife and kid and they’re wanting to engage in having a buddy-buddy conversation. I try to be nice and grateful to my fans — my billions and billions of fans. But at the same time I like to keep my privacy going a little bit.

AP: What is it about the show that has connected with so many people?

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AP: “Six Feet Under” was like that, too.

Wilson: I’ve been so lucky. There’s been so much kind of dreck on television and I have been on two of the greatest shows.

AP: How did you get involved with “The Last Mimzy”?

Wilson: (Director) Bob Shaye sent me the script and offered me the role. For an actor who’s been struggling for 13 or 14 years professionally to all the sudden be getting scripts sent, it’s insane. I read it and I was deeply and genuinely moved by it.

AP: Plus you get a chance to play a normal, hippie teacher.

Wilson: There’s a particular brand of West Coast — and particularly the Pacific Northwest — of hippie type of character. I call them the healthy hippies. Hippies you always think of as kind of unwashed and really drugged out. But the healthy hippies, they go to the organic bakery in the morning and they have a latte and a bran muffin. Then they have their kayaking lesson and you know, their Birkenstocks, maybe an earring to be a little bit rebellious. And maybe they’ve got a band or they’re going to Burning Man. And they have a day job that’s pretty normal. But they’re not hippies per se. They’re just outdoorsy, alternative livers. That’s what I tried to tap into.

AP: You got all that background growing up?

Wilson: My parents were hippies in Seattle. My name is Rainn. So it was all right there for me.

AP: Are you still blogging as Dwight for “The Office”?

Wilson: I am and I owe them a blog. Thanks for reminding me.

AP: What other projects do you have in the works?

Wilson: “Kanan Rhodes” ... is a really funny, kind of over-the-top comedy from Bob Odenkirk. It’s like a surreal Ace Ventura. It’s about a man who serves subpoenas and takes himself way too seriously. “Bonzai Shadowhands” I’m writing. It’s about a down-and-out alcoholic ninja, a once-great ninja trying to put his life back together. I’m doing that with Jason Reitman who directed “Thank You for Smoking.” And I have a couple other projects I’m working on and things I’m developing. You strike when the iron’s hot and I spent long years slogging by, doing New York theater and spending months and months out of the year unemployed, doing odd jobs to get by. Now I’m going to just take a couple years and work hard and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

AP: Did you always want to be an actor?

Wilson: I don’t really have an exciting story about that. I just always wanted to be an actor. I started doing plays in high school, kept at it in college and decided, if I’m really going to be an actor, I need to study it. So I went to the graduate acting program at New York University and did a three-year training program in acting over there.

AP: How do you spend your free time?

Wilson: I’ll get some time off with my wife (author Holiday Reinhorn) and kid (Walter) and spend weekends with them. We bought a little cabin in Oregon, so we’ll go up there when we get off weeks. It’s all about my 2½-year-old, pretty much, so free time is about taking him on a walk, taking him shopping, taking him to the playground, play dates, stuff like that. What I do for myself is tennis. I try and get a couple of good tennis games in a week, which is really fun and relaxing for me.

AP: Is there a dream role for you? What is the goal?

Wilson: I’m really kind of living the goal right now. I’m pretty much living the life I really always wanted to have and that’s a pretty extraordinary thing.