As a comedian in the entertainment business for nearly 30 years, Jeff Garlin has made it a point to diversify his career, not only in acting, with voiceover roles (Toy Story, WALL-E), TV (Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Goldbergs), and film (Becoming Bond, Safety Not Guaranteed), but also by trying his hand at writing and directing. Despite a resume with no filler, Garlin doesn’t hesitate to say his latest project for Netflix is a significant career highlight.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done where I made it,” Garlin says. “I’ve been in a lot of things that are pretty cool, but this I love and I’m very hopeful for it.”
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie is murder-mystery comedy, co-written, directed and starring Garlin as Gene Handsome, a Los Angeles detective tracking down a killer while trying to bring everything else outside of his career into focus.
“My life is a one of where comedy and show business I find kind of easy and real life is the challenge,” Garlin says. “And so this guy is great at solving crime but in his personal life he’s kind of a mess.”
Although Garlin’s credits lean more on the acting side, writing and directing have become outlets for creative fulfillment. It’s not that he’s turning his back on acting, it’s just an experience that needs specific conditions to make it worthwhile.
“The least creative part of filmmaking is acting. You’re a storyteller, and so it can be creative depending on the director and the relationship you have. But I find it the least interesting,” Garlin says. “My favorite is probably the directing. I find writing to be, when I’m in a groove, a delightful experience. I love being alone, just pounding it out, and then I enjoy the editing process of not only the editing of the writing before I turn the script in, but the editing process and the postproduction.”
Between the creative autonomy over a film like Handsome, and the resources from a company like Netflix to make it happen, it’s no wonder Garlin feels this is his strongest work to date.
“Netflix [hires] people they believe in to make movies and television shows, and then they leave them alone and they let the creators of the shows live and die by their sword,” Garlin says. “Because the reality is an executive, no matter how much they have an ego going, they’re not going to come up with the thing that makes it a hit—the person that they hired is.”