“I think his thoughts and his heart are still pure, even if his self doubt and self loathing kind of shove that down,” explains James Marsden of his character Ben on “Dead to Me.” The Netflix series recently returned for a third and final season. In this installment, Ben succumbs to the themes of deception and secrecy which have plagued Jen (Christina Applegate) and Judy (Linda Cardellini) as he is forced to reckon with his own lies. The actor found a great deal of juicy material to dive into and admits that he relished the chance to “be vulnerable and show it all.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
“His life in the short term is kind of falling apart. He’s steeped in regret and remorse,” says Marsden. Season 3 picks up right where the previous season left off, with Ben causing a hit and run accident that injures Jen and Judy. Suddenly he finds himself covering his tracks all the while wondering if his effort to avoid accountability is the right course of action. “It was an emotional journey for sure,” notes Marsden of Ben’s internal struggle. The performer believes that the final season forces each character to reckon with their past and figure out “what kind of person they want to be when they move forward.”
“Dead to Me” forges a carefully curated tone which wrings humor out of tragedy. Marsden credits series creator Liz Feldman for finding the balance needed for such a tightrope act. “The brilliant needle that Liz was able to thread through all of this,” he says, is in that way that humor can “spring from” dark places like grief and loss. So when Ben hits the bottle hard in order to cope with his dark secret, Marsden has to play the moment with utter seriousness. “It was important to me that when he’s stumbling around…that can’t feel silly. It’s got to feel like this guy is falling apart.” Of course, what is serious for the character may still result in some dark humor, as in the scene where Ben slurs his way through Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” at a party. ““Perversely, that’s where the humor springs from.”
Marsden is a five-time SAG Award nominee, as part of the nominated ensembles of “Hairspray,” “30 Rock,” “The Butler,” “Westworld,” and “Dead to Me.” He has been nominated for three Gold Derby Awards: Ensemble Cast for “Hairspray,” Comedy Guest Actor for “30 Rock,” and Comedy Supporting Actor for “Dead to Me.”
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