Hank Azaria Interview: ‘Brockmire,’ ‘The Simpsons’
Hank Azaria gives a lot of credit to the show’s co-creator, Joel Church-Cooper, in terms of knowing the right way to wrap up the story of Jim Brockmire. “We always knew that this guy was going to find his way back to being a human being. Joel really got onto the idea Brockmire as a character who personally got better as the world got worse,” Azaria tells us in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). But as much as he loved playing the unfiltered sportscaster on “Brockmire,” he admits that it wasn’t hard that hard to say goodbye to the show and even hinted that we might still hear from him again. “I don’t get sentimental like that about playing characters because it’s such hard work. I think it’s a character I’ll continue to do in one way or another, but it’s so rare that you have the satisfaction of saying what you want to say come out better than you thought that I really feel thrilled.”
“Brockmire” recently concluded its run after airing for four seasons on IFC. The series, based on a 2010 Funny or Die skit, centers on Jim Brockmire, a baseball announcer who goes into a self-imposed exile after going on a profanity-laced tirade live on the air. He returns to the game a decade later seeking redemption with the game that he still loves. Azaria could very well factor into this year’s Emmy race for Best Comedy Actor as he’s already won six Emmys out of 14 total nominations. He’s won four in the Best Voice-Over Performance category for his work on “The Simpsons” (1998, 2001, 2003, 2015), one for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Tuesdays With Morrie” (2000) and one for Drama Guest Actor for “Ray Donovan” (2016).
The character encountered his biggest challenge when he decided to get sober, which was a decision that initially gave Azaria a lot of pause. “I was really worried that that wouldn’t be funny anymore. I miss playing drunken, drug-fueled, sexed-up Brockmire. He’s more fun,” he says. He does admit that since that decision was made, the show has gotten funnier and smarter and that Brockmire’s choice had some parallels to Azaria’s real life. “I’m a sober guy in real-life. I got sober 14 years ago. I didn’t plan on telling that kind of story but I was, on a personal level, excited to tell it through the eyes of Jim Brockmire, a character that has such raw truth to it.”
One of the things that has made Azaria’s journey with this character so interesting for him has been learning about how baseball has been experiencing some hardships that he wasn’t aware of. “When Joel wrote the first season and all these jokes about how young people don’t care about baseball anymore and it’s a dying sport, that was news to me in my old, white man-osity,” he explains. But even with all the worries that the sport is currently encountering, Azaria still cannot wait for when things start to get back to normal and he’ll be able to enjoy another live ball game. When I ask him which match-up he’d most like to see for his first live game, he gave a classic New York answer. “Definitely the Mets, I’m a Mets fan. I’d love to see a Mets-Yankees game. I’m a New York guy, so a subway series would be a delicious first game back for me.”