Mr. Corman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new series from Apple TV+, follows Josh (Gordon-Levitt) as he struggles through his day-to-day life, managing anxiety while working as a 5th-grade teacher in Los Angeles. Josh had big dreams of being a rockstar and becomes wracked with nostalgia and regret as he finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize, living a life he never imagined living. In addition to starring in Mr. Corman, Gordon-Levitt also created the series, writing and directing most of the episodes.
After breaking out in the classic sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun over 20 years ago, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has starred almost exclusively in films. Mr. Corman marks a return to television and a transition from actor to creator in this medium. Speaking on the differences between his two series, Gordon-Levitt told us in an interview earlier this week that “3rd Rock from the Sun was a very different kind of show than Mr. Corman. And making Mr. Corman felt a lot more like making the movies that I’ve made more recently than making 3rd Rock.” Compared to the classic mode of producing television in a studio with a live audience, Mr. Corman “feels more like making movies in the realm of Sundance. I grew up watching these ‘90s Sundance movies like Swingers or Slingblade or Do the Right Thing. Mr. Corman sort of feels like that, and I love that nowadays there’s more and more of an audience for that kind of filmmaking than in the past.”
Gordon-Levitt credits the rise of streaming services as pushing him back towards television after such a long hiatus. “If you were gonna tell a messy character’s story like this, it had to be an indie film, and you hope it gets into festivals, you hope it plays at an arthouse cinema somewhere. And now, you get to tell stories like this on a big global streaming service like Apple, and I’m really grateful.” He believes that these streamers are partially why television has been so inspiring to him recently.
“To be honest, some of my most favorite works of filmmaking lately are series like Atlanta and Fleabag. I get so drawn into them and I love the long format where you can really dive deeper and deeper and deeper into a character and go off on tangents that feel like real life, because real life doesn’t stick to a linear plot.”
When asked if Mr. Corman is geared more towards those of us who struggle with anxiety or those who want to better understand their loved ones with anxiety, Gordon-Levitt hopes the answer is both, “because I hope that we can all just have conversations about it.” As someone who hasn’t necessarily experienced anxiety the way his character does, Gordon-Levitt sought out a neuropsychologist to help guide him towards an authentic representation that would be impactful for people with different connections and understandings of anxiety. “I asked her, what’s your biggest hope for how this would be portrayed? And what she said was ‘I hope that it’s not stigmatized, I hope that it’s normalized.’ And that really stuck with me.”
In making a show like Mr. Corman—one that’s attempting to address the very common anxieties that come with growing up and realizing our lives didn’t turn out the way we dreamed—Joseph Gordon-Levitt is hoping to further break down any taboos surrounding mental health. If he has one hope for this series, it’s that it generates discussion.
“It really helps to talk about [our anxieties], and it’s counterproductive to repress it and feel like you can’t talk about it. So if in any small way, Mr. Corman can start a conversation, then I’ll feel gratified in that.”
Mr. Corman premieres on August 6 with a two-episode drop. The following eight episodes will be released weekly.
Kristen Reid is a culture writer and TV intern for Paste Magazine. She’s been known to spend too much time rewatching her favorite sitcoms, yelling at her friends to watch more TV, and falling in love with fictional characters. You can follow her on Twitter @kreidd for late-night thoughts on whatever she’s bingeing now.
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