‘Shrinking’ star Jason Segel never thought mental illness was stigmatized

Jason Segel in Contraction (Picture: AppleTV+)

Jason Segel freely admits that he is typed for a very specific role: “Your best friend”.

“I was like on a TV show for nine years, where I was your best friend,” the 43-year-old Los Angeles native said of the long-running CBS show. how I Met Your Mother (2005-14). “And I’ve done movies where I’m your best friend.” To see: knocked up (2007), I love you man (2009), etc.

Our pal Jason thinks his on-screen affability is why Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein (a duo who recently landed some major Ws with the Apple TV+ football smash Ted Lasso) threw him Contraction. The new dramedy – also on Apple – stars Segel as a therapist and father of a teenage daughter (Lukita Maxwell) reeling from the recent death of his wife who finds catharsis when he becomes more personally involved in the lives of his patients.

TODAY -- Pictured: Jason Segel and Brett Goldstein on Monday, January 23, 2023 -- (Photo by: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

Jason Segel and Brett Goldstein (Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

“I think what I brought to the table is that I seem to have established a certain feeling that I’m like your best friend. … And so what I said to them was, ‘We should push this character as far as possible to the limit of sympathy and use this very good feeling [that I’ve built up] for evil, and that he is mistaken. Get him a whole lot wrong, because I think you’ll always feel like he’s doing his best.

Contraction is something like Ted Lasso but with therapy. “These guys are masters at what they do, masters of that tone,” Segel says of Lawrence (Lassothe showrunner) and Goldstein (a Lasso writer-producer-performer who scored two Emmys for playing grizzled ex-football star Roy Kent). “I think one of the things the shows have in common is that they are hopeful. At the end of [Shrinking] episodes, even though they’re going through some really complicated stuff and they’re grieving and there’s a loss, I think the message of the show is, “Hey, we’re all in this together” . None of us come out of this life unscathed and there is actually some comfort in that.

As Segel shines as lead character Jimmy Laird in his first comedic role in nearly a decade, Contractionlike Lasso, is a real ensemble piece. Among his scene-stealers are two actors who play the therapists alongside Jimmy: Jessica Williams, who, as quick-witted Gaby (“She’s stunning,” says Segel), has finally found a role worthy of her talents since her departure. The daily show; and an 80-year-old you might also have heard of, Harrison Ford, Emmy-worthy as grumpy, CBD-gummy-pop veteran of Parkinson’s disease, Dr. Paul Rhodes.

Segel calls the cast of star wars and IndianaJones icon as “the hit of the century” and explains exactly how he felt when Ford signed on.

“You know, when you’re like an asshole in high school, and then almost like a joke or an act of bravery, you’re like, ‘I’m going to ask the prettiest girl to prom.’ And you kind of know that winning is just asking for that. Of course she’s going to say “No,” because she’s going with the head of the football team. Those are old tropes, but you see this I mean. That’s kind of what it’s like asking Harrison Ford to do this show. Like of course he’s going to say, ‘No.’ Right? But won’t it be cool and brave to say we asked?

“And then the guy said, ‘Yeah.’ And then you gotta figure it out like, ‘God, now I’m going to prom with Harrison Ford. Where am I taking him to dinner? What am I wearing? I felt.”

Harrison Ford in Shrinking (Apple TV+)

Harrison Ford in Contraction (Picture: AppleTV+)

Contraction comes at a time when public discourse on mental health is more mainstream than ever, especially in entertainment. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Ryan Reynolds and Kristen Bell have openly shared their struggles with anxiety and depression. Segel’s friend and four-time co-star Jonah Hill even made a full Netflix documentary about his own troubles. Many see their candor as helping to de-stigmatize mental illness.

Ask if Contraction is also part of this narrative, Segel offers a contrarian vision.

“It’s so funny because in my mind they’re not stigmatized,” he says. “I have asked for help so many times in my life, in so many different ways. I think if there’s an element of de-stigmatization, one of the things I’m always afraid of when I ask for help is that the person in front of me is judging me, or being better than me at some way. And one of the things our show reveals is, “Oh, we’re all [suffering in some form]. Like even the person you think is your authority, they too are a mess when they come home.

The actor is open about his own mental health journey.

“I’ve always struggled a bit with anxiety. And a certain feeling that something is wrong and there’s a sense of impending doom,” he says. “At some point, I decided there was no reason to spend my life feeling unwell. So I tried to acquire tools, including therapy, to feel like everything was fine.

Contraction is now streaming on Apple TV+.

Watch the trailer:

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