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Jason Segel credits ‘crazy’ Michael Jackson interview with helping him navigate ‘big existential crisis’

Jason Segel has reflected on a “very unhappy” period in his life, during which his relationship with work became “abusive”.

At just 19 years old, Segel found his breakout success portraying Nick Andopolis in Judd Apatow’s one-season 1999 comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks.

Five years later, he landed his most notable role as Marshall Eriksen on the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother, which ran from 2005 to 2012.

During that time, he said he felt like he was “really winning work” and “could do anything I wanted”. Yet, he still felt “very unhappy and I couldn’t figure out why”, he explained to Vanity Fair in a new interview.

It wasn’t until the nine-season series finally came to an end that Segel was faced with a “big existential crisis” about his “relationship to work”.

Afterwards, he spent a long time “trying to figure out my relationship to work in a way that would be sustainable for me and interesting for me”.

“In that period when I was trying to figure it out, I only took projects where I could be around people I really admired, so I could ask them a lot of questions,” Segel said.

Jason Segel and Michael Jackson (Getty Images)
Jason Segel and Michael Jackson (Getty Images)

This new approach, he said, came from “this crazy interview between Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant where Michael Jackson basically told Kobe Bryant, ‘When you are around people you admire, do not be a fan, be an interviewer. Ask them every question that you feel like will be a helpful tool for your journey.’”

“So I asked one friend, ‘What is art?” He said, ‘Art is performing an act of self-exploration, on behalf of an audience,’ which resonates with my style of acting,” Segel said.

“Now I choose things where for the next however long this project is, it’s my job to go through something on film and in this one it’s grief.”

In Segel’s latest role – which is arguably his most complex – he plays a recently widowed father on Apple TV Plus’s comedy-drama Shrinking.