“It was a huge change and a great challenge,” said actor Richard Kind, speaking by phone from Los Angeles about his starring role in the new sci-fi film “Auggie.”
Best known for his work on the TV sit-coms “Spin City,” “Mad About You,” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Kind has built a remarkable career as a supporting actor, playing character roles in Broadway musicals, Hollywood dramas, animated features, and television series of all sorts.
But in “Auggie,” he plays the leading character, a middle-aged retiree who becomes addicted to an enticing augmented reality companion.
“This is not something I usually get to do on film. When you’re a supporting actor, you have maybe four or five scenes and there’s not a huge arc for your character. Here I’m really responsible for the whole movie,” said Kind, a 1974 Pennsbury High School graduate, who grew up in Bucks County.
“Auggie” also appears to be a departure for Kind in that it does not draw on his signature comedic talents.
Yet Kind explained, “In the past 10 years I’ve gone out of my way to get work that’s not so comedic. Though to the ‘civilian’ eye this film might seem like a departure, I’ve actually been doing a lot of single-camera dramas and plays that are dramatic for a while.
“I’ve done all sorts of things that people don’t know about, a lot of smaller projects, which I enjoy very much, but aren’t as lucrative. So I have to support that with the big-ticket work, like the TV comedies. I have three children, I live in New York, somebody’s got to pay the bills, and it’s not going to be summer stock.”
Perusing Kind’s on-line bios, one is awed by the quantity and variety of his accomplishments – ranging from early work with Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe to his Tony Award nomination for a dramatic role in “The Big Knife,” and the memorable small part he played in the Academy Award-winning “Argo.”
But when I asked how he found time for his political activism, noting that his Wikipedia entry states he supported Martin O’Malley for president in 2016, Kind yells, “Hold on, Never trust what you read there. Go onto YouTube and you’ll see a very funny bit I did for Stephen Colbert where I played a character called ‘The Last Martin O’Malley Supporter.’ It was a satirical piece that was entirely made up.”
Equally amusing and reflective of how easily mis-information can spread nowadays, is the story Kind tells about his involvement with the Creative Coalition, a group of artists that lobbies for issues such as gun control and arts education.
“We usually get invited to the conventions,” Kind said. “So when George W was running for president, we went to the Democratic convention, of course. But we also went to the Republican convention to see if maybe we could make an impact there, too.
“And there I was on TV, and somebody who knew me said ‘I didn’t know you were Republican.’ While actually I’m the furthest thing,” said Kind, quipping that he would vote a cup of water into office before he would vote for Trump.
Clearly concerned about social issues, Kind said he was drawn to working on "Auggie" because “I thought the story was good. It’s about what we’re living with today, the curse of being addicted to your phone. I think I’m addicted and, even worse, I think my kids are. I’m just glad I had a decent life and could be productive before the addiction hit me.”
Beginning Sept. 20, "Auggie" can be seen in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and nationwide on VOD.