Will Arnett is a man of taste. How do we know? He’s flicking through an old issue of ShortList when we enter his hotel room. But that’s not the reason. Sam Riley is on the cover and Arnett is impressed. “Man, I wish I was that guy when I was starting out,” he says. He’s being genuine. “In my 20s I wanted people to take me so seriously.” But that’s a far cry from his successful career in comedies such as Blades Of Glory and Arrested Development.
How do you know that you’re funny?
The only way I could recognise that would be the moment I find out I’m not funny at all. I’m just hoping to get a couple of laughs whenever I can. I wanted to look like that guy [Riley], walking across a bridge, my hands in my peacoat with a cigarette dangling on my lips. That seemed to be the cool thing. Instead I became a jackass who people laugh at because I trip over with my pants falling down.
You have done serious things such as The Sopranos – would you contemplate doing them again?
I wish I was smart enough to say I had a plan, but I don’t. And the older I get, I just want stuff that’s fun. If people come up with fun people to work with, then I’m interested.
Fun people like the Arrested Development gang? How’s the long-rumoured movie coming along?
It’s something that [series creator] Mitch Hurwitz is actively working on. It’s taken a while for all the pieces to come together, but he and his writing partner are penning it. I’ve had the craziest people come up to me on film sets and say they want to be in it. I can’t say who, though. So much of comedy is about surprise and I don’t want to ruin it.
In that case, are there any people you’d like to be in it?
John Cleese would be f*cking amazing. He could be brilliant in any role. He’s such a funny, funny guy.
Do you all keep in touch?
Not everybody, but I was texting Mike Cera last week and I see Jason Bateman and David Cross all the time. And I keep in touch with the Fonz [Henry Winkler]. He’s just the sweetest guy and so incredibly thoughtful. He’ll drop you a gift basket or a hand-written note out of the blue, seemingly when you need it the most.
Do you have many low points, then?
The last 10 years I’ve been pretty well behaved. But for most of my 20s I was quite badly behaved. I drank away a year or two. I’m not really a party guy any more. I try to avoid that kind of lifestyle.
Do you wish you’d made it as a leading man, or are you happy with scene-stealing supporting roles?
I like to let other people think they’re holding the movie and then come and take it from them [laughs]. No, that’s not true at all. The problem with leading roles is that they’re boring. What I want is a leading man who’s still central but more of a goof. That doesn’t exist. But I’ll find it.
What about your recent Sesame Street appearance?
Working with Elmo was such a thrill. It was the first thing my eldest son ever saw me do.
Were you tempted to try to out-act Elmo?
You know what? I let Elmo and Big Bird drive that bus. I didn’t want to step on their toes.
Of course, your biggest hit isn’t a film or television show — it’s a voiceover on Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2…
You’re right! I’m a massive online gamer on that. I play against Justin Theroux, Jerry O’Connell and sometimes Rainn Wilson. Peter Serafinowicz too.
With headsets on?
Yeah. And I get aggressive. I get f*cking into it, man. When I say I play, I don’t just mean I play – it’s my social life. I play all the time.
Arrested Development is on FXUK (Sky channel 124), Tuesdays at 10pm