Jason Segel set visit: The Muppets' maestro talks

Jun 20, 2011 at 2:38 p.m. ET

Jason Segel doesn’t get any sleep lately, but visiting him on the set of The Muppets, one can hardly tell. The actor is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed because the longtime Muppets fan is living a dream -- bringing The Muppets to the big screen for an entirely new generation.

Jason Segel wrote The Muppets script with his longtime partner, Nick Stoler, and filmed the movie while still making his hit TV series How I Met Your Mother. Segel, sitting back on a director's chair, is the picture of pleasantry.

Jason Segel on the set of The Muppets

Segel is the ultimate Muppets fan. There is no one of his generation who is more of a perfect choice to resurrect the Muppets in a manner that is both sensitive to their legacy while still keeping them relevant and allowing them to revel in their innate joy that has brought smiles to millions over the last several decades.

The Muppets man

SheKnows: It's well established you're a Muppets fan. Will you take any Muppet memorabilia home after the shoot ends?

Jason Segel: I really want a lot of stuff that I see around here. They're very protective, certainly, over the puppets. But I've gotten a few bits of paraphernalia that I'll save and treasure forever, and some really special photographs. It's like me with Kermit shooting the breeze. That's the greatest picture I've ever seen. I love it.

SheKnows: One of the great things about the original Muppet movies is they are for both adults and kids. Does yours follow that blueprint?

Jason Segel: We're trying to hearken back to the original three Muppet movies -- The Muppet Movie, Muppets Take Manhattan and The Great Muppet Caper. I think that one of the things the original Muppet movies did amazingly well, and it's what Pixar does really well now, is that they don't condescend to children by feeling like they have to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator. And when you don't do that, you get a family film in its truest sense. An entire family can sit and watch and enjoy it. The worst equivalent is Barney the dinosaur, where parents are having to sit there while their kids watch this, and the parents want to blow their brains out. This, I think, is going to be the exact opposite. I think parents are going to be laughing as hard as kids are going to be laughing. That was our goal.

SheKnows: When you're acting opposite puppets, is it hard not to look at the puppeteer?

Jason Segel: It didn't take long before you're looking right at the Muppet. I have a bit of a challenge as the puppeteers need monitors so they can see what's going on, because puppets don't have working eyes; they're puppets. So they're working off of monitors. But a lot of times we can see the monitor, so we can watch ourselves act. My acting is mesmerizing [laughs] so a lot of times I find myself just watching myself act when I should not be doing that.

SheKnows: So much of your work involves music, and the Muppets famously use music. How does that play into your Muppets film?

The Muppets have Jason Segel crackin up!

Jason Segel: We knew it was going to be musical from the start -- all the great Muppet movies are musicals. When you look back at the great lineage of Muppet music, things like Rainbow Connection, that's not a joke of a song. That is a serious song. If a legitimate musician put that song out they'd win the Grammy. So we really wanted the music to be great. (Director) James Bobin was the perfect choice for this movie because he's been doing Flight of the Conchords and it almost seems like he's been training for this. Then we brought on Brett. It was just a perfect union of their styles and the Muppet styles. So I think we're in really good shape.

SheKnows: Have you had an opportunity to actually be a Muppets puppeteer?

Jason Segel: Yeah, I just operated Fozzie about a minute ago. I've done Fozzie, I've done Dr. Teeth and I've done Beaker so far. It's been amazing. That is what knocks your socks off. This is going to sound different than how I mean it, but my hand is inside Fozzie... [laughs] that's amazing! I never thought that would happen!

SheKnows: Why was Amy Adams a great choice?

Jason Segel: I wrote it for her. She was in my mind from the beginning -- ever since I saw Enchanted. First of all, she's the best actress alive. To go from Enchanted to Doubt and The Fighter, I mean this woman can do anything. But she's able to do this wide-eyed naivety that is not part of her personality in real life. She's one of the most smart, on top of it women I've ever met. She was just the perfect choice right from the start. I don't know what I would have done if we hadn't gotten her.

Jason Segel: How to make dreams happen

SheKnows: Can you talk about doing the movie and How I Met Your Mother at the same time?

Jason Segel: It's been tricky. I'm doing seven-day weeks; I mean true seven-day weeks. My hard day is doing Tuesday to Wednesday. I do Tuesday daytime on the TV show, come here and do Tuesday night night-shoot, and then go immediately back to the TV show to do Wednesday day. So it is a 36-hour day.

Jason Segel and The Muppets

SheKnows: You're not sleeping at all?

Jason Segel: I sleep in my trailer or when they drive me to set. I usually get back to the TV show at 7 and they start at 8, so I get a quick little naparoo. But it's my dream come true, so you can't complain about it. It's what I had to do to get the movie made. And it's really tough to be in a bad mood around Kermit, as silly as that sounds. I show up here as tired as I might be and they bring out Kermit going, [in Kermit voice], "Hi-ho!" "Aw, all right. I'll smile." It's just great. And the TV show is a pleasure to be on. We've been doing it for six years now. We've got it kinda down to a science. They've been incredibly kind just to make the schedule work. They knew that it was my dream.

SheKnows: Is there anything left you would like to do?

Jason Segel: I'd like to be president of the United States. [Laughs] No, I'd like to play the villain in a superhero movie. I think I'd be really good at it. I'm like 20-percent creepy. [Laughs] No, I really am. I have 20-percent creepy. I exclude it from this movie. But look, when you watch Sarah Marshall, the Dracula musical is funny, but it's 20-percent creepy. So I really want to play a villain in a superhero movie.