Haley Joel Osment Talks ‘Bad Therapy,’ ‘What We Do in the Shadows,’ and the Present Uncertainty in Hollywood
Oscar-nominated actor Haley Joel Osment continues to prove himself as a gifted comedic performer in his latest film, “Bad Therapy,” an indie comedy revolving around a Westside L.A. couple played by Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry who look to therapist (MIchaela Watkins) to resolve their marital problems, only to discover too late that the shrink is the one who is in the most need of having her head examined.
Osment, who portrayed the young boy who saw dead people in M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense,” is hilarious as Reed, Bob’s smarmy co-worker at a nature channel who convinces him to intervene in his inappropriate relationship with another colleague, Annabelle (Sarah Shahi). He also talks Bob into a risky career move, ultimately blowing up both of their lives.
Osment recently spoke with Entertainment Voice about “Bad Therapy,” his experience starring in a Steven Spielberg film as a child actor, and his recent return to acting in hit shows like “The Boys,” “The Kominsky Method,” and “What We Do in the Shadows.”
What attracted you to the script?
First off, the names involved. They had a lot of their cast by the time I read the script in 2018, and I always loved Rob Corddry’s work and thought he was hilarious, and Michaela Watkins and Alicia Silverstone. I knew it was a group I’d be excited to be able to work with.
The script felt really timely, and I was surprised to learn that it was based on a story from, I think, the early nineties was when the book was written. It’s a really high-quality story when it can feel so fresh and relevant to the issues of today. I was really excited to work on it.
What was it like working with Rob?
He is fantastic. I really, really loved getting to do all my scenes with him, and he’s just a very great actor and a very funny guy.
Has this experience changed at all how you feel about therapy?
(Laughs) I don’t know if it changed my opinion of therapy. I think, at this point, there’s been a good shift in society and it shouldn’t be stigmatized for people who need it. I guess the caution of the film is that sometimes, in rare cases, some therapists can have less than noble intentions. I guess you just have to be careful about who you get in the room with.
You’ve played so many memorable roles throughout your career. Which one is your favorite? Any you would want to revisit?
That’s hard to say. I think some of the most fun I’ve had creating a character, just because of how big a project it was and how long I was working on it, would be “A.I.” Working on a Spielberg film, it’s just such a gigantic environment, and he is a master at what he does. It’s sort of the ultimate environment for being able to have freedom as an actor and be completely immersed in a world. That’s definitely up there as one of my favorite roles I’ve ever done.
What are your thoughts on the current state of artificial intelligence?
It’s interesting. I think if there is going to be anything resembling what we showed in our movie, it’s going to be pretty far in the future. Between Elon Musk and someone else, there were some arguments about whether we should be frightened of it or not. I think that’s to be determined. I don’t think it’s going to be very likely or very soon, but it could become something malevolent. There’s a lot of potential for trusting a lot of aspects of the economy and technology to be automated to where if something does go wrong, or if something breaks, it could be hard to get control of. Our vision exceeds our grasp a lot of the time.
You portrayed such a fascinating character in the Amazon series “The Boys,” the clairvoyant Mesmer. If given the chance, would you ever want to have his powers?
I don’t know. I think, for him, it ended up being more of a curse than a blessing. If you [had the ability] to know when you were going to die or when you were going to get sick with something, I don’t know if that is information you’d even want to know. I think blissful innocence, in that case, is sometimes the best thing [laughs]. It’s the easiest way to go through life.
Something else interesting about you is that you studied theater at NYU. What was that experience like, after being nominated for an Oscar and everything, going back to school for four years to hone your craft?
I loved it. Those were some of the best years of my life, so far, just to be able to work with a bunch of people my own age, which wasn’t something I had a chance to do a lot when I was working on films when I was younger. Just to be in a theater environment was so different than the work that I had done before, which was the reason that I wanted to go off and do it, just to experience a different side of it. Now that I’ve gone back more to television and film, using the things that I learned there has been really helpful. I had an amazing experience at NYU.
You had a hilarious turn on the season two finale of “The Kominsky Method” as Alan Arkin’s Scientologist grandson. Will you be returning to that role?
We actually still haven’t heard whether they’re going to come back for season three, and now with everything shut down, I think a lot of shows are definitely in question, but I hope they do. You asked if there was a character I wanted to revisit — that’s definitely one I would love to push forward and see where that relationship with Alan Arkin goes.
You’re appearing in the season two premiere of “What We Do in the Shadows.” Can you talk about working on that show and your role?
I was a big fan of the show and the movie that it was based on for a long time, so getting to go work with those guys was exciting. That character is, the house of vampires gets a new familiar who’s sort of a rival to Guillermo and who doesn’t care as much about vampire stuff as Guillermo does, and is just there to build his resume and flip it to a better job. He’s a much more ambitious social climber. It’s a really fun episode.
The experience of making that show, I really admire everybody doing it, because it’s basically all shot at night… There’s a ton of makeup and wardrobe and everything, but the fun part about that is that once you get on set, it feels really like you’re in that house and there’s tons of lit candles and big, ornate rooms and everything. It’s a really cool environment to play in.
Do you have anything else coming up that you can talk about?
We were in the first few episodes of shooting season four of “Goliath’” when everything shut down, so hopefully, at some point, we’ll be able to start that up again. It’s sort of hard to predict what shows will be able to start back up again, or if there are going to be any further problems where people can’t even start thinking about going back into production.
We were shooting in San Francisco, which was a city I’ve always wanted to work in. I was doing a lot of stuff with J.K. Simmons and Jena Malone, and obviously Billy Bob [Thorton], who’s really cool to work with. He and I had previously worked together on “Entourage,” so it’s fun. He was the coolest.
How have you been holding up during the lockdown?
It’s been tough. I feel lucky to be in California because it seems like the state is handling it pretty well and people have been staying home from a pretty early point. But there’s a lot of uncertainty. We can’t really count on things getting back to any form of normal until there’s a vaccine or something else. It’s definitely a big shift in mentality.
“Bad Therapy” is available April 17 on digital and VOD.