Zach Galifianakis talks ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and working with Oprah

Even for an actor who has built a career playing oddballs, Zach Galifianakis’ character comes out of left field in “A Wrinkle in Time.”

In Disney’s whimsical and weird adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s story, the 48-year-old actor plays the memorable role of The Happy Medium, a cave-dwelling clairvoyant that protagonist Meg (Storm Reid) seeks for assistance in locating her dimension-hopping dad (Chris Pine).

We recently got to chat with Galifianakis about making the Ava DuVernay-directed movie, which also stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.

The Happy Medium is an usual character — what was unusual about preparing for the role?

You know in the book he’s neither male nor female, so that was [something] I didn’t know how to do. But Ava was really helpful with that and we kind of . . . interpreted the pages as best we could.

What was your overall experience working with Ava?

Well, when you meet Ava, you kind of know there’s an inherent, innate leadership quality in her, and that’s what you want in a director — you want somebody that knows what they want. And you can see that in her right away. That gives an actor a lot of comfort when the director has a vision. And with a movie like this, you have to have the specific vision. So that made it easy to work on the movie. You get a lot of confidence from Ava. And she instills confidence in you, which a lot of directors don’t do, they work against your confidence. I really appreciated that aspect of Ava. . . . She’s such a leader.

How important do you think the diversity in this film is, especially at this time?

Hollywood is a copycat industry, and people like their safety, but this movie and the diversity of its cast shakes that up a little bit. You hope to see that this isn’t a one-off situation, you hope to see more of this. It’s mathematical: when things are more diverse, they run better. That’s why we have a great country. We’re built on diversity, so the same goes in storytelling.

What was it like to work alongside Oprah?

I said it before: she’s the real deal. And it’s kind of frustrating because it makes you up your game. Again, you look at a human being like Ms. Winfrey and I think you think — and listen by the way, I’m as cynical as they get so I have a side of me that rolls my eyes at all this stuff — but with Ms. Winfrey, I don’t know, it seems different. . . . You know there’s a saying you really judge a person when they get some power. What Oprah’s done with her power is just . . . I don’t know, I have a very soft spot for her.

Who do you really hope sees this film?

I hope a lot of people, obviously, go see this movie. I hope a lot of young boys will go see it. It’ll help them out, I promise it will help them out.