Richard Kind has one of those faces, and one of those voices. Both are sure signs of a successful character actor.
He’s a sitcom veteran, having played Dr. Mark Devanow in “Mad About You” — a role he’ll be reprising in the upcoming revival — and as Paul Lassiter on the New York City-set mayoral comedy “Spin City.” He added heart and a whole lot of tears with just his voice when he played the imaginary friend Bing Bong in Pixar’s “Inside out.” He got to flex his dramatic chops with a run as the mayor on “Gotham.”
What the versatile actor typically doesn’t get are leading roles. That changes with “Auggie,” a new sci-fi movie where Kind takes center stage as Felix, an architect pushed into retiring who falls for an "augmented reality" woman named Auggie that he can only see through special glasses.
"I’m a character actor so usually when I do a movie, I’ll have two, three, four scenes in a movie," Kind says. "I don’t carry the movie. I help facilitate the story. But I really don’t have a clear arc that runs the entire movie. With this one, I was given the gift of, from point A to point B, I’m the movie and it’s about me. And what actor doesn’t want to do that?
"I was scared," he adds, "But I got to do it."
Kind says he was drawn to the script because it was very literate.
"Between you and me, I never thought that I’d be having this conversation because I never thought the film would be released," he says. "These movies get made. It’s very nice. Maybe they’ll find some sort of outlet somewhere and somebody will see it. … And now you are.
"They thought it was worth putting out there and it is," Kind says. "It’s not going to set the world on fire. There are no car chases. But it is an adult piece of art that people can think about.”
amNewYork spoke with the 62-year-old New York City actor about the film, which comes out Friday at Cinema Village as well as on digital and video on demand platforms.
You’re one of the great character actors. What was the experience like taking a starring role?
What was really going through my mind is: don’t go to your tricks. Thank you for saying that about my acting. A lot of times my goal is to entertain. And so as an entertainer, we want to be funny or make a face or something like that. I had to be secure that the story was good, and I had to serve the story. That’s really what it was. I’ve gotten to be a better actor in the past 10 or 20 years, I think. And certainly, very different. My style has changed over the years. However, I recently, just last Friday we did the first episode of "Mad About You." It’s been rebooted and I’m in it. And I started reliving the old days. Am I happy about it? Let me tell you, the script is as great as ever. Not good as ever. As great as ever. Spectacular. And you know they hired me to be Mark Devanow and I know who Mark Devanow is. It’s just going back a couple of years, a lot of years.
How do you relate to Felix?
You relate to your characters the way you do. How do you relate to the situation, in a world of Alexa and Siri and Big Brother and God only knows what security camera is on me right now? That was an easy thing. Although I’m not afraid of those things because I think I lead a good and moral life. I have nothing that I’m ashamed of. For being as liberal as I am, I don’t mind that going on as much because everybody should be leading a good and moral life. And maybe this will help people lead a clear and good, moral life. … But for Felix it was, you play pretend. That’s what acting is, you play pretend. What would happen if a guy got these glasses? You just pretend what would happen.
What do you think this film has to say about the digital experience in this world now?
Well, I think that’s sort of obvious. I don’t know want to give things away. But it’s sort of a cautionary tale, sort of like "Black Mirror" has cautionary short stories. This is just a cautionary tale that’s a little longer than that. It’s a good science fiction piece. Am I a huge science fiction fan? Not really. But I think this is a good drama that incorporates a bit of science fiction. It’s got a lot to say that other people are saying and are going to continue to say.
What’s life like as a working actor in NYC?
Well, it’s unusual — although there’s a lot of filming that goes on here. The major casting for the big roles, and the money roles and the leads are all done in L.A. So that’s sort of a compromise. If I’m going to do theater, well, of course, this is the city to be in, but it’s difficult because I have three children and I live in New York. It’s tough to make a living doing theater. And I always say I’ll go to L.A. so that I can afford to live in New York.
Tell me about coming back to the role on "Mad About You."
Well, I told you how good the script is. It was a pleasure. It was a pleasure to say those words. Peter Tolan is now running the show. His first TV show, ["Carol & Company"], I was on. So that makes me laugh. He is one of our supreme writers today. And he’s bringing it strong to "Mad About You." And to see Helen [Hunt] and Paul [Reiser] just fall back into those roles is charming and wonderful and lovely and it’s just great.
What makes that show so timeless?
A married couple. And we are still people who marry. And I think that the problems that they go through — even though that they are New Yorkers — are universal. About this problem and that problem. I used to say that "Seinfeld" was a show that was about nothing that was taken to operatic proportions and "Mad About You" was a show about everything that was treated as minutiae.
If you could channel Paul Lassiter from "Spin City" for a minute, as a former member of a fictional NYC mayor’s office, what’s your take on city politics these days?
Oh, New York politics? I don’t nearly follow New York politics as I do the national politics. And it seems that Paul Lassiter was a genius compared to the people representing [the Trump] administration.
With this leading role in the can, are you looking differently for future roles?
Not at all. Things like that come to me. I could look forever. Let’s just put it this way: "The Fast and the Furious" already have their leads. What am I going to do?