Actor Paul Rudd, seen in an undated photo, made a...

Actor Paul Rudd, seen in an undated photo, made a guest appearance on an episode of "Parks and Recreation" which aired on Jan. 19, 2012. Credit: Getty Images

Paul Rudd has the kind of low-key, deadpan acting style that seems to work equally well, whether he's doing comedy or drama. The 42-year-old performer, born in New Jersey but raised in Kansas, first gained attention as Alicia Silverstone's former stepbrother in the 1995 film "Clueless," a role that turned him into a minor teen idol. Since then, Rudd has become a regular member of the Judd Apatow repertory company, appearing in such films as "Anchorman," 'The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Currently shooting another comedy for Apatow, tentatively titled "This Is Forty," Rudd will be seen Aug. 26 in "Our Idiot Brother," in which he plays a blissed-out hippie with three demanding sisters who lives by his own rules. Lewis Beale caught up with him during a break in filming.

Your character in "Our Idiot Brother." Is he stupid? Naive? What?

I don't think he's stupid. I think he was naive in some ways, but in other ways enlightened; he's a guy that is self-aware. This principle he tries to uphold -- seeing the best in people -- by choosing that as an ethos, it makes him not an idiot, more of an idealist. Some of his choices are idiotic and not naive, but it's not like "Being There," where the guy is floating through sort of unaware; he's aware.

So what was it that attracted you to this film in the first place?

The thing that struck me was the character itself. I liked this person, and I thought that would be a fun thing to play. I never thought in terms of "Oh, he's stupid," or "He's a stoner." It was the idea of someone trying to live their life in a certain way, and maintaining that. There's room for behavioral humor, but it also had poignancy and depth to it.

The film you're currently shooting is the fifth one featuring you that Judd Apatow has either directed or produced. What's the attraction?

From a creative standpoint, he directs in a way no one I've ever worked with directs. I feel like my approach to acting is different from having worked with him. The freedom he gives the actors is really incredible. If we want to add stuff, we get to do it. We're not just standing on the mark and saying the line. And the things he's concerned with, not about laughs specifically, but dealing with things that are true. I like that perspective on things.

Do you see yourself having any particular strengths or weaknesses when it comes to acting?

I don't know where it falls, whether a strength or hindrance. I don't think the chasm between comedy and drama is too wide. I tend to live somewhere in the middle, so as a result, I think I've been in some funny movies, but I don't consider myself a comedian. I have maybe not such a flashy approach to things. While I have ambition and can be passionate about things, I wonder if I can be as tenacious as other people to get ahead.

When you started out in the business, is there any particularly great career advice that someone gave you?

The best was a practical one -- "write thank you notes." Which I think is a good life thing.

You were really great in "Clueless." Sort of everyone's favorite sane and cute older brother. What did it mean for your career?

It was major, the first thing I ever did that was widely seen. We did a table read of "Clueless," and after it was all done, the actors went to dinner, and we were all new to acting. I remember thinking, wouldn't it be crazy if this turned into one of those movies like we think of John Hughes, because it was different and smart. Just hoping it would be that; then, years after it came out, it became clear that it was a movie that a lot of kids, it struck a chord with them. It shared the shelf space of some of those [John Hughes] movies. There's something great being part of something that you knew was important to some kids.

Growing up in Overland Park, Kansas, you became a big fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. Do you still root for them? And how do you think they're going to do this year, after winning the AFC West title in 2010, but losing in the first round of the playoffs?

I'm curious to see what's going to happen with any of these teams because of the lockout, to see how sharp any of them are. It's frustrating, because make the playoffs, but they never get past the first round.

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