You'd think working as a professional actor from the wee age of 10 might have shaped Josh Hutcherson into a hyper-focused thespian and producer with concrete goals.
The 25-year-old seasoned actor has firmly embraced his "no life plan" path, and it's working well for him. In just the last five years alone, he's starred in two successful franchise film series, The Hunger Games and Journey to the Center of the Earth, produced and starred in his own indie, Escobar: Paradise Lost, and creatively connected with James Franco in a comedic cameo in this year's The Disaster Artist.
It's that project that led him to his latest, starring in and producing Hulu's R-rated time-travel comedy, Future Man, which drops the entire first season Nov. 14. As Josh Futterman, Hutcherson embodies an earnest yet rudderless millennial who's coasting in a janitorial job, but he's truly passionate about beating an "unbeatable" post-apocalyptic, first-person shooter video game. When he finally achieves his goal, the game zaps the two game soldiers, Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson) into being, where they reveal to Josh that they're actually from Earth's future and they need him to save the world.
Ridiculous? For sure, which Hutcherson gleefully admitted upon sitting down to chat with us about why Future Man was the right project to woo him to television, even if it was never part of his (nonexistent) master plan.
You've worked with James Franco on two films now, so was he your introduction to Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who are the executive producers of Future Man?
Josh Hutcherson: One hundred percent. Working with James is always an exciting adventure, as you never know what it's going to be. I love that, and he's so f***ing creative, and prolific, and interesting that I wanted to keep working with him. The Disaster Artist happened, but this was not a plan. I don't really have plans in life. I don't set goals. I know what I want to do in the moment and then see where it leads me.
Committing to a TV series was obviously a big move for you, as you haven't really worked in the medium since you first started acting.
Yeah, but I never did anything that was good, or that got picked up. I think there was a certain connotation that I had with TV growing up, which was "network television." The world of HBO and Showtime [television shows], and especially the Hulus and Netflixes didn't exist at all. So the idea of TV was you're trapped and locked in, and stuck as a character.
Now TV is where everybody wants to be storytelling, so did that change your perception of working in the medium?
Yeah, I'm always driven to content that is original, interesting, and that has three-dimensional characters that are honest. I think this captures that, as well as the perfect timing of the world of TV has blown up into every direction. You can do so many cool things now, on a very big scale. This has the production value of film. We shot it like a film, except with a brutal schedule.
It's a pretty ambitious show with all the time travel and period sets, so did you ask where it was going and how the team would all make it happen?
I definitely asked that question a few times, and didn't get an answer, so I was like, "F*** it, I'm in." I trusted the process and them. We all had the same idea of the show we wanted to make. There were a few elements that are plot-focused that for months ahead of time, I was like, "How am I going to do this?" They didn't have a plan either, but they knew what they wanted to make, and then a couple weeks before we shot it, they told me how they were going to do it, and it was like, "Oh, s***! Let's go for it, full on!"
Aside from the name similarities, how much does Josh Futterman have in common with Josh Hutcherson?
I might have my s*** together a little bit more than Josh. But you've seen so many times a 24-year-old guy in Los Angeles portrayed a certain way: He lives in an apartment that there's no way he can afford, and goes to awesome restaurants and bars. Or he's a complete nerd loser with no friends. What I liked about Josh is that he feels in between those worlds.
So does Futterman running around with two uber-violent video game characters change them, or does he change to become more like them?
He doesn't lose the truth of who he is. His journey is complicated, but it's honest. I think what's interesting is these two worlds colliding. Josh's world helps them to become more complete people, but their bravery, strength, confidence, and sacrifice influence him.
How was it working with Keith David, who plays Futterman's boss?
He's one of the most grounded, professional actors I've worked with ever. He took it very seriously, and I respected the hell out of that, because that was my approach to it. We're not just making jokes to make jokes. Everything is grounded in reality, and he's such a force and presence on the screen and on the set that he embodied that.
What's been your takeaway as an actor getting to live in the skin of a character for an extended period of time?
In a series, you get so much more time to play out the arc of a character. You have seven hours of content as opposed to two, and the potential for more seasons. You get to play the subtleties more, which I like.
And what about as a producer?
I learned a lot as a producer working with this team, and I learned a lot by proxy, seeing what they're doing, and then it influences you for future times.
Future Man Season 1 arrives Nov. 14, 2017, on Hulu.