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I Wanted to Be a Part of This Story: Larry Wilmore and Rainn Wilson on Jerry and Marge Go Large

“Jerry and Marge Go Large” is based on an endearing fairy tale of a true story. A small-town retired couple (played by Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening) made millions of dollars when the husband figured out a math loophole in the state lottery that tipped the odds in favor of a purchaser of a lot of tickets. He invited his friends and family to share in the winnings, including his accountant, played by Larry Wilmore, and a clerk at the convenience store where they bought the lottery tickets, played by Rainn Wilson. In an interview, Wilmore and Wilson talked about their own history with lottery tickets and why this story is just right for our time.

Rainn, what do we learn about your character from the way he dresses?

RAINN WILSON: He had a lot of great old rock T-shirts from bands from the '70s. So, that really tells you a lot about him. He was a little more footloose and fancy-free, going to hear bands, rocking out in the '70s and '80s, and wants to still think of himself that way. Plus, he had an open Hawaiian shirt vibe. Sandals. And I like that he repeats a lot of his wardrobes. You see some of the same pieces throughout. It always bothers me in movies when you see people wearing something new in every scene. Let's face it, I recycle most of what I'm wearing all the time. I think I probably slept in this T-shirt. I wore it yesterday. I like to recycle clothing. So, it becomes part of the character.

Larry, as a writer, tell me what role your character plays in the story. What does the audience learn from him?

LARRY WILMORE: It's very interesting because this is based on a true story, and of course, there are things that are put in there to help a movie go forward. I think I'm an emotional checkpoint, [and] represent the person watching this going, “Mmm I don't know about that.” So, I'm a conduit for the viewer. Those characters are always fun characters, the characters where the audience says, “Oh I would have said that, too.” 

Rainn, your character’s life really changes over the course of the film.

RW: He's in the dumps at the beginning, and he's open to an adventure. And the door opens and he jumps in and joins Jerry and Marge in their investment and then he's able to make a little money and get out of his circumstances, get his divorce and find a little freedom. He's been reborn. I hate to say it’s by lottery tickets. But he's a different guy at the end of the movie. I think it's because of his kind of optimism and saying yes to life.

Larry, your character and Bryan Cranston’s have been friends for decades, and we see the comfortable rhythms of that relationship in their first scene together. How do you create that chemistry of a long-term friendship?

LW: Well, it's great because I already knew Bryan Cranston. When I was doing “The Bernie Mac Show” and he was doing “Malcolm in the Middle,” and they were in a studio and we were in a basement. I used to see him all the time and we became friendly. But he is such a great actor, that relationship just happens. I didn't know Annette Bening. But here's somebody who is so fantastic, she creates a relationship like that. You're the putty in her capable little hands. And you just go, “I feel like I already know these people as characters.” You don't really have to do that much work when you're working with such talented cast.

How are your math skills? Did you understand the loophole Jerry discovered?

LW: I was a math guy growing up. I was taking calculus as a sophomore in high school. But I stopped there and said, “Okay math, you've done your job, we've had enough of it.” I do like puzzles. My brain always likes to figure things out. And maybe the way that I write, too, is like figuring that puzzle out. And producing is like that a lot. When people say, “Larry, do you like performing or producing more?” I would say producing because it's figuring out the puzzle, putting those pieces together. “That's the right scene. Let's put that there.” And that appeals to my mind really a lot.

Have you ever bought a lottery ticket?

LW: Do I live in the United States of America? Of course. A lottery ticket? I think the proper question is, “Larry, how many lottery tickets do you unsuccessfully buy?”

RW: I think I bought maybe a dozen lottery tickets in my life, and maybe a half dozen scratchers. And I've never won a penny. So, I've given up on that and any kind of gambling.

I was going to ask you how many winning tickets you've bought.

LW: I'm very fortunate. I am luckier in what I have chosen to do for a living than I would if I had chosen to place my money in a bet.

You must have thought as you were making this movie, how you would spend $26 million in lottery winnings.

LW: Because of the pandemic, what we've all been through, Jerry's story was so inspirational. I would love to think that I would find a way to do that sharing thing. Because how much do you really need, honestly? You got to a nice place to sleep. You got enough steaks to eat whatever you're hungry. You may as well share it with people, do as much as you can with it. You're gonna feel better at the end of the day.

It feels like a Frank Capra movie, doesn't it?

LW: It really does. But it's not corny. It feels contemporary in a sense. It feels emotionally contemporary. I feel like we all want this type of story in our lives right now. And the way that he wins is a great way to win, when you're winning for all the right reasons.

RWHonestly, I felt like the script was so warm, and heartwarming, and American in a way that everyone can relate to. It doesn't matter if you're from a red state or a blue state, or how you feel about gun laws, or January 6th, or any of that. This is something that it's just a great uplifting story and in an old-fashioned movie-making way. And I just wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be a part of this story. I read it and I was like, “I don't care what the role is I want to be a part of this project because this is kind of what the world needs right now.”

"Jerry and Marge Go Large" debuts exclusively on Paramount+ on June 17.

Nell Minow

Nell Minow reviews movies and DVDs each week as The Movie Mom online and on radio stations across the US. She is the author of The Movie Mom's Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments.

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