Extract's Dustin Milligan On 90210, Playing Dumb, and the Tyranny of Hollywood Chest-Shaving
Dustin Milligan's role in Mike Judge's comedy Extract couldn't be coming along at a better time for the 24-year-old actor. After a season of playing male lead Ethan on the teen soap 90210, Milligan was ultimately let go in May amidst creative retooling. Now, though, as the dunderheaded male gigolo who comes between Jason Bateman and his wife Kristen Wiig in Extract, Milligan finally gets to show off his comic abilities in a way 90210 never let him.
Milligan spoke to Movieline about his thoughts on leaving 90210 (don't worry, we definitely brought up that picture) and his eagerness to leave his teen idol image behind in favor of becoming a comic scene-stealer.
A lot of the actors in Extract openly admit that they were easy sells to star in the film because they've venerated Mike Judge's Office Space for so long. Was it like that for you?
I think in the industry, especially -- and I hate to be so exclusive and pretentious to call it "The Industry" -- I really do feel that Mike is somebody so well respected because of Office Space, and the socio-political commentary that he was busting out in Idiocracy really resonated with a lot of people. Certainly, Beavis and Butthead was a big part of my youth. To put it bluntly, the guy's a legend, and people want to work with him. Especially because this is, what, only his third feature film? This is a real special occasion for an actor.
It feels like this is the first one of his film's that's actually getting a real marketing push.
Well, that's the thing. We were all concerned, obviously, because of the past dealings that had surrounded Mike's films, especially Idiocracy which got just absolutely no love. I think it was released in eight theaters or something. But I'm seeing a lot of posters and trailers our there for Extract -- Miramax is really giving it a fair shot, and it deserves it.
You do a lot of acting opposite Jason and Kristen, but they're playing the straight men to your slightly more outlandish character, Brad. Did you ever feel like you were going out on a limb in front of them?
Both Jason and Mike were really supportive of the Brad that I brought to them. It was one of the first times that I really felt on set like a real collaborator, like we were all equals and we were contributing ideas that were being accepted and seriously considered. As a young actor, that's not always the case. So I really did feel like I could go as "dumb" as I had to, or dial it back with Mike's direction. Although, Jason really was making me laugh with every single take. I was having a hard time not getting hysterical in front of Jason and Kristen Wiig.
There were some opportunities where I felt a little exposed, a little over-the-top, especially that kind of "70's porn" seduction scene. That, I felt like I could really get out all the over-the-top characteristics of Brad -- it's like I was encouraged to. There's just something about Mike's style of storytelling, where you can go over-the-top because the characters are real enough that there's a freedom there for you to just go for it.
Are you excited for this to show off a new side of you after your stint as a teen idol on 90210?
My whole life, growing up, I always wanted to be in comedy. I never felt comfortable doing the "teen hunk" thing. I don't know how to take a hunky picture, I don't know how to pose, I don't know how to do a lot of the stuff that would be required for the supposed hunk on 90210 to do. That was definitely a challenge, but [doing comedy] now is kind of a dream come true, to show off my chops.
And you've got another one you just shot called Gunless, where you play a Canadian cowboy, right?
Yeah, it's a Canadian western, which was a lot of fun to shoot. That one's a little more family-friendly than Extract -- certainly, there's a lot less testicle humor. I got to grow this ridiculous mustache for it, which ironically, would have fit well into the 70's style of seduction [used by his Extract character]. It was a dirty, dirty pornstache I ended up growing.
Have you ever grown a mustache before?
No, this is the first time! I've been waiting to have facial hair on camera for the longest time -- I'm always playing teenagers and I always have to shave. I'll let you in on a little secret: I have sensitive skin, and I'm a sensitive guy, so shaving is something that I don't look forward to. I certainly did not welcome that on 90210, shaving day in and day out. And not just my face, either! You can't have chest hair when you're in high school.
Did someone on 90210 actually tell you to shave your chest for the role?
It was assumed. No one flat-out handed me a list of areas I needed to shave, but it was kind of assumed you would if there was visible chest hair. There were a few times I didn't bother, so my lower neck will be inconsistent from episode to episode on 90210: Sometimes there's hair creeping out, sometimes there's not. I guess I wasn't really sure about how to be the teen hunk guy. "Hmm, everybody else seems to be shaving their chest. Maybe I have to do it, too?" I had to do it, but I didn't want to do it.
Let's talk about your discomfort with having to be the "teen hunk guy." I felt like the 90210 writers never really knew what to do with your character. What was that like from your perspective?
It was interesting, because there was a lot going on behind the scenes as far as the producers coming in and out. Like you said, there were different ideas of the show in general and what each character should be, and ultimately, Ethan sort of got lost in the fray. He never got a real voice of his own. I don't say this bitterly, but he was more of a prop for the female storylines.
I definitely got that feeling.
Yeah, I really wasn't sure what to do with that, you know what I mean? I was willing to try new things and find out who this character was, and I certainly talked to the writers and we all tried to figure out together what could happen with this kid, what direction could he go in throughout the season, but ultimately, the main audience is young women and the focal point for the storylines is young women. [Ethan] kind of got passed around through all the female characters like the little man-whore he was, and then he moved back to Montana.
Sometimes sleeping with all the other characters can take several seasons!
Yeah, he moved fast. [Laughs] Overall, the whole experience was nice because I got to see what that was like, all the hype and publicity happening around the first two episodes. It was something I'd never done before, and I'm grateful that I had that experience and can take everything I learned and hopefully put it to use on future projects.
Speaking of hype, I've gotta ask: The CW released a group cast photo for Season 2, and they pasted Matt Lanter's head over your body. Considering that he came on to the show as you were on your way out, that's got to have been a little awkward. Did you see it?
I did. That is what happened. [Pause] It's unfortunate, and I believe it was unintentional. It certainly speaks to the, uh, thoroughness of some of the people in charge over there who probably should have been watching out for that. But hey, stuff happens. I personally think Matt Lanter has a great body, and I'm sure he thinks I have a great head. We just laughed about it, because it was a little awkward. But it's Hollywood, it happens. I'm over it.
See, Dustin? Maybe you do take a better hunky picture than you thought!
Yeah, maybe that's it! Maybe I just didn't realize how great only my body was. See, that's the problem: My head is taking bad photos, but my body's doing great.