John Gemberling Talks NBC’s Marry Me, Ska, and Big Guys in Hollywood

Chubstr and John Gemberling, Ken Marino

John Gemberling, Tyler Jacobs, and Ken Marino Photo: Tyler Jacobs

A few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to visit the set of NBC’s new show, Marry Me. Our own Tyler Jacobs had the opportunity to hang out with John Gemberling, Ken Marino, Casey Wilson, and Sarah Wright Olsen for a late afternoon of snacks, photos, and great conversation. The interview below took place a week later, when I spoke with John about his 90’s ska band, if it’s harder to get acting gigs when you’re a bigger guy, and what’s happening with Gil in the next few weeks on Marry Me.

PLUS – get a sneak peek of tonight’s episode of Marry Me by scrolling to the end of the article. 

Marry Me - John Gemberling

Photo: NBC

Tell me about your ska band!
Well, we formed in ’96, I was 15 or so. We were called The Loose Nuts, and we were out of New York. We played shows around New York, and opened for the Bosstones at Roseland, and we had a song on the American Pie soundtrack. We did some stuff here and there.

Do you still play?
No – I don’t play in a band or anything. I sing and play guitar personally, but I’m not actively performing music.

Is it something you could see doing professionally again?
I feel like it’s pretty dorky for actors to be in bands, you know? Like Sting can be an actor, and it makes sense – but for an actor to be in a band… like for Russell Crowe to have a band, it’s pretty weird. You see actors in bands, and you don’t know if they’re really cool, or if they’re just acting like they’re cool. I don’t know that I would do it again, unless the acting thing fell apart or whatever, but I can’t see myself doing something like Dogstar. I have two kids, and comedy, and it’s hard to imagine devoting extra time to being in a band at this point.

You reserve the right to change your mind in the future, right?
Just wait – you’ll see me in a porkpie hat and a bowling shirt – with a big long chain just skankin’ away.

John Gemberling and Ken Marino on Marry Me

Photo: NBC

What is a typical day like when you’re working? I’m guessing it’s not like a 9-5 kind of thing.
It’s different every time, you know? Marry Me is the highest budget thing I’ve worked on. Doing Broad City for Comedy Central is a much more stripped down production. They shoot in a sort of newly slapped together studio in Brooklyn. You have a bit of a trailer you stay in, but you show up, you work, then you’re done. This [Marry Me] is a huge production – you have a whole trailer, and they schedule you. Sometimes you get there at 5 or 6 in the morning  and you work all day. Other times, you get there around 11am and they say “we don’t need you right now – just hang out. We put out some Vietnamese sandwiches, go eat, take a nap.” Some days it can just be pretty light lifting. The food is great, and it’s pretty difficult not to gain weight when you’re on set.

There are actors that have to maintain their figure more, so they have to be more disciplined. Ken [Marino] goes to the gym during lunch, and I’m like, dead asleep – full and asleep at lunch. If we came back for a season two, I might have to look at disciplining myself a bit more. But yeah, it’s different every day. The hardest part is just the boredom of sitting there for hours at a time.

John Gemberling on NBC's Marry Me

Photo: NBC

As an actor, is it more difficult for you to get jobs when you’re a bigger guy?
I think it’s difficult for everyone to find jobs, at least until you hit a certain stride. I usually go out for the role of the quirky whatever, or the slothful best friend, you know? In a lot of cases, that’s not necessarily a big guy. It can be an “all types” sort of role where they can see it as a bearded fat guy, or a black guy, or whatever. There’s a lot of those roles out there. I think if I try one day to branch out from comedy, it’d be tougher. I don’t think there’s less roles for me. There’s roles for every type, and I’m a type. It’s probably more difficult for handsome leading men because there’s so many of them and you have to maintain your figure.

Makes sense. There’s a lot more competition for that kind of role.
Some people, I think, are good at that mindset, being disciplined and maintaining a kind of superficial quality in order to work – and that just makes me feel so tired. Whatever I am, whatever I do, that’s what you’re gonna get, and hopefully my performance is good. I try not to drive myself crazy in terms of the look thing.

You’ve had the full beard, and you’ve been clean shaven: Do you have any grooming secrets you can share with us?
I’ve been blessed with a good bearded neckline, so I don’t have to do a lot with it. What I used to do was just shave it completely when it got too long. I just got these electric clippers from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and got this attachment that works – I think it’s #4. Then use scissors to clean up my mustache, and a razor to shave the part between my eyeball and the top of the beard [laughs].

John Gemberling

Photo: NBC

Where do you shop for your clothes? We men of girth are always looking for tips.
Shopping for clothes gives me intense memory anxiety of when I was a kid shopping for school clothes with my Dad at the end of the summer. Just finding something, putting it on, and seeing it fit just badly. I try to find places that really work, like Uniqlo, the Gap. If I’m doing a job and wardrobe puts something on me and I think it looks good, I’ll look at the tag and then go get a bunch of those, and then wear them out. I’m not necessarily a fount of style guidance.

I understand completely! When you find something that fits, you hold on to it for dear life.
I liked a lot of the clothes they put me in on Marry Me, a lot of it I’d wear out in public. I look at the tag and the size and then go find it. Some of the clothes was tailored to fit me, so I was able to keep it at the end of filming.

Tailored clothing is a whole new world. Putting something on and realizing that it fits right. It’s like a light comes on and you just say “Oh, THIS is what it’s supposed to be like!”
And then there’s the stuff that looks good at first, and then it sort of stretches a little bit, and it gets a little baggier. Clothes look good on me the first couple of times, then they begin to look like what I expect clothes look like on me, which is ill-fitting. Then they basically become like what I think I deserve. [laughs] This is what I get, this is what I deserve.

It took me a couple of years to realize that I needed to just walk my clothes to the dry cleaner or tailor to get my clothes altered. You don’t have to cuff every pair of jeans you own. It’s pretty cheap and easy to have done.

What’s coming up later this season on Marry Me? Romances? Bromances?
Kay may get a more steady girlfriend, she finds someone new despite her dedication to promiscuity. I don’t. I try to get back together with my wife in several ways, but it doesn’t quite work out. There is a wedding…I don’t know if I should say what it’s all about…I assume I’m allowed to talk about anything, I don’t know. It’s not LOST, so I can’t imagine spoilers are a problem.

John Gemberling

Photo: NBC

Any word on season 2 yet?
We won’t find out about that until May. We’ve got the whole second half of the season left to air, so once that’s done, we find out. It’s weird – I wasn’t anticipating these phases. First, you’re shooting and it’s not airing, so you’re in a bubble. Then, it’s shooting and it’s airing, so you’re making it and people have an opinion of it all at once. Then, you’re done shooting and it’s just airing, so it feels to the world like the show is still going on, but to us, it feels like it’s over. For us, it’s a long waiting period.

Now that you’re part of such a big production, do people recognize you when you’re out and about?
People have recognized me on the street, but in L.A., it’s the kind of place where people recognize people more. I don’t know if people would recognize me anywhere else in America. We finished filming last week, so I feel like we’re just coming out of this bubble of being in production. I’ve mostly been shooting for the last 5 or 6 months, so I haven’t been trying to get other jobs, or getting out into the world to notice any of that. You’re in this bubble, you know? Hopefully people get to know me and love me.

This is the most press I’ve ever done, and it’s been fun to see that bizarre world of walking the red carpet, and to see people like mildly care about taking your picture. It’s most interesting having built things like that up in your mind, and then getting to do it – it’s like you can cross it off the list, and have that understanding that no matter where you get in this business, there’s always bigger stuff to aspire to. It seems so glamorous to see people getting interviewed on the red carpet, but then you do it, and it’s like this partially bored press person standing there who has to be told by a publicist who you are, and they have a couple of generic questions. If you answer them in a sort of smart-ass way, they just glaze over. I’ve had a couple like that myself.

John Gemberling in a tree

Photo: NBC

I went to some party a magazine put on – they came out with their 100 most interesting people to know, or some kind of list of people. My wife couldn’t go, so I went by myself, and you wait on this line to walk on the red carpet, and you go into these parties and it’s just a bunch of coked up weirdos. I had some hors d’oeuvres and got out of there. They’re asking you questions like “who’s your favorite person on the 100 people list?” I’m like, I don’t know what you’re talking about! They don’t want to hear that. That’s why you see so many of those interviews and it’s manic Hollywood people: “I’m so excited about this list, and it’s so amazing to see all these people!” I can’t muster it on that level…it feels weird to me. I always like getting to different levels in my career, and being able to experience the weirdness and bizarreness of it.

That side of it can come off as cringe-worthy when you’re watching it on TV.
Well, the only thing that’s going through anybody’s mind is “This is good for me.” If you’re going to do this job, you have to do that to a certain point, so that people know you and they think of you as somebody and want to hire you and let you do stuff. Maybe I’ll get there, but I’m just not at that point where I can manufacture that kind of generic excitement.

But, uh…it’s fun! [laughs] I really do find it funny. I’ll get bored of it one day and just become a cynical, dead-eyed mouthpiece, but until then, I have an opinion about it.

Follow John on Twitter at @Gemberlicking, and learn more about NBC’s Marry Me here.Watch this exclusive clip from TONIGHT’S episode of Marry Me! Catch the show at 9/8c.

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