Seth Rogen on Choosing His Hollywood Battles and Why Movies Will Never Go Away: ‘People Still Go to Museums!’

Seth Rogen
Anna Webber for Variety

Seth Rogen has gotten into TV in a big way: As star and EP of Apple TV+’s “Platonic,” exec producer of Prime Video’s “The Boys” franchise, animated series like “Invincible” and “Sausage Party: Foodtopia,” and his upcoming Hollywood satire “The Studio,” also for Apple. But he’s still bullish on film as well. “I think people still like movies,” he tells Variety‘s Awards Circuit Podcast. “Last year, lots of movies did very well. I think if movies were going go away, they would have a long time ago.”

Rogen is passionate about this point. “Paintings are still around. People still go to museums! There’s things flashier or more ‘interesting’ than then oil on canvas, but people still flock from all over the world, enough to keep museums open. Not a ton of people have to like movies to keep movies going. It’s always been a very small percentage of the population that actually goes and sees movies.”

What Rogen does see, and what “The Studio” will address, is the terror he’s seeing in the industry these days. “It’s about people who are really struggling to find their way in this environment,” he says. “I would say, the most common trait we see among people who work on the executive side of things is sheer panic. A true sense that at any moment, it could all come crashing down for them personally. Because it’s 100% true. We’ve seen it, we’ve seen people come and go. We pitch shows to people, this show we pitched it to a place and, like literally, between the time we pitched it, and the next day, the person we pitched to was fired.”

As for TV? “We’ve always been somewhat agnostic to who was giving us the money,” he says. “Even with television. I’m always explaining to the slightly younger people that I work with that when I was young, TV and movies were not on the same level. When we were doing ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ all we wanted to do was be in movies. When we were making ’40 Year Old Virgin,’ and stuff it was like, movies were up here and TV was down there. And now that is not at all the case. Colin Farrell, on a TV show! Robert Downey Jr.’s on a TV show!”

Rogen admits it’s a bit harder to make the kind of mid-budget movies he and his production partner, Evan Goldberg, make these days. But that’s where TV comes in handy. But still, “we can also make movies. I’m sure it’ll be back in a few years. We just made a deal with Universal, they’re very incentivized to make theatrical films.”

On this episode of the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, Rogen talks about “Platonic” and what the show did to make clear that this would not turn into a romantic relationship. We also discussed his evolution in the business, his busy roster that includes everything from ‘The Boys’ and ‘Invincible’ to his new Apple TV+ show and what a season two of ‘Platonic’ might look like. Listen below!

Co-created, directed and co-written by Nick Stoller and Francesca Delbanco, “Platonic” stars Rogen and Rose Byrne as a pair of former best friends approaching midlife who reconnect after a long rift. The duo’s friendship takes them on some crazy adventures and disrupts their relationships with others – but don’t worry, as the title says, it’s all completely platonic.

The show is extremely relatable to anyone in their 40s, and in the case of Rogen’s character, for people at that stage of life still figuring things out. Rogen admits that there’s a bit of him in his character.

“It’s all very, in some ways, exaggerated from my own personality on the show,” Rogen says of Will, who is a craft beer brewer more interested in perfecting his creation than running his microbrewery. Rogen says he sees a bit of a comparison to how he has operated as the head of a production company making movies and television.

“On the show, my character just doesn’t care about the financial side of things, and is truly driven by the artistry of it all,” Rogen says. “And also, wanting to seem interesting and cool and being materialistic in that way. All that stuff is very personal and stuff that I’ve been very guilty of over the years. Something that is a constant conflict in my life, one that is playing out right now in my life, is how much do you play by the rules with the people who are financially responsible for the things you’re doing? How much do you just plow through and try to do the thing that you think is interesting? And how much do you alienate the people that you are working with? And that trust you to be reasonable to not bring the whole thing crashing down?”

Rogen has been at this for decades, however, and has an interesting perspective on how his thinking and approach to the business has evolved. “There are some things from me back then, that are probably things I could tap more into. And I think there’s a lot of things from me back then that are very stupid, and that I should not be tapping into,” he says. “Overall, I actually think I learn and move very fast. And sometimes I even look back at things I said, like a month ago, and I’m like, ‘what was I thinking?’ I try to be someone who really acknowledges when they’re wrong. And it’s hard, and I often have a lot of initial resistance to it. And I really try to think like, ‘why am I so resistant to this thing? It’s probably because it’s true. Or bothering me in some way.’

” I think younger me was not equipped to deal with the things that older me is dealing with,” he adds. “And I’ve seen with my own career, yeah, digging in on things that maybe weren’t the right thing. Choosing your battles, I think, is something I’ve gotten better at over the years. When to really fight and when to kind of let it wash over you.”

What were some of those battles? Rogen says it often times came down to marketing, and wanting more control over the messaging once his creative was released into the world. “At least in movies and stuff, if you write a good script, you get good directors and actors, they kind of leave you alone,” he says. “But once the movie is getting released, that’s where a lot of opinions come into play, and where you can really lose control of something. And so that’s why I kind of became a producer, and that is still the thing that I would say, creates the most conflict in my day to day life.”

How is he at choosing his battles now? “I think I’ve gotten better at it, hopefully. There’s people who work with me now maybe listening to this like laughing their asses off. But I hope I’ve got better at navigating that.”

Also on this episode: “Fargo” star Lamorne Morris discusses the fate of his character in that series, as well as his ubuqitious presence these days as a bank spokesperson— and his role in the upcoming movie about the original “Saturday Night Live” cast, “SNL 1975.”

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post weekly.

From Variety US