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Jason Segel turns 42: Examining how the actor shed the weight of How I Met Your Mother

As Jason Segel turns a year older on 18 January, here is looking back at the actor’s eclectic cinematic journey beyond How I Met Your Mother

Jason Segel turns 42: Examining how the actor shed the weight of How I Met Your Mother
  • Pratishruti Ganguly

Last Updated: 02.12 PM, Jan 11, 2022

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In 2014, fans bid a teary-eyed farewell to the lovable Marshall Eriksen as How I Met Your Mother came to a close after a successful nine-season run. Indeed, it was an emotional goodbye for fans, who had learned to chuckle with an abandon with Marshall, a character that made Segel into a bonafide TV star.

As the oddball midwestern simpleton in the big-city, Marshall became the quintessential lovable dork who everyone loved to care for. Sure, his co-star Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson spelt out all the flashy one-liners, but the show consistently used Marshall’s goofiness as a foil to Stinson’s effortless charm.

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Jason Segel’s star-making vehicle may have been HIMYM, but the actor has consistently proved his mettle in comedy as well as other dramatic roles. His breakthrough came at the hands of Judd Apatow with the critically acclaimed but criminally short-running comedy series Freaks and Geeks. Segel’s Nick, which was originally supposed to be ”more of a gearhead car guy” was rewritten to fit Segel’s “interesting delivery and strange personality,” Feig recounted in a Variety interview. Apatow, who was the executive producer behind the series, was so impressed by Segel’s audition that he made the writers tweak the part.

The actor acknowledged the show’s contribution to launching his career and also him honing his craft. In an interview with Ent ertainment Weekly, Segel said he learnt how to do improv on the sets of the show. "The scenes are all beautifully written, but a lot of the time Judd and Paul and [writer] Jake Kasdan would encourage us to go off script and just to make each other laugh. And that led the way to the movies that we did after."

Apatow and Segel’s most notable collaboration came in form of the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which was written and led by Segel, and co-produced by Apatow. Reportedly inspired by Segel’s personal life, the film earned rave reviews for balancing wit and raunchy comedy. Segel’s likeable off-screen personality made most of the humour work, treading the fine line between deliberately cringey and definitively crass.

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The decade saw him feature in a plethora of comedies, including I Love You, Man (2009) and Cameron Diaz’s racy comedy Bad Teacher. But he also dabbled in indie films like 2011 Jeff, Who Lives at Home and animated movies like Despicable Me, in which he lent his voice to Vector.

2011 was also the year that Segel got to bring back Muppets to the silver screen for the film which he both co-wrote and starred in. A long-time passion project, The Muppets was celebrated for its refreshing originality with a generous dose of absurdity and childhood nostalgia. Not only did it win an Academy Award, but The Muppets was also a box office success; it is currently the highest-grossing puppet movie of all time.

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2015 marked a watershed year for the actor, when he made the choice of moving away from comedy. It also marked the beginning of a more audacious and confident plunge into uncharted waters. Shortly after wrapping up the nine-season comedy, Segel starred The End of the Tour, where he slipped into the shoes of novelist David Foster Wallace to recount an interview the writer had given to a reporter of the Rolling Stone magazine.

In a New York Times interview, Segel admitted to being nervous about taking on the role. However, he said he “felt a rush of recognition" after rifling through the script. Indeed, while not particularly mimicking Wallace, Segel displayed a peculiar understanding of the author’s psyche. Segel put Wallace’s troubled mind to display without ever alienating him from the viewers. Segel’s lived-in sensitive performance as the writer was praised unanimously by critics. Some even went on to term it as his career-defining performance.

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Segel’s performance in 2019’s Our Friend, a biographical film based on Matthew Teague's heartbreaking 2015 article, is also a testament to the actor’s range. Segel plays Dan, a man who volunteers his life to support his friend’s family after one of them is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. As a man who has made a career out of starring in ensembles films, Jason strikes up palpable chemistry with Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck’s characters to make their unconditional friendship believable.

Cinephiles could not have been happier about Jason Segel’s second coming.

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