Seth Rogen on ‘Platonic’ and if men and women can truly stay friends

Seth Rogen talks about his new comedy series ‘Platonic,’ his dynamic with co-star Rose Byrne, and why movies are behind the curve on depicting relationships in the real world

May 18, 2023 05:48 pm | Updated 07:39 pm IST

Seth Rogen attends the premiere of Apple TV+ Original Series ‘Platonic’ at Regal LA Live in Los Angeles, California

Seth Rogen attends the premiere of Apple TV+ Original Series ‘Platonic’ at Regal LA Live in Los Angeles, California | Photo Credit: AUDE GUERRUCCI

A couple of months ago, Seth Rogen’s comments on his decision to not have children were the toast of the Internet.

“There’s a whole huge thing I’m not doing, which is raising children,” the 41-year-old said on the Diary Of A CEO podcast that he and his wife, actor Lauren Miller, do not believe that having kids would make them happy.

“Some people want kids, some people don’t want kids. But a lot of people have kids before they even think about it, from what I’ve seen honestly,” remarked the Pineapple Express star. “You just are told, you go through life, you get married, you have kids — it’s what happens.”

“Me and my wife, neither of us were like that,” he said on the show, adding, “We are in the prime of our lives. We are smarter than we’ve ever been. We understand ourselves more than we ever have. We have the capacity to achieve a level of work and a level of communication and care for one another, and a lifestyle we can live with one another that we’ve never been able to live before. We can just do that and we don’t have to raise a child — which the world does not need right now.”

Seth Rogen at CinemaCon 2023

Seth Rogen at CinemaCon 2023 | Photo Credit: Chris Pizzello

Seth’s perspective on the subject isn’t surprising — the Canadian actor, producer and filmmaker is coveted as one of Hollywood’s most eclectic, progressive, and talented minds — but it is fittingly sardonic that his latest project explores layers of the very same topic, with hilarious results.

In Apple TV+s’ upcoming comedy series Platonic, Seth plays Will, a divorced brewmaster who reconnects with his best friend from college — Sylvia (Rose Byrne) who gave up a promising law career to raise her children — only to send her into a mid-life crisis over the choices she took in life. The premise poses ingenious questions: Can two friends rekindle a relationship after 20 years, even though they have become different people now? Can a male-female friendship remain platonic forever?

Platonic is also indicative of Seth’s evolving career choices in film over two decades; from the wacky days of Superbad and Knocked Up, to his latest on-screen appearance in Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, or his roles in the biopic Steve Jobs and the rom-com Long Shot.

A still from Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’

A still from Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’

Still, he retains that manic glint of teen-like energy in his persona, and perhaps Seth will never quite grow up (or want to); after all, he is currently developing reboots of Disney’s animated shows TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck, is voice-starring in Kung Fu Panda 4 and Mufasa: The Lion King (after his fantastic turn as Donkey Kong in the smash-hitSuper Mario Bros. Movie), and shares cast and screenplay credits for the much-hyped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Did you know he also produces Amazon’s blockbuster superhero shows The Boys and Invincible?

Well and truly in a purple patch now, it seems like a long time since the actor nearly caused the North Korean government to attack the United States in real life, after he made The Interview, the 2014 comedy about a fake assassination attempt on Kim Jong-Un; Seth subsequently spent the next year of his life wondering if he would ever work again in Hollywood.

Along the way, he has also become the most unassuming celebrity ambassador of weed, turned entrepreneur with his cannabis company Houseplant, the author of a funny book of essays, and has inspired an entire generation of fans to take to pottery as a hobby thanks to his Instagram.

What’s more to come? We find out.

Excerpts from an interview:

Is ‘Platonic’ a rom-com? A screwball comedy? A coming-of-age drama? Considering you are also an executive producer on the show, how would you best define it?

Hmm, all of the above? (laughs) But I’d say first and foremost, Platonic is an adult R-rated comedy, with some screwball antics. It’s also very emotionally relatable, and hopefully kind of reminiscent of the lives of the viewers in some capacity. The comedy tries to play a lot of different notes; we’re trying to have big, crazy moments and kind of more quiet, funny ones as well.

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen in ‘Platonic’

Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen in ‘Platonic’

Our idea was to make a funny show first and foremost. But that being said, Rose and I play these two friends with very different lives, but each going through a midlife crisis that reflects two extremely different paths taken by a lot of people. To us, that’s what was funny about the show. 

Ultimately, Platonic is saying men and women can be friends, and specifically that these two people can be friends. Our characters do work out their issues, and rediscover each other at a time when there is more opportunity for their dynamic to work out than maybe there was when they first rediscovered each other.

Hmm, okay maybe. But do you also think it’s possible for such different people to stay friends?

There are a lot of dysfunctional people who have a lot of conflict, and still remain friends! They bring out the good things and bad things in each other, and speak to each other’s best and worst qualities. I’ve definitely seen and experienced that myself in real life a few times.

You and Rose share history as co-stars from the successful ‘Neighbors’ movies; how has the dynamic of your comedic pairing with her evolved?

Rose and I understand each other really well, and our equation changes on a scene-to-scene basis. I’m always trying to instill in people that when a comedy is working well, two people have to hand off being the ‘straight man’ (a stock character in comedies; when one partner behaves in an eccentric manner, the straight man maintains composure and reacts in the form of a deadpan).

A still from ‘Platonic’

A still from ‘Platonic’

In some scenes, this person is the straight man, and in some scenes, the other person is the straight man. What’s nice about our dynamic is that we take turns to escalate stuff and then calm down; control things and later make it spiral out, you know?

You said in an earlier interview that you knew plenty of funny people who weren’t funny actors, as well as funny actors who weren’t funny people; what do you think of Rose then?

Rose is very funny! But I stand by what I said; that is very true. It’s quite surprising sometimes when you discover that other side to them. Thankfully, I have a blast with Rose off-screen as well.... and she feels the same about me. We are both hilarious people.

Were there other movies in this niche genre that inspired you to make a show like this, something that subverts expectations? 

The whole ‘will they, won’t they’ idea is from that era we grew up watching movies in, where the only relationship of value a man and woman can have is a romantic one; if that isn’t on the table, then it’s dismissed as not interesting. But that’s so not reflective of our lives, right? Take just Rose and me; we both have a lot of very meaningful, long-lasting relationships with members of the opposite sex that are not romantic. It’s funny how little that has been explored cinematically.

Seth Rogen in ‘Platonic’

Seth Rogen in ‘Platonic’

I’m a huge When Harry Met Sally fan, we all marvelled at the fact that the film subverts its own premise; traditionally, what young Billy Crystal was saying at the start of the movie would be proven wrong… but then the movie itself proves him right in some ways. Honestly, it’s an amazing trick that the movie pulls off and speaks to how it doesn’t play by the rules. 

As people who analyse movies and pick them apart, we all thought it’d be funny to kind of make good on that premise in some ways with this particular project.

Why do you think it is so rare to see such relationships depicted on-screen? Even during this conversation, we haven’t come up with more than a handful of films that explore the topic..

Well… old habits die hard. It’s funny; when we made Neighbours 10 years ago, the idea of portraying a married couple that liked each other itself was considered groundbreaking. Like, the comedic dynamic of any couple in a movie was that they hated and lied to each other. 

There are all these tropes from the 50s that we are still living in. But then, the concept of male-female friendships is still not religiously allowed in a lot of cultures in other parts of the world, so it is progressive in some ways to just show a man and woman having a platonic friendship. It’s very intuitive to people because they have these relationships too. Unfortunately, movies are always way behind the curve when it comes to showing this stuff.

Platonic premieres with the first three episodes on May 24, 2023 on Apple TV+, followed by new episodes weekly

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