Interview: Griffin Dunne talks This is Us and the Practical Magic director’s cut

This is Us actor Griffin Dunne talks about the latest season, whether he wants to direct an episode, and the version of Practical Magic you haven’t seen

Griffin Dunne has been an actor and director for years, but it’s only now that he’s become a household name for his work on the critically acclaimed NBC drama, This is Us.

During NBC’s recent fall mixer celebrating the end of the year and the new season beyond we sat down with Dunne to discuss his work on the series, his love of classic films, and how he dreams of having Practical Magic on Criterion!

What’s it been like to be back on set and filming the season of This is Us?

It’s a completely surprising chapter in my life.

Last season I was told about this part they were thinking of me, for and it just sounded rich and complicated and out of my wheelhouse and something that I wouldn’t particularly have thought of myself for. I did a few episodes for the end of the season and thought that might just be it and that’s fine, but then the character was so embraced that I ended up coming back and now I’m a regular.

What has it been like, especially with the fervid fanbase of the show?

I’ve been doing this a long time, but most people who are fans of mine are usually like cineastes or people who make films. This is the first time I ever saw my dry cleaner go insane. Insane!

People come up and talk to me about the show are people who just watch the show and want to know what’s going to happen. It’s a real audience that becomes symbiotic with the series now.

How is This is Us different from your previous television work?

It’s just more universal. It’s about a family and everybody’s got a family, and the writing is of a very high kind of caliber and deals with issues that are in every family, the good and the bad of it, alcohol abuse, domestic violence and trauma carried from one generation to another.

Everybody who’s in a family knows that. It’s an imperfect grouping of people who did not choose to be together and it’s tough to keep them all together. It speaks to a lot of different people for different reasons.

Would you consider directing an episode down the line?

We haven’t talked about it I know that Justin’s [Hartley] directing one coming up and Milo’s [Ventimiglia] done one. If the cast is all wanting to get a shot at directing, you know, that
would make sense. I haven’t brought it up. They haven’t brought it up.

I know you’re a classic film fan. What are you usually watching on TCM?

Whatever is on that I record, but it’s taken a bit of a hit because I don’t have the cable anymore. I get all my old movies off Criterion or Amazon. But I grew up on TCM and I know a lot of the movies. My childhood friend was Carrie Fisher and in Carrie’s house, from the beginning of the founding of the network it played in any room there was a TV, like a loop. It would just go on and you’d be sitting there talking and talking and then you’d watch an entire movie. And then you go back and have dinner and it would just be through osmosis, all those movies would go into your bloodstream. I miss that.

The rumor is your movie, After Hours, is going to the Criterion Collection. Is that weird that your movies are now being considered classic and airing on TCM?

I’m surprised it hasn’t. In that case, they’re dragging their feet on that one. I’m a big fan of theirs and I always wish that they would choose Addicted to Love, which I think is one of my best movies, and there’s an uncut version of Practical Magic that I thought would be interesting, but maybe we’re a few years away from that.

Now I have to ask what’s different in the Practical Magic director’s cut?

They [the studio] wanted to really soften the edges. When the villain is on the table with the needles in the eyes? That went a lot farther.

Jumping off the roof, that was an extended moment to music and it was a very elegiac moment.

There are just certain things that I was forced to cut that cut down on that I think soften it a little bit. I’m very proud of the movie, but if it ever got too scary…I said, “But the scene is scary, isn’t it? This is a scary scene!”

You know they’re turning it into a series?

I do now. I had to read about it in the paper. I thought somebody should give me a tip-off. So I’m not in the least bit happy..

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This is Us airs Tuesdays on NBC. 

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