Colin Hanks Has Earned His Thespian Stripes As A TV Journeyman

Colin Hanks hasn’t felt himself lately. The 37-year-old tells me he’s been sick as a dog for several days. But maybe there’s more to it than that. After all, the past half-decade has seen Hanks undergo a metamorphosis: from the token, teen movie Mr. Nice Guy to an Emmy-nominated TV actor who plays roles as complex as a toddler-snatching serial killer (Dexter) and a morally conflicted cop (Fargo). So his next gig might raise some eyebrows—he plays a neurotic, young dad on a CBS family comedy, Life in Pieces. Then again, such small screen left turns are fast becoming Hanks’ calling card. They bowl us over, gain our respect and make us totally forget he’s Tom Hanks’ son.

Your Twitter bio says: ‘Possibly that actor from that one thing that you think is way underrated.’ What might that thing be?

Oh, everybody’s got an opinion on what they think was way underrated. There’s this thing that happens now, where you put out a movie or TV show, and for whatever reason, it doesn’t, you know, work. [Laughs.] People don’t see it. And then, three years later, all of a sudden, you get a whole bunch of people telling you, ‘Oh my god, I love that show!’ In this world where everything must be judged within the first week, it’s nice to know you can put these things out and eventually they find their home, so to speak.

What about Life in Pieces? Will it be one of those things?

God, I hope not. I hope it’s a big, fat hit right out of the gate. Look, you never know. You always hope everything you do is going to resonate in some way with someone. Life in Pieces resonated with me when I read it. I thought it was a really funny, engaging type of show that, on network television, not many people have seen. Each segment is a short story, and together they tell a larger story. That fragmentation was incredibly appealing. Because, look, I didn’t necessarily want to do a family comedy on a network. I’d just come off Fargo, which definitely pushed boundaries and did some fascinating, different stuff. So, for me, this was really about the method in which we’re going to tell these stories. And that method is very liberating.

Your dad, obviously, is Tom Hanks. When you started acting, was it daunting knowing you’d inevitably be compared to him?

Aw, man. If I can be totally honest, I’ve been answering this question for almost 15 years now. I’m over it. It wasn’t daunting starting out just because I didn’t care. It wasn’t an issue for me. You know, as I’ve gotten older and the more and more it’s followed me around, it’s become a constant. It’s not anything I’m embarrassed of. It’s not anything I’m running away from. It just is what it is. But I don’t look at it the same way everybody else does. To me, he’s just my dad.

And I think you’re a terrific actor in your own right! I’ve noticed, though, that you’ve been shifting from movie to TV roles lately. Why’s that?

Well, it’s not necessarily that I’m moving towards TV roles—movie roles are moving in the opposite direction. They seem to only make 10 movies, and they only allow six people to make them. But that aside, I think TV is where all the storytelling is. If you look at all the really engaging stories, directors and actors from the independent movie scene in the ’90s, really, all those movies don’t get made anymore. And a majority of those people are coming to TV. But, instead of a beginning, middle and end needing to occur within two hours, you’re able to watch a story unfold over ten hours, from the comfort of your living room. And because people are pushing the medium, it’s not just A-B-C stories told over 22 minutes. It really gets me excited as an actor because they’ll take chances and cast people who might not necessarily be huge, gigantic, world-renowned stars.

Has not being a massive name hurt you in the past?

Oh yeah. You get an audition for a film, you read for it five times and you get to know the director. And they’re fighting for you, but the studio won’t green light the movie with you in it at that budget. It’s just how it works. There was a period where I lost out on big movies because I wasn’t big enough of a name. But if you sit there and focus on the ones that didn’t go well, it’ll drive you crazy. So you’ve got to constantly go forward and hope you find something.