Interview: Joe Lo Truglio (2011)

Ever since High Road – an improvised comedy directed and co-written by Matt Walsh – premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the film has been received extremely well by audiences and movie critics. The film’s success is due in large part to the wonderfully talented cast that was able to pull off the largely unscripted feat. In the film, Joe Lo Truglio plays Officer Fogerty, a man who takes police work a little too seriously and has a penchant for magnifying the slightest bit of possible evidence into a case-breaking clue. Working Author caught up with Lo Truglio for a quick Q&A regarding working with Matt Walsh, developing his character and what upcoming projects he had in store.

Working Author: How did you get involved with “High Road”? What attracted you to it?

Joe Lo Truglio: Matt Walsh and I were working on an indie last year and he told me about High Road then.  It sounded funny, he had all these funny people in it.  When he asked if I’d do it, it was a no brainer.  I loved the idea of doing a movie that was improv’d…the challenge of that.  Who knew if it would work, story-wise, you know?  I knew there’d be laughs because of the cast, but whether or not there’d be a coherent, engaging story after everything, that was a question mark for me – even knowing that Matt and Josh wrote a basic outline.  Turns out, it all worked really well and I thought it was dramatically engaging too.

WA: What was your experience like working with this cast? How is Matt Walsh as a director?

JLT: I knew a lot of the cast personally, so it was basically hanging out and being stupid with friends.  This is always a great situation to be in.  Walsh was great – with a movie like this, it’s important the director makes sure everyone knows what plot points to hit in the scene.  To keep the story on track, details like that.  He was very good with that.  And he didn’t yell.

WA: What was the most difficult part about not having preset dialogue and direction? Or do you prefer that?

JLT: I like going off-script in general, so the format worked for me.  The hardest part was, again, remembering to hit certain plot details during the improv.  “Don’t forget to say this guy’s name” or “make sure you bring up so-and-so” – that kind of thing.

WA: How much of your Officer Fogerty is your own creation as opposed to what’s in the script? Did you draw on any real life experiences?

JLT: Well, Walsh held like a workshop at UCB Theater for all the characters to flesh them out. One-on-one interviews, improv scenes with other characters.  Not scenes that would end up in the movie, just fun, background stuff.  Riggle, Dylan, and I did one where the three of us go to a ballgame. I think Malone gets upset with Fogerty because I keep offering his son a beer.  Stuff like that. So like with any good character, it’s usually a collaborative effort.  I knew I wanted Fogerty in sweat pants with no pockets the whole movie, so he can use that as an excuse not to have to carry or hold onto anything.  And in real life, sometimes I do wear sweats, you know, for my “lay around” moments.

WA: As someone who has been involved in many comedy sketches, do you laugh out loud anymore? Or do you simply find comedy intellectually funny?

JLT: No, I don’t laugh anymore.  There’s just “paid smiles” in my life now.  Inside I’m dead.  It’s all been an act since Pineapple Express.

WA: Where can audiences see you next? What upcoming projects are you involved in?

JLT: I’ll be part of David Wain’s next movie, Wanderlust, that he wrote with my other comedy compatriot, Ken Marino.  That’s out in October I think.  I play a nudist winemaker who’s also an aspiring novelist.  Hopefully the indie I mentioned before with Walsh, Queens Of Country with my pals Lizzy Caplan and Ron Livingston, will be on some screens soon. I get to wear spanks in that one, playing a transsexual.  Then, this fall, I’ll be playing an oddball security guard in a show called Free Agents with Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn and a bunch of other really talented, funny people.  Very excited about all of it!

WA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

JLT: Don’t forget to tip your bartenders, they deserve it.