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Interview: Jubilant ‘Shrinking’ Star Luke Tennie On Playing the Not-So-Jubilant Sean

When Luke Tennie first appears on Apple TV+’s comedy-drama Shrinking as Sean, he is a bit unpredictable; a military veteran struggling with violent outbursts and anger management issues as a result of his PTSD. He turns to the unorthodox advice of his therapist, Jimmy (Jason Segel) to help resolve these issues. Little does he know that Jimmy is dealing with issues of his own.

While Sean brings with him some heavy emotional baggage, it would be hard to predict that baggage would be outweighed by his big heart. In his breakout performance, Tennie delivers a beautiful balance of charm and pathos, making Sean a character impossible not to root for. Even though dealing with his own pain, the patient becomes a source of healing for Jimmy and his daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell) who are still coming to terms with the loss of her mom. It seems that just about every character who comes in contact with Sean on the show benefits from his presence (besides a couple he pummels – he’s a work in progress), but it is the viewers who benefit most.

Tennie spoke with Awards Radar to discuss his work on Shrinking, bringing the same on-screen charm to our conversation. The series is produced by Segel, Bill Lawrence (Ted Lasso) and Brett Goldstein and puts his charm to very good use. The actor talked about his first time meeting Harrison Ford, the change in his physical performance as Sean changes as a person, working with Segel and more. Here are some excerpts from – the full interview at the bottom of the article.

During our conversation Tennie also explains why he wanted to play Sean – his reasons go well beyond working with the incredible cast and team behind the series.

“The first thing was his distance from me. There’s something about certain characters where as an actor, you kind of go, ‘oh, I want to explore that. I want to explore what those emotions are, what that character might look like, on me with my tools.’ And I’m a very jubilant man, you’ll rarely catch me without a smile. Then, I’m reading this character and his whole issue is anger, I was immediately drawn to it. Sometimes opposites attract. So me, I’m very used to wearing a smile, and then to play a guy, where we rarely see him smile. If we do something big is happening inside of him. I was just immediately imagining all the things I could learn, not just with the amazing cast, but with the incredible words. So I was like, I got it, I gotta get this, I gotta convince these people that I’m the right guy for the job. It really lit a fire under me.”

Sean does eventually find his smile as the season goes on. Behind it though is still a man who is working through the pain of the past, namely his time in the armed services. He also talked about how the show has connected with people suffering from PTSD:

“I gotta say, a lot of their specific comments, even though they’re geared towards me, because I’m the one playing them, a lot of their praise is for the writers, because they’re talking about how the portrayal is so accurate to what they believe is true in their experience. I was like, wow, the attention to detail that the writers have when they were creating this and the fact that I get to portray it, you know, the stakes are high, a vet is not somebody I want to take lightly. And it’s not a specific experience that I’m portraying but, because the words are so good, I’ve seen such a positive response, it makes me feel confident that as we continue with this story, that we’ll be able to connect with that demographic even further.”

Watch our interview below.

Watch Luke Tennie’s breakout performance on Shrinking, streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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