By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
Best known for his laugh-out-loud movies, actor and comedian Will Ferrell found it “liberating” to branch out in “The Shrink Next Door”, a dark comedy about the relationship between a manipulative psychiatrist and his patient.
Based on a podcast of the same name, the Apple TV+ mini-series tells the story of how over 30 years, Dr. Isaac “Ike” Herschkopf takes over patient Martin “Marty” Markowitz’s life, living in his home, becoming president of his family fabrics business and cutting him off from his sister.
Inspired by real events, Ferrell plays Marty, reuniting with his “Anchorman” cast member Paul Rudd, who portrays Dr. Ike.
“It was sad,” Ferrell told Reuters, referring to the theme of the drama. “That was (something) that really drew both Paul and myself to the project was a chance to kind of stretch in this way.”
“While it was challenging at the same time, it was very liberating to get to do something so wildly different from anything I’ve done in the past. I’ve been asked the question ‘how were you able to contain yourself and play something smaller and very believable and real?’ And I actually thoroughly enjoyed it.”
When Marty has a panic attack during a client visit, his sister Phyllis, played by Kathryn Hahn, suggests that he see a psychiatrist.
Dr. Ike soon plays an increasing role in eager-to-please Marty’s life, becoming in the latter’s words his “psychiatrist, business partner, best friend”.
“What was exciting about playing somebody that I know people might not necessarily like, certainly in this story, (was) for me to try and find the parts of a character that make them human and empathetic and intriguing,” Rudd said.
“No one is really just one thing. There’s a lot of nuance and a lot of complexity to human behavior and why we do the things we do.”
Both Ferrell and Hahn met the real life Marty and Phyllis to prepare for their roles.
“She really helped me find an essence and also an ethical North Star, because I was having such a hard time finding how I could find forgiveness for my brother if he had left me for 30 years,” Hahn said.
In April, the New York state Department of Health found Herschkopf, who has been quoted saying Markowitz acted freely, guilty of professional misconduct and ordered him to surrender his license.
“The Shrink Next Door” premieres on Friday.