TV Guide: In your new movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks, you're without your trademark Earl mustache. Did losing it feel strange?
Jason Lee: It was so liberating, and it only takes five or six weeks to grow it back. [Pause] People are just absolutely consumed with that — every time this comes up, there's, like, six questions about the mustache. In the '70s, with Tom Selleck on Magnum, P.I., it was the norm. It's funny how a mustache could be so ironic now.
TV Guide: Your costars in the new movie Alvin and the Chipmunks are animated — how'd that work when you were shooting a scene?
Lee: Well, they were stuffed animals, and when they were out of the frame, I could actually look at them. Otherwise, I had to look at tape marks on the floor with their initials on them, which was kind of a pain in the ass.
TV Guide: Growing up, were you a big fan of the singing rodents?
Lee: I just knew the classic Christmas song. It's kinda sweet in the movie how my character, Dave, gets the idea for the song and then gets the Chipmunks together and they start singing it. That's when Dave realizes that because he's a failed musician, maybe he can write the songs and they can sing them, and he'll finally find some success. I hope kids like it. My son, Pilot, is certainly excited about it. He knows it's my voice in The Incredibles and Underdog, but this will be even more special because it's me on screen.
TV Guide: Let's talk about your TV job: This season, Earl's in jail. But why does he seem to be living in barracks and not in a cell?
Lee: Well, in the very first episode this season, Ralph [Giovanni Ribisi] escaped through a big hole in the wall. So that would not be a good cell for me. [Laughs] And barracks are better for comedy — it's a bigger space to shoot in, and more can happen.
TV Guide: Have you ever done jail time?
Lee: I got arrested once for skateboarding in a Beverly Hills parking structure at night. Two sheriffs' cars came up on us, and we hear, "Hands against the wall!" They were really vicious. They put us in a holding cell for five hours. I can't go back to Beverly Hills, man.
TV Guide: How does playing a character obsessed with righting his wrongs increase your cosmic consciousness?
Lee: Earl has learned that when you do good things, you actually feel good about it, and that's why we root for him. I've always sort of lived by the idea that good things are more likely to happen if you're not out stealing other people's things and being an ass.
TV Guide: Which celebrities should get the key to the city of Earl's trashy hometown of Camden?
Lee: Britney Spears would definitely be one of them — I think she went to school in Camden, became a pop star and moved away. But I'd give the key to Burt Reynolds. I've often wondered how a show like Earl could even exist without that Smokey and the Bandit culture.
TV Guide: Were you much of a TV watcher as a kid?
Lee: I was mostly out skateboarding, but I definitely watched The Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPS, Starsky and Hutch, The Munsters and The Addams Family. The absolute worst show was M*A*S*H. [Laughs] Nine out of every 10 people my age say the same thing: That damn theme song would come on, and I was glad it was bedtime. That was the most depressing show on TV!
TV Guide: And are there any shows that keep you glued to the set these days?
Lee: I never miss an episode of Dexter — I am hugely into that show, big time. It just goes back to the anticipation of whodunit and what's going to happen. It's why I watched Scooby-Doo as a kid: I wanted to know who was behind the mask.
TV Guide: Last question: Do you have a Plan B in case the writers' strike keeps going?
Lee: I'd go back to the Taco Bell that I worked at in Huntington Beach, California, when I was 16 and ask for my job again. I'll probably have to wear a mustache net, though.
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