Will Arnett makes unreliable narcissists into iconic characters. He gave Arrested Development‘s Gob Bluth his insecure swagger, BoJack Horseman his pessimistic whine, and LEGO Batman his delicate self-confidence. Now a producer on ABC’s The Gong Show, Arnett has assumed the role of comedy elder statesman while also running to keep up with his two young boys. His unique challenge? Be selfless after a long day of performing selfishness.
What is your name?
What do you do for a living?
Actor. Writer. Father. I feel like “dad” is my occupation.
How old are you?
How old are your children?
Six and eight.
What are their names?
My younger son is named Abel. My older son is named Archie.
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Are they named after anyone in particular?
Yes and no. Sort of yes and sort of no. There are people that we had in mind.
Do you have any cute nicknames for your child?
What do they call you?
How often do you see them?
Probably about five days a week.
Describe yourself as a father in three words.
Patient. Protective. Affectionate.
Describe your father in three words.
Fair. Proud. Present.
What are your strengths as a father?
I try to speak to my kids as people. It’s not that they’re my equals — they are my kids and I need to be an example to them and they need to look at me as their father first, not just as their friend or another person — but I do not speak down to them or condescend.
What are your weaknesses as a father? Relatedly, what is your biggest regret as a father?
My weaknesses are very similar to a lot of other peoples’, I think. I overindulge. Sometimes you want to give in to your kids because they’re your kids and there’s nobody on the planet you love more than your kids. You just kind of crumble. I don’t want them to just remember me as a ‘no’ machine.
What is your favorite activity to do with your children, that is, your special father-kid thing?
With my older son Archie, over the last few years it’s been coaching his Little League team. With my other son, it’s talking about, enjoying and listening to music. He’s drawn to current pop songs his friends listen to but I’m an indie-rock dinosaur, Built To Spill is one of my favorite bands of all time. I had a great moment the other day driving in the car with Abel in the backseat to get burgers on a Saturday night. A song comes on the radio and my youngest son leans forward in his booster seat and gives me this look and goes, ‘Oh hey, is this Father John Misty?’ And he looks at the radio and he goes, ‘Yeah, I thought so.’ And he’s six! I’m like, ‘Yeah, dude.’
What has been the moment you were the most proud as a parent? Why?
To be honest, the things that really make me the most proud are the littlest things. Hearing, for instance, about the time my oldest son was going to school with his brother. Abel was nervous because he was going to tell his friend something and was worried his friend was not going to be nice about it. And Archie said, ‘You should just tell him anyway, and if you’re nervous come and get me and I’ll come with you.’ When I heard that I had to sort of hold back the tears. That he’s looking out for his brother that way, it really got me.
What heirloom did your father give to you, if any?
My dad never gave me shit.
What heirloom do you want to leave for your children, if anything?
I’d like to leave them a private jet, but I probably won’t so I don’t know. I’m not a big jewelry guy or fancy car guy or anything like that. I ended up buying two watches, and I told my sons that when they’re 18 they can have them. We also just built a house. A few months ago, I drove them over to the pile of dirt and said, ‘Hey, take this in, look at this. This is our new house and this is where you’re gonna grow up and this is where your memories are gonna be, and so try to remember this moment as much as you can, because one day this house will be yours.’
Describe the “Dad Special” for dinner?
You might have heard of it. It’s called toast.
Are you religious and are you raising your children in that tradition?
I am not and no.
What’s is a mistake you made growing up that you want to ensure your child does not repeat?
You can’t stop your kids from making mistakes. They’re going to take their own path; you can only try to tap them if they get too far off. I’m a worrier, so I’m constantly worried about everything that they do, whether it be physically or decisions they make or whatever. I have to stop myself from being too overbearing and remind myself that they need to make their own mistakes.
How do you make sure your kids know you love them?
.I tell them a lot; that’s a good way. And I’m just there. They have no question that I love them.