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Jason Segel: 5 Great And Underrated Dramatic Performances By The Actor

Jason Segel on How I Met Your Mother
(Image credit: CBS)

On Friday, March 18, 2022, Netflix debuted an original, Hitchcockian thriller called Windfall, which features a stellar performance by Jason Segel, who also helped write the story with director Charlie McDowell and others. To some, seeing the former How I Met Your Mother cast member performing in (let alone helping create) something much darker than, say, 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You Man from 2009, or 2011’s The Muppets might be a little surprising. Well, that is just because they have not been paying enough attention to his career.

Segel, who landed his breakout role as Nick Andropolis in the Freaks and Geeks cast, is more than just a good comedic actor and writer, and is also one of the sharpest and most versatile talents working today, as far as I am concerned. However, there are still a lot people who only see him as Marshall Eriksen and struggle to see past his best-known role, even nearly a decade after HIMYM ended. Well, perhaps I can help change that by shining the spotlight on some of the more under-appreciated Jason Segel movies (and one TV show) that really see the actor at his best by showing his more serious side, starting with the first time he showed that side of himself to the mainstream.

Jason Segel in The End of The Tour

(Image credit: A24)

The End of The Tour (David Foster Wallace)

Quick note: you will find that a good chunk of the titles on this list happen to be inspired by true stories, such as this acclaimed, A24-produced drama from director James Ponsoldt. What sets The End of the Tour apart from other, more conventional biopics, however, is that it is, essentially, just a conversation between two men - namely Academy Award nominee Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and Jason Segel, who totally should have gotten an Oscar nomination, at least, as the late, celebrated author David Foster Wallace.

In 1996, Lipsky - whose memoir, Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, inspired the film - spends the last five days of Wallace’s promotional tour for his seminal novel, Infinite Jest, interviewing the talented and thoughtful, yet complicated, man for a profile story. The two leads play off each other brilliantly, portraying the more civil and conflicting moments of their short time together with equally impressive naturalism, but it is really Segel’s transcendent performance that makes this conversation a memorable occasion.

Jason Segel in Come Sunday

(Image credit: Netflix)

Come Sunday (Henry)

A few years after his stunning portrayal of David Foster Wallace, Jason Segel filled the shoes of another real-life person (well, more accurately, a composite of several real-life people) in director Joshua Marston’s dramatization of the life of Carlton Pearson. On an episode of the NPR show This American Life, the televangelist shared his story of the controversy and the rejection he and his family faced when he publicly declared his belief that there is no Hell.

Academy Award nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays the infamous preacher in Come Sunday - which was released to Netflix in 2018 - alongside Segel as his right-hand man and business partner, Henry, who struggles to come terms with how Pearson’s announcement affects the popularity of their congregation. Segel told IndieWire that he was very moved by the story’s theme of inclusion and was proud to be a part of the film as a sort of catharsis for what Pearson and his family went through. It certainly shows in his performance.

Jason Segel and Dakota Johnson in Our Friend

(Image credit: Gravitas Ventures)

Our Friend (Dane Faucheaux)

A few years after starring in Come Sunday, Jason Segel portrayed another real-life person (and, I mean one actual person, and not a composite of several real-life people) in Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite's dramatization of Matthew Teague’s Esquire article, “The Friend.” The essay recalls his experience raising his two daughters, Molly and Evie, with the help of his buddy, Dane Faucheux, after his wife, Nicole, was diagnosed with cancer.

Academy Award winner Casey Affleck plays Matt in 2021’s Our Friend, along with Dakota Johnson as Nicole and Segel as Dane, which is the one role out of this list that may remind you the most of Marshall Eriksen, for him being a loving father, a loyal friend, and an aspiring stand-up comedian at one time. Yet, it is still easy to separate Segel’s HIMYM character from what might be the actor’s most genuine and down-to-earth performance yet.

Jason Segel in The Discovery

(Image credit: Netflix)

The Discovery (Will)

Years before starring in and helping write Windfall for Netflix, Jason Segel’s first collaboration with writer and director Charlie McDowell (son of Malcolm) was another Netflix original film of an especially bizarre, inventive, and daring nature. Released in 2017, The Discovery takes place a couple years after a renowned scientist (Academy Award winner Robert Redford) is successfully able to provide scientific evidence of an afterlife, inspiring millions to see for themselves what is on the other side.

Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara plays a woman named Isla, who is one of the many people who want to break free from our current plane of existence, but determined to convince her to stick around is Will (Segel), who is skeptical of the afterlife despite being the son of the man who discovered it. Segel does a wonderful job playing an everyman who finds himself in a situation - or, more accurately, a world - that is anything but ordinary.

Jason Segel and Eve Lindley on Dispatches From Elsewhere

(Image credit: AMC)

Dispatches From Elsewhere (Peter)

A couple of years after working on The Discovery, Jason Segel would present his own vision of a bizarre, inventive, and daring story in the form of his own TV show. Originally premiering on AMC in 2020, Dispatches from Elsewhere is about four diverse individuals, each of whom are suffering from some sort of existential crisis, who receive the chance to uncover a new world hiding in plain sight.

Alongside musician and actor Andre Benjamin, Academy Award winner Sally Field, and up-and-comer Eve Lindley, Segel not only leads the cast of this mind-bending, 10-episode limited series, but also created the show himself and directed the pilot. His passion for the project is clear in his performance as Peter, a man seeking to overcome his disillusionment and find the ambition he needs in this strange puzzle that mysteriously falls into his lap.

There is no sign of Jason Segel stopping his impressive streak yet as he can now be seen in HBO Max's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty cast as former NBA coach Paul Westhead. He is also writing, producing, and starring in an upcoming Apple TV+ comedy series called Shrinking.

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.