It’s been a week of finales for actor Ed Helms. A few weeks ago was the recent series-ending episode of The Office, on which he played the insecure and volatile Andy Bernard. And this weekend sees the release of The Hangover Part III, the final film in the successful comedy trilogy that has kept moviegoers laughing since 2009. In a recent chat with TIME, the actor shared his feelings about closing the book on a favorite TV series and film franchise…
TIME: I can’t even imagine what this week must be like for you — the end of The Office, and now, the ending of the Hangover trilogy.
ED HELMS: It’s a lot of feelings mixed up. There’s a nostalgia, there’s sadness, there’s a tremendous feeling of gratitude to have just been on these two wonderful rides, and there is a tremendous amount of excitement about the road ahead and the great wide open. i’ve never had this sort of flexibility with my schedule pretty much my whole adult life.
In the last episode on The Office, Andy finally strikes it big with the YouTube viral hit, Baby Wawa. That’s a nice bit of closure.
I really love that story because I think it’s a little bit of a cautionary tale and it’s something that here in hollywood we see a lot around us, people chasing fame for fame’s sake and it forces me to ask questions about myself as to why am I doing this? I happen to love comedy but I think there are some nice issues in there to explore and I’m glad to be asking those questions, both in that story and in my life. But really for Andy I think the lesson is something more — Andy just is so just desperate for the affection of other people and where he always comes up short is in loving himself. And he was chasing other people’s affection for so long that this viral video rather brutally forced him to confront how much he needs to travel to really love himself. And thankfully when we catch up with him in the finale, he’s found some peace with this humiliation that he suffered.
If a video of yourself were to go viral, what would it be?
It would be me jumping the Grand Canyon on a unicycle.
Something you’ve always wanted to do? Have you attempted that yet? I hope not.
I’m training right now. No, really, what’s a viral video these days? They’re usually the accidental ones.
The Hangover has put the Wolfpack in some cringeworthy predicaments. How did you all become comfortable discussing things like roofies and prostitutes on screen?
The funny thing is, I’m the prude of the bunch, so I’m probably the least comfortable. But [director] Todd Phillips is just fearless, he has no filter. To his credit he actually hates bathroom humor, but he loves raunchy humor. And I think he does make a very clean distinction: you won’t hear fart jokes, you won’t hear poop jokes. He likes high-minded raunch.
Is there anything that offended you?
I’m real careful about how to use the word offensive in the context of comedy —I think it’s a dangerous area. There were things that, as an actor, I was very anxious about doing — I’ll just let your imagination figure out what those might be – but those are things in the script that jump out.
He’s making me do what?
At the end of the day, it’s really a team effort, and Todd Phillips is our captain. In order for the movie to feel like a coherent comedic voice, it’s really important for us to trust our leader. I just put myself in Todd’s hands, and even if I’m nervous or apprehensive about something, I’m almost invariably glad I did it. He pushes me out of my comfort zone.
You’ve gotten a face tattoo and had a shotgun-wedding with a stripper. Why does the craziness follow you?
It just never ends for Stu. Stu’s the punching bag of the Wolfpack. He gets verbal abuse and physical abuse of all types.
Speaking of physical abuse, you lose a tooth in the first one. But I heard you actually are missing a tooth in real life?
Yeah, my right lateral incisor is an implant, so my dentist was just able to take it out for the production.
Is that something you did willingly — or did Todd basically wrench your tooth out of your jaw?
I was game for it. We explored different versions, like the old pirate trick of blacking it out, or doing it with visual effects, but that would be too costly. And then I mentioned it to Todd, and he was, like, “Great! We’ll take it out!” But I was, like, “Well, hold on a second, let me ask my dentist.” And I did and he said, “You know, we can do that.” And truthfully, I’d had that same crown on my implant since I was 17, and I was happy for the movie to pay for a new implant.
The Hangover sparks this party ideal for lots of fans — but what are your actual parties like?
You know, we’re pretty chill. We’ll have a game night, maybe, at someone’s house. It does not get crazy.
You say that almost with a sigh of relief, like you’re glad you don’t have to be so crazy after-hours.
I’m only cool in the movies. In real life, I am the furthest thing.
You’ve been to Vegas, Bangkok and now, Tijuana. Which of them is the real party place?
I’d have to say Vegas just takes the prize. It’s the ultimate party spot. It exists to party. You look at Bangkok, and of course there’s a very festive culture at all times, with a lot of insanity. But it’s also a port city that grew and became a giant financial and shipping hub and— it’s a city with a lot of purposes. Vegas has one purpose, and that’s to party. It does that one thing really well. And God bless it for it.
Both Andy Bernard and Stu Price were fans of a cappella. And you showed off your singing chops in the first two Hangover films — why not this one?
The singing part of Stu had a good run. In those movies it fit in a nice way, when you needed a breath.
And was that your thought to bust out your chops?
The first time, it was spontaneous — I was just playing songs on set, trying to make the crew laugh, and that’s what gave Todd the idea to put Stu’s song in the movie. And then, the second time, it wasn’t in the script but Todd found a great spot in the movie. The third one is a different movie, a very different story.
So now you have Hanson on the soundtrack instead. So if there were a fourth Hangover, where would it be set?
Have you ever been there to party? Because we’re going to hold you to that.
I have not, but I hear good things.