Everyone knows Ken Marino. He’s been in hit series—Dawson’s Creek, The State, Childrens Hospital—and in films including Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models. Around here it’s even possible to run into Marino in his hometown of West Islip. A comedic everyman, Marino is a proverbial “that-guy,” but his starring role on NBC’s new sitcom Marry Me might just cement his name in America’s comedy/pop culture canon.
“I don’t know how people see me, but it’s a question I think about every once in a while because I’ve done all sorts of things,” Marino said. “People come up to me and they’re like, ‘I’m a big fan of Eastbound and Down,’ and others yell ‘Burning Love!’ Then I randomly get, ‘I remember you on Dawson’s Creek!’” Marino recalled that he wasn’t always known as the “funny guy from that show.”
“I think I’m perceived as a comedy guy, but after I did The State in 1993 I was also getting jobs as the nice guy boyfriend or I would be in a drama where I had an ailment like having six toes, or I was secretly racist.” Marino laughed, considering the range of his resume.
It wasn’t long before the actor got the writing bug and started creating different characters for himself. In 2007, Marino wrote and starred in the film Diggers, which he based on stories about his family and childhood on Long Island. “It was an homage to my early years out there. My dad was a clam digger, so the movie is about me going out with my dad on the boat. I also remember ice skating all the time in Moriches. That was a special time for me. West Islip was a great town, I had so much freedom to ride my bike everywhere.”
Marino quite often returns to his hometown to visit his parents, but for now he’s on the west coast shooting Marry Me opposite Casey Wilson (Happy Endings, SNL). Marino’s character, Jake, is a neurotic romantic who botches a proposal to his girlfriend, causing the couple to postpone their engagement. “His wife is super neurotic and unpredictable,” Marino explained. “[Jake’s] the guy who’s supposed to be a little bit more grounded in the relationship, but he’s certainly got his own issues.” Marino said Wilson makes for an engaging sparring partner. “It’s exciting because she’s so funny and she’s great at improvisation. At times, all I have to do is react and stay with her. It’s fun to work with somebody like that.” Though his own proposal to his wife was pulled off mostly without a hitch (“It was drizzling when we were on a bridge in Central Park—it was pretty cinematic!”), Marino feels that it’s the oddest of moments in a relationship that are the greatest fodder for comedy.
The multi-faceted everyman recently finished the sixth season of Childrens Hospital (having also directed a few episodes), and shot the action/comedy Loomis Fargo with Jason Sudeikis and Zach Galifianakis. Audiences will also catch him with Jack Black in the upcoming Goosebumps film. For now, he is looking to share Marry Me, which he says has the most uncomfortable, funniest opening to a pilot that he has read in a long time. “It basically had me at page one,” he said. Now he just has to hope it won’t be a postponed engagement.