In the early days of John Krasinski’s acting career, before he worked with such stars as Steve Carell, George Clooney and Meryl Streep, there was Matt Kenseth and an all-but-forgotten NASCAR commercial.
More than a decade ago, Krasinski portrayed a motor-mouth racing fan who kept peppering Kenseth, his favorite driver, with inane man-crush commentary.
“Me and Matty, Matty and me.” “I’m ready to drive.” “This is what we live for!”
It’s fitting that Krasinski, who went on to play paper salesman/hopeless romantic Jim Halpert on NBC’s The Office (2005-2013), has hooked up again with NASCAR.
He’ll be the grand marshal for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, telling drivers at Texas Motor Speedway to “start your engines.”
“It’s a little like my career has come full circle,” Krasinski says.
Well, full oval.
We chatted last week with Krasinski about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and about his longtime love of NASCAR.
NASCAR called and asked if I would do it. I think my exact words were, “Hell, yeah!
How did the grand marshal gig come your way?
It’s not something I ever imagined myself doing. But NASCAR called and asked if I would do it. I think my exact words were, “Hell, yeah!”
Are you a NASCAR fan? Or were you just pretending when you filmed that commercial?
I actually became a huge fan in college. Being from Boston, NASCAR isn’t as big there. But when I was in college, a couple of my friends were big into NASCAR and it was fascinating to me.
I became a student of it. I remember sitting down to it and watching and learning how it works, all the different races, the Cup. I still watch NASCAR whenever I can catch it. So this will be special.
In your next movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, coming in January, you play a former Navy SEAL, one of the security team members who saved American lives by fighting off Islamic militants during the 2012 Benghazi attack. On Sunday, three of those real-life heroes will join you on the grand marshal stage. How meaningful is this to you?
The word “meaningful” isn’t even descriptive enough. It’s a true honor to be around these guys. I got to know them all on set and in the research for the movie. In a day and age when we have so many movies about superheroes, almost too many, it’s nice to be telling a story about true heroes.
I come from a big military family. I think the true heroes often don’t get enough play in the movies. So I’m honored to be part of this — and I’m happy I’ll be there to witness them having fun.
What do you remember about shooting that old NASCAR commercial?
It was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It was supposed to be just a 30-second spot. But they ended up doing a 30-second commercial, a one-minute and a minute and a half. The three-minute video floating online is a cut the editor made for me to show my mom. It’s basically all the improv I could muster.
My favorite thing about that day, the thing I’ll never forget, when I got there, the word was that Matt didn’t want to say any lines. He was just going to be there while I was nerding out over him. But by the end, he saw that I was having so much fun that he wanted some lines, too.
I also still have a hat signed by him in my closet.
Me being from Boston, there’s the Kennedy lore in my blood, so visiting Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll would be massive for me.
While you’re in North Texas for the race, is there anything else you’re itching to see or do?
There’s a bunch of different places. But the main thing, me being from Boston, there’s the Kennedy lore in my blood, so visiting Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll would be massive for me. Hopefully there will be time.