PASADENA, Calif. — When he was in elementary school actor Jay Baruchel’s mom enlightened him about the difference between boys and girls. “A boy will hit you,” she told him. “But a girl will be mean to you.”
Today at 34 he thinks he’s learned that lesson. Baruchel lends some of that wizened wisdom to his role in FXX’s “Man Seeking Woman,” where this season the man and the woman actually move in together.
“When I was 21 I was engaged to be married for two years, and that mercifully ended,” he says in a screened-off cubbyhole in a meeting room here.
“There was a fundamental paradigm shift after that. I’m fairly old-fashioned, so when I get to the point where I’m going to put a ring on someone’s finger, I pretend it’s 1930 and splitting would never be an option. So I put up with no end of nonsense,” says Baruchel.
“And since it kind of went pear-shaped and ended, it was like, ‘Oh, s -, where was I going? I coulda gone down a path that wasn’t my own, and I’ve got stuff to do that I wouldn’t have been able to.’ … It’s funny, through my teen years and 20s there was no ticking clock. When stuff happened I thought it was going to last forever. I hit 30, and everything was finite, and I had X amount of time on this Earth to do things. And it’s not a coincidence, I think, that the engagement ended around then.”
Baruchel isn’t soured on the idea of romance and has a new girlfriend. But he says, “My mom didn’t understand my stepdad, and he didn’t understand her to a certain extent, same with my sister and her fianc?. There’s a disconnect because our makeup is completely different. Typical thing is when a girl has a problem and she just wants you to listen. She doesn’t want your advice. She doesn’t want you to figure this out.”
It’s different with men, he thinks. “The way men are wired if there’s an issue, you’re supposed to solve this. And every girl I’ve ever been around, they just want you to listen.”
A weathered veteran who’s been acting since he was 12, Baruchel also welcomed advice from his dad when it came to work. “You get different things from each parent, and my father’s legacy was ‘spine’ and stand up for myself. So there are moments for us to suffer fools, that’s where I draw upon my dad to know how to negotiate them,” he chuckles.
“My dad’s whole thing — for better or worse — he never let anybody get the best of him … My dad was an immigrant kid, moved to Montr?al, then moved to a Jewish neighborhood, then to an all-French neighborhood, fought from the age of 10, played on an all-Jewish hockey team where parents of the other kids would throw pennies at them as they skated onto the ice.
“So it was actually fine. ‘This is how the world treats me, OK fine, I’m going to defend myself and protect my own.’ So he had a very distinct sense of who he was and what he was going to tolerate and what he wasn’t going to tolerate, and I think I’ve inherited that.”
He has. For instance, having sat for hours in countless drafty halls waiting for auditions to begin, Baruchel now waits 30 minutes. “I’ve never been late to an audition. I was always early. Most actors I know are the same way. And I got sick of getting there and having directors or casting directors not care about punctuality as much, so 10 years ago I made myself a rule: I don’t wait more than half an hour, and if I lose that gig, I lose that gig, but at least I can look at myself in the mirror.”
While he’s worked in show business most of his life, he’s still uneasy with fame. “I’ve been very fortunate it’s a gig where less that than 20 percent of us can feed ourselves from acting alone. And the fact that I’ve been able to live off of acting for over two decades is awesome. It’s provided my mom and my sister and I lives we never would’ve otherwise had. That being said, I’m not really comfortable having everyone stare at me and have my picture taken,” he shrugs.