'Lousy Carter' star David Krumholtz: 'I'd rather be unlikable'

David Krumholtz stars in "Lousy Carter." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
1 of 5 | David Krumholtz stars in "Lousy Carter." File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 27 (UPI) -- David Krumholtz said he prefers to play potentially unlikable characters like the one in Lousy Carter, in theaters and digital video-on-demand Friday.

Lousy (Krumholtz) is a literature professor who receives a terminal medical diagnosis. Lousy is more concerned with the bill for the diagnosis than his impending death, but tries to reconcile his career and relationships before the end.


"I'd rather be unlikable," Krumholtz, 45, told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "At this point, I think people expect me to be likable and I'm trying to flip that on its head."

Likewise, Lousy embraced the nickname given to him derogatorily by high school classmates for his lack of athletic prowess. Now, Lousy has a strained relationship with his ailing mother (Mona Lee Fultz), is estranged from his sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and is havingf an affair with his best friend's (Martin Starr) wife (Jocelyn DeBoer).


Lousy remains friends with his ex-girlfriend, Candela (Olivia Thirlby), even though Lousy left her during a medical crisis. Lousy also dodges invitations to his high school reunion.

Having played beloved characters like Bernard the elf in The Santa Clause films and a romantic teen in Ten Things I Hate About You, Krumholtz appreciated Lousy qualities, even if he is not so endearing.

"I don't dislike Lousy Carter," Krumholtz said. "I don't think he's a dick or a bad person, so I just played what I thought he was."

Tapping into Lousy Carter

Lousy does not let his terminal diagnosis interrupt his class on The Great Gatsby or attempts to make an animated film. His nonchalance struck Krumholtz, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011.

"I went into a panic," Krumholtz said. "Lousy doesn't, which is interesting and what's interesting about the film."

Krumholtz underwent treatments and has been cancer-free since 2012.

While coping with his own mortality, Lousy Carter gives Krumholtz many verbose speeches, written by writer-director Bob Byington.

"Bob Byington, to his credit, wanted every word performed succinctly and without elaboration or improv," Krumholtz said. "You couldn't say 'can't.' You had to say 'cannot.'"

Making Lousy Carter's script more challenging was the schedule of only 15 days, with Krumholtz in every scene. He said mounting such a detailed performance in that short time was a challenge he embraced.


"I knew if I could nail it, that it would become less about my performance and more about the work of getting through the scene," Krumholtz said. "It is just me surviving on a set and trying to get the dialogue out of my mouth in a more natural way."

Krumholtz has played professors before, too. On six seasons of Numb3rs, Krumholtz played an applied mathematics professor who helps the FBI solve cases with his formula. Oppenheimer also cast Krumholtz as real-life, Nobel-prize-winning physicist Isidor Rabi.

Krumholtz revealed one of his secrets for playing geniuses on screen.

"Sometimes it's as simple as raising an eyebrow," Krumholtz said. "Believe it or not, those tricks go a long way."

From 'Santa Clause' to 'WWE Raw'

Krumholtz began his career as a child actor in Life with Mikey and Addams Family Values. He was a teenager when he first played Bernard in The Santa Clause, then reprised the role in the 2002 sequel and recent Disney+ series, The Santa Clauses.

Bernard's absence from 2006's Santa Clause 3 was due to an unfortunate financial situation, Krumholtz said, adding that Disney offered him only half of his fee from Santa Clause 2 for a longer production.


"Disney felt that devaluing the character in that way was what they wanted to do," Krumholtz said.

Also, The Santa Clause 3 was filmed at the same time as Numb3rs. Krumholtz decided not to work double for less money.

"I couldn't set that precedent," he said. "I tried to negotiate and they wouldn't negotiate."

Krumholtz pointed out that the trailer for the third film includes clips from the first two that feature Bernard.

Krumholtz insisted on fair compensation for licensing those clips, noting that "they paid me for that handsomely."

Bernard finally appeared again in an episode of the Disney+ series, The Santa Clauses. By then, Krumholtz said he was offered an acceptable rate for the episode.

"I made sure they did," he said.

Between elves and geniuses, Krumholtz also made a surprise appearance on WWE Raw as a Drew McIntyre imposter in 2021.

Krumholtz said he'd worked with WWE head of story development Christine Lubrno on the show, Gigi Does It, in which he played a 79-year-old widow. When Lubrano offered him the role, Krumholtz jumped at the chance.

"It was so silly and so out there and so much fun," Krumholtz said. "That was a no-brainer."

Krumholtz said he has been a wrestling fan since he was a child watching stars like Randy "Macho Man" Savage in the ring.


"God, that was such an immersive performance," Krumholtz said of the late Savage. "The throughline is always this character, this macho man, this pure confidence, almost delusional level confidence."

Keeping a healthy perspective on career goals

Krumholtz has been a part of ensembles, such as the Harold & Kumar movies, Ray, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, This Is the End and The Deuce. He also played leads before and said he hoped fans would seek out Kill the Poor, My Suicidal Sweetheart and The Big Ask.

"I like the responsibility," Krumholtz said of leading a film. "It takes a lot of bravery and some real calculated thinking."

Having made close to $1 billion worldwide, Oppenheimer is the most widely seen movie in which Krumholtz has acted. It may be too soon to tell if the Oscar-winning film is changing Hollywood's perception of him, he said.

Krumholtz said Oppenheimer came out during the writers' and actors' strikes. As the industry anticipates a potential state employees' union strike this summer, he said he has to be patient.

"If I live in a state of heightened expectations based on the success of Oppenheimer, I'll go crazy if my expectations aren't met," Krumholtz said. "It's not easy. I'm trying to stay out of that headspace right now."


After decades in Hollywood, Krumholtz said he has learned to accept that he always will want more for his career. Even attending Oscar parties with the Oppenheimer team was fleeting and made him want to try again, he said.

"I had a lot of shame about never being satisfied for a long time," Krumholtz said. "Yeah, it's never enough, but that's OK. I don't want this to end."

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