The star of The Hangover and The Office loves being tattooed and toothless (well, temporarily), tells how to achieve physical nonfitness (he recommends doughnuts and hot chocolate) and hates when you mention his childhood nickname (try to guess what it is)
PLAYBOY: In your last few films you’ve been paired with actresses like Heather Graham, Sigourney Weaver, Anne Heche and, in this month’s The Hangover Part II , Jamie Chung. That’s a lot of on-screen sex with a lot of hot ladies. We never thought of you as such a stud.
HELMS: Wait, let’s rewind for a second. There was no sex on-screen—or off, for that matter—with Heather Graham. There was implied sex, and we did have a nice kiss, which I’m still dizzy from. But we didn’t actually have sex during the movie. Actually, I think Sigourney Weaver in Cedar Rapids was my first official sex scene. And if you don’t mind my saying so, I think it will go down as one of the great sex scenes in the history of cinema.
PLAYBOY: When Sigourney was taking your movie-sex virginity, was she gentle with you?
HELMS: Oh, she was the greatest. She’s so cool and such a seasoned pro. I was the anxious one. In any situation like that, there is a fear that—how can I put this delicately?—body parts might act on their own accord. But she just completely put me at ease. In the movie, my character is looking for a mother figure, and that’s kind of how I felt about Sigourney. I really felt nurtured and taken care of by her.
PLAYBOY: In Cedar Rapids you were half naked for a good portion of the movie. What’s the Ed Helms pre-nude-scene fitness regime?
HELMS: I think it’s pretty clear there wasn’t much of a fitness regime at all. We shot it during November and December in Michigan, which is not a climate conducive to outdoor fitness activities. It’s conducive to holing up with hot chocolate and doughnuts in your hotel room. But I don’t have a lot of hang-ups about that stuff. I feel pride and dignity usually get in the way when you’re trying to do comedy.
PLAYBOY: The Hangover Part II was shot almost entirely in Bangkok, a city with a reputation for red-light districts and anything-goes debauchery. Did you partake?
HELMS: Not really. We exploited its dark underbelly with great enthusiasm in the movie. We shot in some interesting neighborhoods, what you might call “sketchy,” that most tourists probably wouldn’t visit. You take a vacation to a place like Thailand and you’re ready for the excitement of something new and foreign. But when you’re working 14-hour days, all you want is something familiar to ground you. And there’s just nothing there. Even the American things, such as Starbucks or a hamburger joint, felt different in Bangkok.
PLAYBOY: After being in two alcohol-fueled Hangover movies, do you find your fans are constantly trying to buy you booze and get you drunk?
HELMS: If I’m in a bar, frat boys will usually try to buy me shots. But I’m not much of a boozer anymore. I certainly had my share of ragers during my 20s, but I think it had more to do with geography than age. I lived in New York City for most of my 20s, and then I moved to Los Angeles when I was 32 or 33. L.A. is all about automobiles, and New York is about public transportation or taxis. So alcohol consumption isn’t as automatic as it was when I was in New York.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember your last painful hangover?
HELMS: For me it’s less about the physical effects than the remorse. I think I’m a fairly obnoxious drunk, so I’ll wake up the next morning just racked with guilt, replaying every conversation I had the night before and every terrible thing that came out of my mouth. I read that’s part of the chemical process of alcohol going through your body. It engenders feelings of guilt and depression.
PLAYBOY: Your character gets a face tattoo in The Hangover Part II. Have you ever been tempted to get some real body ink?
HELMS: I don’t have any real tattoos, and I’m not interested in getting any. But it’s so much fun having a tattoo when it’s not permanent. Especially when it’s on your face. Walking around the streets of Bangkok with a face tattoo, I felt like the biggest badass. I felt like no one would mess with me, and if they did, I could crush them. Of course, if somebody did start fucking with me, I would probably start weeping and run away.
PLAYBOY: You had a tooth removed for the first Hangover movie. How did you convince a dentist this was a good idea?
HELMS: It was actually just a dental implant. I’d thought about replacing it for a while. My teeth had shifted, and it just didn’t feel like the best fit anymore. I said to my dentist, “Can I get a new cap on this implant? And in the interim, can we leave it out for two months while I shoot a movie?” He was like, “Sure, that’s fine.” The funny thing is, I had to wear a retainer for the scenes in which the tooth isn’t gone yet. It was like a flipper with a fake tooth. And my speech was slightly affected. We were still shooting The Office during the movie, and I didn’t tell them about it because I didn’t want to get into trouble. Somehow I got away with it.
PLAYBOY: Andy Bernard, the character you play on The Office, has way too much self-confidence even though it’s not always deserved. Do you envy his shamelessness or cringe at it?
HELMS: I love it. This may come as a surprise, given the nature of my job, but I am very guarded and contemplative. I’m not a naturally boisterous person. Andy Bernard is a bit of a wish fulfillment for me, because I absolutely envy how passionate he is. If Andy’s in love with somebody, everybody knows it. He just puts it out there. It’s his saving grace, in the midst of all his other social handicaps.
PLAYBOY: Andy likes coming up with nicknames for his co-workers, like Big Tuna and Big Turkey. We heard that your nickname in high school was Chuck E. Cheese. Care to explain?
HELMS: Oh God. Yes, that’s true. It came from an upperclassman who claimed I looked like Chuck E. Cheese, the mascot from that chintzy pizza restaurant chain. Any good nickname recipient shouldn’t actually like his nickname, and that was certainly the case with me. I hated being called Chuck E. Cheese. And of course that just encouraged them. Thank you for bringing it up. I’m sure it’ll catch on once again and ruin my life.