Ron Livingston has been working in Hollywood for 25 years, first appearing in Dolly Parton’s Straight Talk in 1992 before going on to star in the 1999 cult classic Office Space. Since then, he’s made memorable appearances on multiple HBO series — Sex and the City, Boardwalk Empire and Band of Brothers — and in the films Adaptation., The Conjuring and Drinking Buddies. With a steady stream of work, Livingston is one of those actors who often has a bunch of unrelated projects coming out in the same year, like in 2013, when he appeared in four theatrical releases and recurred on Boardwalk Empire.
The same is true for 2018, thanks to supporting film roles in Tully, The Long Dumb Road and Johnny Depp’s upcoming Richard Says Goodbye. He’s also the face of fall TV, with appearances on ABC’s A Million Little Things and Amazon’s The Romanoffs, as well as the return of his Audience Network series Loudermilk.
Now 51, the actor is no stranger to talking with the press and promoting his latest projects, even such varied ones as the ABC ensemble drama, Matt Weiner’s anthology series and the recovery comedy, all premiering within weeks from each other. “It doesn’t really affect me that much when they come out at the same time, other than I’m busy trying to get out there and promote them,” Livingston says while sitting in a booth tucked in the back of Rock Center Cafe. In the winter, the cafe overlooks Rockefeller Center’s ice-skating rink in Midtown Manhattan, but it’s a brisk, late-September day, still too warm and too early for the popular tourist attraction. Focused and attentive, Livingston’s ready to discuss all three.
On A Million Little Things, ABC’s emotional answer to This Is Us, Livingston’s character Jonathan Dixon sets things in motion by unexpectedly killing himself in the premiere. The role, while billed as series regular, will mostly be seen in brief flashbacks throughout the first season as Jonathan’s friends cope with his death. That said, he teases that “it’s not predictable when I show up.” Meanwhile, the actor’s episode of The Romanoffs, “Bright and High Circle,” is set to premiere on Nov. 2. Co-starring Andrew Rannells, Cara Buono and Diane Lane, the fifth chapter of the series tells the story of a tight-knit community’s loyalties being tested by a close friend.
Though Livingston visited the Mad Men set when his then-girlfriend, now-wife Rosemarie DeWitt worked on the series, he only briefly met series creator Weiner. But working with the notoriously demanding writer-director was no sweat for the actor, who says, “If you can make me look good, I’ll put up with anything. And with Matt, I didn’t even really have to put up with a lot.”
While the debuts of A Million Little Things and The Romanoffs has been met with more fanfare in the press, it’s Loudermilk, which is returning for a second season to AT&T Audience Network on Oct. 16, that deserves the most attention. On the acclaimed series co-created by Peter Farrelly, Livingston plays Sam Loudermilk, a cranky recovering alcoholic who finds himself forced to do some soul searching. Season two see hims putting his life back together after a recent relapse. “It’s really about trying to figure out what parts he wants to put back together again,” Livingston says, describing his character as more humble, “which doesn’t make him any less of an asshole.”
After decades of recurring roles or short-lived series regular parts, Loudermilk also marks Livingston’s first time making it to a second season. While his last two attempts at series work were the back-to-back network shows Standoff and Defying Gravity — both of which were canceled after less than a season — he says “some of that was by design.”
“I’m happy doing stuff where you come in for something very focused. You’re there to play a role; you get in and get out,” Livingston says of his past recurring work, adding that when it comes to Loudermilk, “I can do Sam forever. I can do Sam as long as the guys can write it.”
Admittedly, it’s easier to commit to a show that has 10-episode seasons rather than the typical 22 of a network television series. “I’ve grown out of that,” says the actor, a father of two adopted children who are 5 and 2 years old. “The days of, like, ‘Let’s go do an action series where I’m a cop running around doing stunts’ [are over]. That was always a weird fit anyway, trying to do that,” he says, referring to the police procedural Standoff, on which he met DeWitt. “That’s a young man’s game.”
Thirty-one when Office Space was first released in theaters, Livingston has put some distance between himself and his breakout role. However, there’s no escaping the fandom that continues to follow the cult film as new generations of fans have found it, first on DVD and then on streaming platforms.
“It’s so great,” Livingston says of Office Space’s lasting impact, while adding a caveat ahead of its 20th anniversary: “I love talking about the film, but one thing about talking about it for 20 years is it’s harder and harder to think of something new to say about it.”
As for another project that he hopes gets a second life someday, he mentions the little-seen 2016 film Shangri-La Suite, in which two young lovers attempt to kill Elvis Presley, played by Livingston. “It’s got this campy, B-movie feel to it. I thought the whole thing turned out great,” he says. “It went nowhere; it went straight to nothing. So I think it’d be fun if we resurfaced that.” (It turns out the film is streaming on the Roku Channel and Vudu.)
In the meantime, he’s busy promoting the three shows he’s on now, hoping audiences will find them as they did with Office Space. “There is a pinch-me moment that comes with getting to do these three very different projects with a lot of great people,” Livingston concludes. “If there’s anything that I’ve been trying for my whole career, it’s been to just be in great stuff.”