Former Darien resident Topher Grace, 41, remembers taking the train in his youth to go see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in the studio audience.

And later, he recalls being a guest on the show after putting out his first film, Traffic.

“He didn’t disappoint. He’s a genius — and I thought that before I got to work with him, I was just being interviewed by him,” Grace says.

That moment has arrived, as Grace stars in Stewart’s new movie, Irresistible, which comes out on streaming services on Friday, June 26. Not only that, but the movie stars Steve Carell, who Grace says was part of his favorite team on the Daily Show. Carell was a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from 1999 to 2005.

An added bonus of working with Stewart was Grace said often at lunch during filming he had his own personal “Daily Show.”

“I’d say, ‘Can you believe what Trump said?’ or I’d ask him about Congress, and he’d weigh in on it,” he said.

Stewart is the writer and director of the movie, which is a comedy about a Democratic political consultant (Carell) who helps a retired Marine colonel run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town. The movie’s opening scenes pick up in the night of Election Day 2016 and morning after, with Carell coping with being on the losing side.

About the movie

Grace said the team behind Irresistible felt the same pressure as the team on his last movie, BlacKkKlansman.

“On the set, it was like, how fast can we get this out?” It’s so relevant, and sadly, just gets more and more relevant with each day that passes,” Grace said.

The movie was originally scheduled to be released in May but was pushed back to this Friday.

“I did think with this one that it has to be out before the election. It has to. So I’m glad they did. It’s important to the conversation for both sides of the aisle — it’s about the political system,” he said.

In addition to Carell as Gary Zimmer, and Grace as Kurt Farlander, who works for Zimmer, the movie stars Chris Cooper as Maj. Col. Jack Hastings, the resident of a small town in Wisconsin who catches Carell’s character’s eye as a strategy for Democrats to win over the Heartland.

It also stars Rose Byrne, Mackenzie Davis, Natasha Lyonne, Will Sasso, C.J. Wilson, Debra Messing, Brent Sexton, and Alan Aisenberg.

Grace said he loves working in an ensemble and has done it often in his movies, including Traffic, Valentine’s Day, and BlacKkKlansman, as well as his long running television show, That 70’s Show.

“It would be a nightmare for me to be in a movie like Castaway,” he joked.

“A great ensemble is like a great sports team,” Grace said. “Steve is our Michael Jordan, but you pass the ball to someone else, they pass it to you. Everyone is going to do something great and everyone wins.”

Grace’s character, Kurt, is a “lackey” who works for Carell’s character. Whether or not he believes in what Zimmer is doing or what the company he works for is doing, he does it to the best of his ability. He also says Carell’s character is somewhat of a father figure to his character.

Satire approach

Many of the comedic scenes occur due to the contrast of sophisticated Washington, D.C., political operatives trying to function in small town Wisconsin. Upon getting a Budweiser bottle on his first night, Carell’s character asks for a bottle opener, much to the amusement of the regulars. He can’t access the Wifi. The campaign staff is confronted with dial up service so they attempt to poach Wifi at a local school.

As to how hard it was to keep a straight face during the movie with so many funny people, Grace summed it up by saying — “The blooper reel is going to be insane.”

But there is more to the movie than humor. And this is another way the movie reminds Grace of his previous movie, BlacKkKlansman.

“I can’t believe these movies that are so heavy can still have a lot of laughs,” he said.

“Whenever you’re tackling a serious subject matter, and no one is better at this than Jon Stewart — none of those news stories you saw on The Daily Show are particularly funny. But humor is seductive in that it gets people to relax and let the real information or whatever that struggle is about come to the surface,” he said.

In terms of the movie, Grace said that Stewart is making fun of the Democrats “just as much, if not more” than the Republicans in the film.

“I don’t think anyone doesn’t know that Jon is liberal, but if you’re going to do a real political comedy, you have to take swipes at everybody. That’s what a real farce is,” he said.

Grace also said the small town was his intentional choice — he said setting it in Washington D.C. would have made it look too exclusive.

“No one is excluded from these kinds of politics. They’re an allegory for the whole system,” he said.

Getting engaged

Grace said he hopes the movie encourages people to get involved and, and more importantly, vote.

“I hope people are participating in all of their elections available to them, but if they’re not, a really important one is coming up,” he said.

“I hope this lights a fire in people who maybe wouldn’t have voted. I fundamentally don’t understand people who don’t vote. But if there’s someone who doesn’t, but they’re open to watching a fun comedy movie that pushes them to be more part of the process, it’s really worth it,” he said.

Grace also added that there’s an audience out there that might just need some laughs in this tough time.

“We didn’t know about any of this pandemic when we filmed this. But everyone right now is in a tough place, maybe the hardest ever. That’s the great thing about movies on all levels. If people want to dive in to the deeper things Jon is saying, you can, or if you just want have a fun laugh, that stuff is there too,” he said.

He added he commended Stewart on having “so much to say, but saying it this way is the smart way to say something, because more people will listen.”

Memories of Darien

The first place Grace, who attended Darien schools through Middlesex Middle School before heading to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire for high school, always mentions when he talks to The Darien Times is the Sugar Bowl.

“I can smell the Sugar Bowl food as we are talking,” he said.

“That is my favorite restaurant there — I’ve been going there since the late ’70s,” he said.

Grace mentioned his parents have finally moved out to the West Coast to be closer to him and his sister, as he and his wife just had their second child. He said they are “wonderful grandparents.”

He said he was back in Darien to help them clean out the home they had raised him in and lived in for 40 years.

“It was quite an emotional time, there are so many memories, it is confusing when your parents have lived somewhere for that long — memories on top of memories,” Grace said.

“I’ve always looked back fondly on my time there,” he said.

Irresistible is available At Home on Demand on Friday, June 26. Find out more info here: https://www.focusfeatures.com/irresistible