In new Netflix drama Living with Yourself, Avengers and Ant-Man star Paul Rudd plays a double role as a depressed advertising executive called Miles and his seemingly-perfect clone – and when fans watch the finished series they’ll be struck by how seamless the effect is, with every scene shared feeling like two individuals are genuinely interacting rather than one man in two different outfits.
And while the technical aspect of doubling up Rudd was fairly standard, following in the footsteps of TV shows such as Orphan Black and films like, well, Avengers: Endgame (remember the two Captain Americas), Rudd did bring something of an innovation to the performance side of the drama.
“We kind of figured out the best way to make this work for us and for me to do the scenes was to not do the scenes with another actor, as a stand-in, but instead just record the scenes as both characters, and listen into an earpiece,” Rudd told RadioTimes.com.
In other words, Rudd didn’t perform his lines to a stand-in actor or member of the crew, as would usually be the case. Instead, he pre-recorded one version of Miles first, and acted opposite himself – or at least the audio of himself.
“Whichever character was driving the scene, we would film that one first,” Rudd explained.
“And I would act to just where I knew I would be – there was nobody there. But when I’d say my line, somebody off-screen would be hitting an iPad cue and I would get it in my ear.
“We would figure it out, finally get the take we wanted and watch it back,” Rudd continued.
“I’d change over [into the other Miles], and remember what I did, and look at where I said what, and moved on what word and what line –and then I’d go in, we’d reset the eye-lines, and it would be the same thing in reverse.
“I’d hear myself again, and that’s how we did it,” he concluded.
And while you might expect his co-stars would have preferred to have a stand-in to include in the scenes, Irish actor Aisling Bea (who plays Miles’ wife Kate in the series) revealed that she actually found it easier with Rudd’s method.
“It was funny, as Paul says he didn’t have a stand-in, so it was easier to act with the memory of the ghost of himself,” Bea said.
“And it was almost the same for me – like, one of the tricky things like Paul was talking about before was eye-lines. There’s a scene where I’m looking at the two of them, and I’d have to make sure it looked like I was looking at two people.
“And what would happen was, if there was a stand-in there, then I would naturally start gravitating back towards Paul, whatever character Paul Rudd was being rather than a stand-in. Because I would have a connection with that character.”
“So it actually ended up being easier for me also to act with Paul,” Bea continued, “Or the ghost of a memory of what Paul did. And similar the other way round.”
“Which is really not so different from acting with me just regularly in a show that didn’t even have clones,” Rudd joked. “It’s just like, there’s nobody there. There’s nothing there.”
Still, this technique didn’t make things any easier for Rudd, whose casting as two lead characters in a TV series meant he spent double the amount of time on set changing back and forth between the two characters.
“The amount of hours Paul put into making the show and playing two parts, really long days in the winter in New York, was nuts, even physically as a challenge,” Bea said. “It was huge.”
“I filmed my show [This Way Up] straightaway after our show, and I’d never been a lead in anything before. And I’d like an idiot written myself into every scene.
“And I had a lot more sympathy, backwards for the ridiculous amount of hours Paul put in for months.”
After filming the differing sets of footage were split and spliced together, and all that hard worked paid off – when fans finally sit down to watch Living with Yourself, they’ll be seeing double like never before.
Living with Yourself streams on Netflix from Friday 18th October