Jerrod Carmichael on coming out, his movie about depression and pandemic survival

Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

In fact, Burnham directed Carmichael's critically lauded HBO special "Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel," which was released in late April. In it, the comedian comes out as gay and reveals that his name isn't actually Jerrod at all but the amalgamation of his grandfathers' names that the special is named after. (For the record, those names are Robert and Nathaniel.)

Just before the pandemic, Carmichael had completed filming his directorial debut — the 2021 Sundance selection "On the Count of Three," a dark comedy about suicide in which he co-stars opposite "Girls" alum Christopher Abbott and Tiffany Haddish. That project is now playing in theaters nationwide.

"[We filmed] in the Before Times, but I did reshoots in the During Time — the biblical transition period that is March 2020 until, I guess, a couple of months ago," he said. "I wonder when they knew to start A.D. They were mourning or whatever and someone was like, 'Is anybody keeping count?'"

The L.A. Times caught up with Carmichael to discuss the current climate of comedy, coming out before a crowd of strangers and making a movie about suicide that balances gallows humor with emotional truth.

Q: "On the Count of Three" is a dark comedy about the serious subjects of depression and suicide. What made you choose it for your directorial debut?

A: It felt true to where I was at that time. We had a decision to make; me, Ari [Katcher] and Ryan [Welch], the writers. Like, "Alright, what's the first film?" We had done television together and were trying to figure that out. Tonally, emotionally, it just felt right. It felt accurate. And so this was a story that they had written that I really connected with and fell in love with.


Q: How did you connect to the story?

A: After the fact, it's funny to talk about it with distance and reflect on it. I think my answer then would have been different than what it is now. Because now I see that period of my life as ... sometimes hard. I had reached my limit, I had kind of maxed out on my potential, I feel. And not as related to money or anything, just my way of being. I was closeted, just going through other personal things. I didn't feel like I belonged in the environment that I was in.

And I know probably the big question would be, "Was I suicidal?" And I wasn't. I wasn't, thankfully. I've been with friends who've gone through that, and I've been with them in these moments that they let me into. I'm speaking cautiously about even the writers and their own personal inspiration for the material. But there was this kind of nagging sense of hopelessness that I was dealing with that the script just felt like, "Yeah, this is Val." I actually named the character after my sister who dealt with depression.

Q: Did she see it? What was her reaction?


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