Q: How was your Sundance premiere?
A: It was incredible. My parents were there; my sisters were there; friends from childhood showed up. I wasn't super-anxious from a careerist perspective. I just couldn't believe where we were.
Q: It's a big room
A: Before Friday, I don't think 100 people had seen the movie. And then suddenly we're in this 1,100-seat theater. It was like that scene in Hoosiers where they get to the state finals and walk into the auditorium, which is bigger than anything they've ever seen, and Gene Hackman has to measure the distance from the free-throw line to the basket to prove it's the same dimensions.
Q: Sundance buzz travels fast and can make or break a film quickly. Are you paying attention to the reviews?
A: People around me have given me a few reviews and been like, "You've gotta read this!" And I'm sure there are a few more that are "You don't gotta read this." Trying to stay where I am is very important to me because so much about this business asks you to gallop out ahead in your imagination. And it never really goes down the way you thought it would. Sometimes it's better, but there's just not a lot of value in getting ahead of yourself.
Q: But if it gets bought for a ton of money . . .
A: Drinks are on me.
Q: You're an actor on a network TV show who wrote, directed, and starred in his first film—which makes comparing you to Zach Braff pretty easy.
A: That movie had a lot of eyeballs on it, and it became a cultural touchstone. If as many people see this movie as saw that one, I'd be very happy. I was well into writing this movie by the time I saw Garden State, so it wasn't a direct inspiration, but there are certainly parallels.
Q: Anyone you were inspired by?
A: Richard Linklater. The title cards at the end. Dazed and Confused is one of my all-time favorite movies. I sent a video of Dazed and Confused's closing credits to the production company doing mine and said, "Imitate this." I completely ripped him off.
Q: Have How I Met Your Mother fans hijacked your Q&A sessions asking for spoilers?
A: Those fans are pretty rapt, but largely it's been about the movie, which is great. I'm so indebted to the show, and I don't think this movie would have been made without it, so it's not something I wish away. But I don't love being called Ted.