Awkward Phase

The Pale Door star Noah Segan talks paladins and punk rock

"Adulthood is just constantly being reminded that your narrative is not the narrative. "

Noah Segan has a price on his head.

In his latest movie, the Western-meets-witchery genre mashup The Pale Door, his character Truman Jones has racked up a thousand-dollar bounty for robbery and murder. Segan says if he suddenly found himself in the Wild West, his criminal ambitions would probably be a little tamer.

"I probably would get in trouble for sending inappropriate dad-joke telegrams," he tells Inverse.

Segan played mystery fanboy Trooper Wagner in 2019's stellar Knives Out, and even appeared as the most deliciously-named X-Wing pilot ever, Stomeroni Stark, in The Last Jedi. The Pale Door is out now in theaters, on digital platforms, and on-demand. He spoke with Inverse about his love of pop-punk, skipping school, and holograms.

What kind of kid were you?

I was a pretty precocious kid. Now that I have kids, I realize that just means that I was sort of an asshole.

I was into dinosaurs. I was into robots. I was really into Dungeons and Dragons and comic books. Then I got really into punk rock.

Segan with some 'Knives Out' fan merch.Noah Segan via Twitter

What was your favorite band when you were 15?

Probably Screeching Weasel. There was this label called Lookout Records. They were from the Bay Area, like it's actually really Green Day started. All that pop-punk that was super popular in the ‘90s, a lot of it really originated from this one record label. They had Screeching Weasel, Mr. T Experience, Green Day and Operation Ivy. I was super into that stuff.

I grew up in New York City, which has its own punk and hardcore scene that I also was really into, like Beastie Boys. I was really into the whole hip hop crossover influence in that era. New York Jews doing hip hop is kind of my brand.

What piece of clothing did you wear too often in high school?

I had — and still have! — a green hoodie that I wore every day that I possibly could, and probably on days that were too hot. It has all types of gross patches and old things adorning it. Someday I will bestow it upon my eldest child. I'm sure she’ll leave it in the back of a cab or something.

There used to be this surplus-slash-thrift shop in New York called Canal Jeans, and they had these big bins of old-ass clothes. I bought a parka that had a West German flag. I still have it and I remember vividly realizing how antisocial it made me seem. It was right at that era of like “oh no, there's a boy in a trench coat.” Sometimes I wear it and try to cosplay myself at 14, smoking cigarettes.

I kind of double-dipped on that answer.

What’s your first memory of the internet?

My first memory of the internet is probably playing like Dungeons and Dragons on this thing called IRC, which was like the original chat room function of the internet, which I think stands for Internet Relay Chat. It was mostly educational institutions, like colleges, hosting these chat rooms that were kind of the next generation of a bulletin board. My brother used to use those boards, and he would literally take the phone and put it on a machine to call another person's computer. Then it kind of graduated to this thing where you would have actual servers and you could play Dungeons and Dragons with other people who didn't have real lives.

I had a half-elf Paladin that I was super into. Paladin is kind of like a mischievous magician. He was very regal and respected. Which, of course, I was not.

Segan with Lakeith Stanfield in 'Knives Out.'Lionsgate

What’s a truth about love you believed when you were 15?

I probably did not believe in love. I probably believed all the music I was listening to, which said your heart would just be broken over and over and over again, and that is your lot in life.

Sorry. That was really heavy. I just hit you with this sad, sad boy shit.

Anyway, now I'm married to a person who's much cooler and smarter and nicer and better-looking than I am. And we have kids who are much more like her than me, and everything's great.

What high-school teacher did you like the most and why?

I managed to avoid going to school. I just stopped going. Nobody really noticed. It was a different time, probably the last generation of real latchkey kids.

In retrospect, it's one of those “so crazy it just might work” things. Like when you watch one of those Oceans 11 movies and you think, “how did those guys pull off that heist?" Well, 90 percent of it is really just doing it, right?

What do you consider your first professional big break, and why?

That came with a movie called Brick that came out, like, 16 years ago. It was really the first job I had that informed what I do now. I never had to have a day job after that. It was the beginning to — I guess? — a career.

Segan in 2005's 'Brick'.Focus Features

What was your first professional failure?

This is very common in my business, but I remember reading a script called John Dies at the End. There was horror-movie shit and detective movie stuff — like all my interests. It was being directed by Don Coscarelli, who made the Phantasm movies. I was just obsessed, obsessed, obsessed. And I was like, there is no way I could not get this job because I wanted it that badly. And, of course, I didn't get it.

The guy who got the job is this incredible actor named Chase Williamson, who is I ended up working with two or three times now, and we're like buddies. I had this weird adult realization that the right person got the right job, and it wasn't me, and that's okay. I will never forget that, and I try to take that with me.

Adulthood is just constantly being reminded that your narrative is not the narrative. What you think reality is and what you're owed is absolutely not the thing that's going to happen all the time.

What’s your can’t-miss prediction for 2030 and why?

I think that ghosts will be aliens and aliens will be ghosts. That's the big realization we will come to.

In all seriousness, more holograms. Definitely more holograms. Holograms are also a really great opportunity to be like — Psych! Gotcha! You know what I mean? “You want a million dollars?” “Got you, it’s just a hologram!” If the stakes are low enough, it's fun.

What would your 15-year-old self say about your latest project?

The awesome part about The Pale Door — as much as it is a grown-up movie and I would not recommend it for children — it is very much the kind of stuff that you did when you were little kids in the sandbox. We're gonna play cowboys, then some crazy motherfuckers gonna show up and are like, “also, I'm a witch.” You just go with it. It is very much the kind of playtime I was into when I was a kid, so I would be proud of myself.

Awkward Phase is an Inverse series with interesting people talking about the most relatable period in their life. The interview above has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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