LUBBOCK, Texas — You don’t mess with Texas — unless you’re B.J. Novak.
Comedy and true crime collide in Novak’s directorial debut ‘Vengeance,’ a new dark comedy set in West Texas.
Fans of ‘The Office’ will recognize the director and star.
Novak plays Ben, a cocky New York podcaster searching for his next big story. But when a former fling is found dead in a West Texas oil field, he thinks it’s the true crime tale to make his career.
He comes out here to investigate, befriending his ex’s eccentric family along the way, and then finds himself deep in the heart of a Texas-sized mystery.
KAMC’s Laura Laughead sat down with Novak and co-star Boyd Holbrook who said they did a lot of research to capture the Lone Star state of mind.
LL: Why West Texas? Out of all the places in the world, why us?
BJN: Because I didn’t know it at all, and I thought that was interesting — to explore a place I didn’t know at all, and second, y’all are intimidating! And so I thought, okay what’s a place that someone like me, who’s from Boston, only lived in big cities on the coast, would look at and be like, ‘okay that’s a tough place, it’s a different culture.’
LL: I was blown away by how West Texans were portrayed and how accurate it was. So I have to ask, what did you do to prepare to get it so right?
BJN: Well, I really cared, that itself is an important first step. I really cared. I didn’t want anyone to be the butt of the joke in the movie. Look, every character has a comic side, that’s true in real life, but I wanted to really do the place right, and I didn’t want to get my ass kicked when I came to Lubbock either.
Novak went to West Texas rodeos, football games and — of course — Whataburger on his multiple research trips. However, the movie was only partially shot in Texas. The rest was shot in New Mexico because Novak said they got better tax breaks there.
‘Vengeance’ toes the line between making jokes and making it right. Novak emphasized he just wants Texans to feel seen and do for the Lone Star State what ‘The Office’ did for Scranton — something echoed by co-star Boyd Holbrook.
“We’re really not that different after all. We all still have the same problems, and we’re still trying to navigate them,” Holbrook said.
The movie is about connecting people from all walks of life from Brooklyn to Barstow.
“Just because you drive a big truck and wear big wrangler jeans and everything’s bigger in Texas, it doesn’t mean at all that you’re not a deep, sensitive person,” Novak said.
And now that Novak is a bonafide ‘Tex-pert,’ we had to ask one last question.
LL: Would you move here?
BJN: I’ve definitely thought about it now that I’ve been treated so warmly … but I know you’re so sick of Californians moving to Texas, so I don’t want to impose.
‘Vengeance’ hits theaters Friday.
Use the video player above to watch the full interview. Footage courtesy of Focus Features.