In this week’s Parade, the funnyman of TV’s The Office and so many memorable movie comedies explains how he moved into serious roles—and decided to do good in the world. (And yes, he still wants to make you smile!) His two new movies, Welcome to Marwen (Dec. 21) and Vice (Dec. 25), are both dramas based on real events that resonate with his love of history.
Christmas Cheer. Back in the 1970s, he remembers walking around a shopping mall in his hometown of Acton, Mass., and noticing everyone had harried, tense expressions on their faces. Young Steve decided “I was going to smile at everyone, just so I wouldn’t be another face reflecting back all the angst. I remember thinking, Well, it might not help, but maybe someone will get a smile out of it.
History Buff. In school, he joined the fife and drum corps of the Acton Minuteman Group, which dressed up in colonial regalia and marched in local parades, re-creating part of New England’s rich colonial legacy. He can still play a tune on the fife today.
Real Becomes Reel. In Marwen, he plays Mark Hogancamp, a U.S. Navy veteran who was attacked in a bar, causing a major brain injury. As a form of therapy, he built an amazing scale-model fantasy world replica of a World War II town as a “way to cope with the trauma.” For Vice, he takes on the real-life role of Donald Rumsfeld, who served as secretary of defense under President George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) and Vice President Dick Cheney (Christian Bale).
Family Man. He loves just hanging out with his wife of 23 years, Nancy, who’s also an actress, writer and producer, and their two teenage kids. “From the outside, it would sound like we’re the most boring four people ever,” he says, noting their love of lighting a fire, watching movies together and playing board games.
Minding the Store. In 2009, he and Nancy bought a general store in Marshfield, Mass. “I knew it would never be a moneymaking enterprise,” he says. Carell purchased the building to restore it and preserve the legacy of the building, which is now nearly 170 years old. He wanted to make it a place where neighbors could gather and “get an ice cream and sit on the front porch.”