Discussing ‘Observe and Report’ with Michael Pena

He’s armed with a perm and getting dangerous with funny man Seth Rogen and comedic bombshell Anna Faris. It’s all part of actor Michael Pena’s role as a mall cop in Observe and Report. If you don’t recognize his name, perhaps you’re familiar with his work. The list is impressive: World Trade Center with Nicolas Cage, Crash with Sandra Bullock, and Lions for Lambs with Robert Redford.

All of Pena’s films have been serious dramas with minimal opportunities for improvisation. No doubt, Observe and Report is a major departure. Pena plays the role of Dennis, a friend of Ronnie, Rogen’s character. A psychotic yet almost-lovable mall cop, Ronnie vows to find the man who flashes the girl of his dreams, played by Faris. Ray Liotta plays a cocky cop who keeps getting in the way of Rogen’s plans for love and to become a cop.

The Miami Hurricane recently sat down with Pena to discuss the project, penis on the big screen, and acting with Rogen.

THE MIAMI HURRICANE: How was it for you to go from scripted dramas to a comedy like this, which gave you license to improvise?
MICHAEL PENA: It was tough. I was doing it with Seth Rogen, who is the man. He wrote Superbad and did Knocked Up, so it was a little intimidating. But then, after a couple days [of shooting], I got the hang of it.

TMH: I heard you got a perm for your hair.
MP: I got it in Beverly Hills, dude. I was in a row [in a salon]. I was the only dude – young dude at that – getting a perm. It smells nasty, by the way. There’s gonna be some people who are inspired by the movie and there’s going to be permaholics [because of this].

TMH: Was it a requirement to get a perm for the movie?
MP: And gain weight? No, [all of that] was my idea. When I saw American Pimp, there were these guys like that. You’re [thinking], “You’re kidding me, there’s no way you got all of this done.” And they’d be serious as all hell. They have the perm. They’re always touching it up and talking about “my bitches and hoes” and “tryin’ to get my money.” [After seeing that], I was like, dude I have to get a perm.

TMH: This is really a dark comedy. There are certain parts at the end where I’m wondering where this is going. When you were reading the script, how did you feel?
MP: I thought it was the perfect set up. You think it’s going to go one way then surprises you with a big laugh. There’s a scene with the flasher, for instance, that’s pretty funny. It comes at the most random time.

TMH: Were you there for any of the flashing scenes?
MP: Nah, I made it a point not to be.

TMH: That would be very awkward. Where do you think the penis flasher’s career is going after this?
MP: I think he’s a set decorator. He props stuff and puts the coffee cup where it’s supposed to be.

Observe and Report is playing on big screens nationwide.