Mensch and Supermensch

Photo: Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

Adam Goldberg is the kind of actor you want more of but usually get in small tastes—as a psycho roommate on Friends or a doomed grunt in Saving Private Ryan. This season, you can indulge in a Goldberg feast with Head Cases, an odd-couple drama in which he plays Shultz, a jittery, rage-prone lawyer paired with Chris O’Donnell as his partner.

A lot of people think of you as the quintessential New York Jew, and thus are surprised to learn that you’re neither from New York nor, technically, Jewish.
Not technically. My father was Jewish, but my mother was not Jewish, and she disavowed her Catholicism and sent me to a Jewish day school. As a kid, I also watched a shitload of Scorsese and Woody Allen movies. They also raised me, to a certain degree. Certainly, one of the reasons I gravitated to those films is that I felt out of place here [in California]. I was like the black sperm among all the white sperm in Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask, who says, “What am I doing here?”

What other perceptions might people have about you that aren’t true?
I’ve been told on more than one occasion that people thought I would be an asshole, and I turned out to be a good person. Or a decent person, anyway. I’m not sure what that’s based on. It’s probably a kind of shyness socially that people misconstrue as misanthropy. Which is not to say I’m not misanthropic. But I like to think I’m misanthropic selectively.

You’re known for playing abrasive, neurotic hotheads, yet you’ve developed a reputation as a sex symbol.
Really? Where?

I know a lot of women who’d be totally drawn to Shultz.
There’s an appeal to people who appear to be passionate and intelligent, whether or not they actually are. There’s also Shultz’s prowess in bed. I think he might be very well endowed.

You and Chris O’Donnell also have a great chemistry.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it. After the initial sniffing-out period, it became very comfortable. And we haven’t slept together yet. That’s important. You sleep together too early in a series, and the set’s rife with tension for years to come.

You know, there’s an Adam Goldberg who plays tackle for the Minnesota Vikings.
I know! I’d just like people to think that it’s me who’s tackling dudes. Wouldn’t that be awesome? They’d say, “That Adam Goldberg. Talk about a multi-hyphenate.”

Head Cases
Fox; premieres September 14 (9 P.M.).

Mensch and Supermensch