Luke Tennie didn’t know what to expect when he stepped onto the set of “Shrinking.”
He took each day as a learning experience.
“I got hired for this role and I’m happy to be here,” he says. “I’m a nobody still in this industry. I’m just really glad they hired me.”
“Shrinking” follows a grieving therapist named Jimmy, played by Jason Segel, who starts to break the rules and tell his clients exactly what he thinks.
Ignoring his training and ethics, he finds himself making huge, tumultuous changes to people’s lives … including his own.
Tennie plays Sean, a young military veteran who has recently come under Jimmy’s care.
Sean is a gentle giant with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from his time in the service, and a strained relationship with his family due to his anger management issues.
The series premieres on Friday, Jan. 27, on Apple TV+.
Joining Segel and Tennie in the cast is Jessica Williams, Michael Urie, Lukita Maxwell, Christa Miller, Ted McGinley and Harrison Ford.
Tennie was interested in the project when it first crossed his path.
As he got to play Sean, he found out there were many similarities.
“I did fall in love with the character,” he says. “Despite his struggle, he can acknowledge he has a problem. He knows that something needs to change. Although it may be uncomfortable, although it may be difficult or frustrating, he wants to improve. That’s why he’s got Jimmy.”
In stepping into Sean’s shoes, Tennie found that he had to open himself up and tread lightly.
Before filming for the series began, Tennie was deep in research mode, often asking veterans about their time in the military.
“I wanted to understand where Sean was coming from,” he says. “Aside from the research, Sean and I, we’re pretty similar in terms of how we communicate. We talk the same, walk and move the same. He’s not a character where I had to change too much up. The only thing that differentiates me from Sean is that mentality and mind set. That’s what the research was for. To craft an understanding of Sean and where he is coming from.”
Tennie was also excited to have a character like Sean come to life on screen.
“We don’t seen people like Sean too often on TV,” Tennie says. “During the season, we see Sean make progress. I think viewers will be inspired to make their own change.”
Tennie also used the opportunity in “Shrinking” to learn something from Sean.
“Despite how challenging it is for Sean to admit he’s angry, he does it,” Tennie says. “That is the only way you can ever make progress. If you keep pretending that the thing doesn’t exist, then you can’t conquer that thing. Watching Sean sit in front of Jimmy and say, ‘Can you make it stop?’ Can you fix this?’ That’s the first step to his growth. For me, that’s that I need a lot of time. There are a bunch of struggles in my life where I just didn’t want to voice them. As soon as I did, there was a freedom that came along with being able to tackle that problem in a way that would actually benefit me.”
As the series is set to premiere, Tennie is awaiting the response to the series. He knows that hard work was put into every second.
“I want audiences to see grief at every stage,” he says. “Grief is something you can’t go under, over or around. You have to go through it. ‘Shrinking’ explores how to go through it healthily. The characters may fail do so, but they are doing their best to persevere. That’s where the heart of the show lies.”