Although his first movie since 'Spotlight' just so happens to be a children's detective story for Disney+, you can tell that 'Timmy Failure' has a dollop of the old-school police procedural about it.
Moreover, when talking to Tom McCarthy, it seems he has a certain amount of edge to him that would make one think you're speaking to a fellow journalist - even if he played an unscrupulous one in 'The Wire'.
He asks about Matt Damon being locked down in Dublin. He enquires about how Ireland's handling lockdown measures. He's curious about the political scenarios that will play out in the middle of all this. "Never in my life have I seen people have to grapple with something that they've never even considered, it's fascinating," McCarthy remarks, noting that there are grim maths to daily life. How far you can leave your house. What distance you must separate from people. How many are infected, how many have recovered?
More to the point, McCarthy says, it's that we're going to be dealing with the emotional and psychological fallout out of this for some time. "It's like a slow car crash, and none of us have walked away from it yet," he adds. Yet, for all of this introspection, all of this is history-making, McCarthy hasn't felt the need to put on his writer's cap and get to work on adapting it for the screen. "I was in the middle of editing my new movie before I finished 'Timmy Failure' with Matt Damon, who you guys just seem to have adopted," he remarks with a chuckle.
"We were shutting down the edit, and my wife and I rented a house out in the country, we have young kids, and I just turned into writer mode and that's been my salve. Finding purpose and routine in the work. I'm so used to going to a place, setting up shop, and getting to work. Having the time to write like this is a gift. I don't think what's happening now, I'm not letting in to the work too much, I haven't processed it yet. I'm just going back to the work I had before all this started. It's like a little creative island all of my own, I go up to my office for five hours and I'm incredibly thankful for that."
For Tom McCarthy, moving between genres and projects is a straightforward process like how he moves from writer to director and it's done with the same ease. After he completed 'Spotlight', the Oscar-winning drama about the Boston Globe's investigation into the chilling crimes of the Catholic Church in the city, he moved to Netflix's '13 Reasons Why'. After that came 'The Loudest Voice', a miniseries about Fox News and Roger Ailes. Then came 'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made', a family comedy about a precocious child who runs a "detective agency" with an imaginary polar bear.
"A lot of these things, they overlap. 'Timmy Failure', I was actually thinking about that before 'Spotlight' about how it'd be fun to tackle that story for Disney like a live action kids' movie," McCarthy explains. "It's really a matter of what interests me at the moment, or the challenge of interpreting something like this, a kids book that's super zany, working with a visual effects department that I've never done before. This is something worth my time, that's what it comes down to. I don't map out my career any more than that."
Yet, the ping-pong nature of his career isn't something that bothers him. If anything, he seems to enjoy to thrill of launching full throttle into something completely unrelated to his previous work. "I thought I'd go from 'Spotlight' to 'Stillwater' (his next movie with Matt Damon), and then do 'Timmy Failure' - but 'Stillwater' wasn't ready, and I had to reconceive the whole thing with two French writers. 'Timmy Failure' was ready, and Disney was pushing me to do it and they were really excited about it - how it was outside their brand, which, y'know, they're very careful about."
On the outside, shifting from genre to genre, writer to director to acting, it can be hard to track. "On the inside, it makes sense, I get asked that a lot. I've heard filmmakers talk about that a lot, the ones I respect just say, 'Don't overthink it, if you like it, do it.' And that's why I do. Keep working, ignore the bullshit, and all the projects go by that choice."
'Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made' is available on Disney+ now.