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Clement is at Sundance for People, Places, Things, Jim Strouse's engaging romantic comedy in which Clement plays a cartoonist and teacher struggling with heartbreak and being a consistent father for his 5-year-old twin daughters. With the exception of a 2013 tour, Flight of the Conchords has been on the back burner since the end of the second season of their HBO show in 2009.
Since then, Clement has been active voicing animated films and making his co-directing/film-writing debut with last year's What We Do in the Shadows. His writing/directing partner on that film, Taika Watiti, is working with him on an idea for television that may include music. "I consider my career as a whole a collection of hobbies," he says. "I don't have a career, just all these hobbies going on."
Like the Conchords' TV show, People, Places, Things is set in New York, but that's where the parallels end for Clement, whose character Will has an artistic sophistication and nurturing qualities.
"The Conchords' Jemaine is very unaware of his feelings, and Will is keenly aware of his," says Clement. "At first, Jim [Strouse] talked about me using an American accent, and we tried it out and eventually decided it wasn't important. He wanted the character to be an outsider anyway, so the accent might help that. Then having not performed that much [on film], I had to think about, 'How do I actually talk that's different from Flight of the Conchords?' Right before filming, I thought, 'How do I actually do it?'"
Even composer Mark Orton, whose breezy score harkens back to simpler times, was keenly aware of not sounding Conchords-esque. "I wanted the music to sound like his character -- a guy whose pants were too short," Orton said in a separate conversation. "I had to make sure I wasn't rewriting 'Sugalumps.'"