How Did Marshawn Lynch Wind Up Playing an Oblivious Teacher in 'Bottoms'?

The funniest movie of the summer—Bottoms, starring Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott and directed by Emma Seligman—happens to have a famous football player in it. This is not a brief and awkward cameo like Russell Wilson in the Entourage movie. It’s also not a situation where a Peyton Manning or Travis Kelce type parlays their natural humor as SNL host into a few scenes here and there. No, this is Marshawn Lynch—known by many as the guy who immortalized his distaste for answering reporters’ questions by repeating “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” at Super Bowl media day—and he plays a major role.

Lynch’s Mr. G is an air-headed high school teacher who finds himself heading up an after-school fight club organized by Edebiri and Sennott’s characters, who hope to use the club as an avenue toward having sex. And Lynch is all over this movie, in ways that will surely surprise people who only knew him as the stoic Seahawk who liked running through motherfucker’s faces. To be fair, Lynch, aka Beast Mode, has done some acting before. He played himself in Brooklyn 99, The League, 80 for Brady and the Netflix show Murderville, and slid into three episodes of Westworld as well. But this is his first feature film where he had to inhabit a character.

In a conversation with GQ, Seligman, the director, helped us understand how this movie came together—and specifically how she got Lynch to agree to be in an absurd comedy about queer teenage girls fighting each other. (Due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, Lynch was unavailable for an interview. Seligman, as a member of the Directors Guild, is free to talk.)

GQ: Once you decided on high school fight club, how did you go about deciding who would be in charge of the club? In this case, it happens to be Marshawn Lynch, but I’m wondering how you got to that point.

Seligman: We always wanted some man who was just kind of out of it but loves the idea of supporting women. He has no idea what’s going on literally in the group, but also has no idea what’s really going on in these girls’ lives and in women’s lives. We didn’t think too deeply about what we’re trying to say with this character. We just thought it would be a really funny opportunity for someone unexpected.

So did you go straight from, “We need a clueless man” to “Let’s call a football player!”?

We were like, “We’ll never get him,” but we wrote “Jon Hamm type” as the basis. At first, we were attached to the idea of a dramatic actor who’s never done comedy. Obviously, Jon Hamm now has done a bunch of comedies. But when he transitioned into comedy by doing Bridesmaids, everyone was like, “What?” We liked the idea of someone that makes you go, “What are they doing in this movie? What’s going on?”

Very slowly, we realized that even that felt expected. We were watching Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar and Jamie Dornan is in it. I loved that movie so much. He was so great in it, but using the hot guy who’s only done dramatic roles has sort of been done now. It’s less inventive and creative. With Marshawn, it’s amazing that he happens to be a football player.

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