Joel McHale talks 'Spy Kids,' football and rowing

Fri, Aug 19
5:03
PM ET

Growing up in the Seattle area, Joel McHale -- one of the stars of the new movie "Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World" -- was recruited by the University of Washington to be a rower.

And McHale, who also is the host of E!'s "The Soup" and an actor on NBC's "Community", has no love lost for that first year in college.

"Those were a group of awful, awful people," said McHale, who was born in Italy and moved to the Seattle area as a child. "I think their theory was that since nobody watches rowing in America, pretend to be awesome and haze the freshmen."

McHale quit rowing but didn't give up sports. He was living in the dorm housing the Huskies football team, and several of the players asked him to try out.

"I walked on and played tight end for two years and I bulked up to 250 pounds," said McHale, who is about 6 feet 4. "I wasn't very good. But I was really good in practice. I made that defense look great."

McHale did manage to be on the team when the Huskies won the national championship in 1991. After getting his undergraduate degree in history, McHale stayed in Washington for graduate school to study theatre. He was lucky enough to join the stand-up comedy troupe called "Almost Live", which had its show broadcast on a Seattle TV affiliate.

Now with that masters degree, some experience and itching to make it big, McHale moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah Williams.

"I told her, 'Give me five years. If things aren't working out, I'll come back to Seattle to do the weather and traffic on a local radio station,' " McHale said. "In year four, I landed the role on 'The Soup'. I started making decent money and we decided to stay."

And Friday, he is opening a new movie, the fourth in the series of the Spy Kids franchise.

The film is about siblings Rebecca and Cecil Wilson (Rowan Blanchard and Mason Cook), who have no respect for their stepmom, Marissa (Jessica Alba), the wife of spy-hunting reporter Wilbur Wilson (Joel McHale). Unbeknown to the twins, Marissa is a retired spy herself. The family comes together to battle the "Timekeeper" (Jeremy Piven).

For McHale, who now has two young boys, it was a perfect time to do a children's movie.

"Look at what has happened to me. I can't believe my good fortune," McHale said. "I'm doing things I always wanted to do. And my wife in this movie is Jessica Alba? Imagine that."