10 Questions for Steve Carell

From The 40-Year-Old Virgin to The Office's clueless boss Michael Scott, he's made hilariously awkward comedy an art form. His new film, Get Smart, is in theaters. Steve Carell will now take your questions

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Mary Ellen Matthews / Corbis Outline

Steve Carell

How obligated did you feel to stay true to the original Get Smart series, and how much did you modernize the character? Heather Boyle, HAMILTON, N.J.

It was daunting. I felt that the best way to pay tribute to Don Adams and the show would be to keep from doing an impersonation or a knockoff. They did it, and they did it so well, there's no reason to just duplicate it. We try to take the essence of the show and reinterpret it in a modern context.

You often play characters that are so awkward, they make people uncomfortable. Do you ever make yourself uncomfortable? Carrie Coward Bucher TONGANOXIE, KANS.

I make myself uncomfortable minute to minute. [Laughs.] Honestly, I don't necessarily make myself uncomfortable, but I do enjoy that vein of comedy. I like it when things are pushed just a little too far.

How is your character from The Office, Michael Scott, different from Ricky Gervais' David Brent [in the original U.K. version]? Adrian Kung PASADENA, CALIF.

I didn't watch too much David Brent because I didn't want to be inclined to do an impersonation of Ricky Gervais. But I can tell you how they are alike better than how they are different: they both don't have a great deal of self-awareness and go through life with a bit of an emotional blind spot.

Are any of Michael Scott's quirks inspired by your own? Chris Cox, RESTON, VA.

I'm sure there are elements of Michael Scott that are a part of me. I would rather not know exactly what they are. One thing people often say is that if you don't know a Michael Scott, then you are Michael Scott. Food for thought.

If you didn't pursue acting, what would you be doing? Andre Rosario EGG HARBOR, N.J.

I would teach history and coach a couple of sports. I think that would make me very, very happy. That's always been my backup plan.

Are you ever intimidated by the performance level that is expected of you? Ryan Timothy, PHOENIX

Not until that question. I didn't realize that there was a performance level expected of me until right this instant. So, yes, from here on out, I'm a bit petrified. I will now become a teacher for sure.

Does your wife [actress Nancy Walls] think you're funny? Jonathan Butler GREENSBORO, KANS.

She does. I get her sense of humor, I think, better than anybody else, and she gets mine better than anybody else. She is the smartest, funniest person I've ever met. I always look to her as a barometer of whether it's good or not.

Do you support Barack Obama or John McCain? Rodrigo Carlón, MADRID

I'll be voting for Ron Paul, come hell or high water. [Laughs.] Not really. I stay clear of declaring my political choices. I feel like my voice is no more valuable, no less valuable than anyone else's.

Given your success with comedic roles, what drives you to do more serious characters? Is this to avoid being typecast? Kevin DeLury, SAN FRANCISCO

I try not to do things based on how I think they will make people perceive me. I don't want to be too precious about any specific role; I just want to have fun. Otherwise, what's the point?

Would you ever get your body hair waxed again for a role? Terry Owings, AUCKLAND

That, I would have to give serious thought to. Having that done for 40-Year-Old Virgin was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced. I tend not to get roles that call for me walking around bare-chested, so I doubt that that will be demanded. But, I suppose, anything for the art.

Podcast at Time.com To listen to the interview with Steve Carell and to subscribe to the 10 Questions podcast on iTunes, go to time.com/10questions

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