In real life, Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe are close friends, bickering and chiding one another as they join our Zoom for an interview. They’re also the writers/directors/stars of Tribeca 2021 premiere, The Beta Test. In their film, they play close friends Jordan and PJ, Hollywood agency players with neuroses and self-absorption puffed up to hilarious effect. When a mysterious purple envelope invites Jordan to an anonymous tryst, the pair find themselves at the center of a web of conspiracy—or so they think.
In yet another impressive tonal balancing act (a recurring theme in Cummings’ work)—this time reminiscent of Robert Altman’s The Player—violence, paranoia and Hollywood in-jokes ensue. Cummings and McCabe have already proven their knack for comedy, as director and actor respectively (The Beta Test is McCabe’s directorial debut; they previously collaborated on The Wolf of Snow Hollow).
What makes The Beta Test sing is their attention to character, crafting believably fake Hollywood agents and watching their carefully-curated façades unravel in a Safdie Bros-worthy crescendo of tension. Check out our interview below to discuss how the pair stuck the landing, how they try to make each other laugh in the writer’s room, and how The Beta Test fits into the greater trajectory of their careers.