In the story, he plays an aspiring graphic novelist who returns to his hometown when his mother (Margo Martindale) falls ill, leaving his pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) in New York. He first came to the project as an actor.

John Krasinski with co-stars Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins in The Hollars

"I don't think I've ever signed onto anything as quickly as I did this one," he says, "because I come from a really loving, well-connected family. This is obviously a very dysfunctional family, but there was something about it that was sort of universal. It's nice to tell stories about things as simple and powerful as family. In real life, you don't have time to prepare for the bad stuff and you don't have time to prepare for the good stuff, it just sort of happens."

After spending four years trying to get the film made, Krasinski ended up taking over the production as director-producer, which finally got the project moving. And he says the timing worked perfectly. "When I signed on as an actor, I didn't have a kid, and when I signed on as a director, I did," he laughs. "To say that my interpretation of this movie changed would be the understatement of the year!"

And he found directing to be a valuable challenge. "I actually felt it helped me tremendously to be in the scenes, because they're intimate, intense scenes," he says. "You don't want to break the actor's character and you don't want to break their momentum. So I tried not to call cut as much as I could, and almost make it feel like a play."

He credits his experience on the improvisational comedy The Office with helping him orchestrate scenes for The Hollars. "The Office taught me everything about ensemble," he says. "This movie was the closest I've had to The Office experience. We became a family on day one. I hadn't met Richard Jenkins [who plays his dad], but my first acting role ever was as an extra in a Marshall's commercial, and that was with Margo!"

Up next, Krasinski is starring in a 10-episode Amazon series based on the Jack Ryan novels. ""They came to me, which was really fantastic," he says about landing the role. "It's amazing because Jack Ryan for me is our American James Bond in a way. You have to look at it like a 10-part movie. Every year we'll just do a different movie."

Watch the trailer for The Hollars: