James Urbaniak: Playing the Most Likeable Person on Difficult People

Aubry D'Arminio
James Urbaniak, Highlights
Ali Goldstein/Hulu

He Plays Arthur, a PBS producer and the doting live-in boyfriend of aspiring comedian/difficult person Julie (Julie Klausner). “Arthur is basically Julie’s Cheryl David [from Curb Your Enthusiasm],” Urbaniak says with a laugh. “He’s infinitely patient.”

Where You've Seen Him As legendary cartoonist Robert Crumb opposite Paul Giamatti in the film American Splendor, as Dwight Schrute’s crass best friend, Rolf, on The Office and, most recently, as sadistic TV producer Grant Gunderschmidt on Comedy Central’s Review. But his most famous—or infamous—role might be as shoe salesman and foot fetishist Buster on Sex and the City, who gave Charlotte free pumps in exchange for, well, you know. “TV Guide Magazine listed the episode as one of the show’s funniest in a Sex and the City retrospective,” the actor says proudly. “It’s fun to be a footnote in a historical show like that.”

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Why We Love Him In lesser hands, Arthur might come off as a clichéd sitcom pushover who concedes everything to his caustic,larger-than-life partner with a “Whaddaya gonna do about it?” shrug. Instead, Urbaniak finds the heart in playing the supportive straight man. “Arthur genuinely admires Julie’s outspokenness,” Urbaniak says. “She puts it out there in a way that he can’t. There’s much more nuance to their relationship. It helps that the real Julie and I have been friends for 15 years. The appreciation we have for each other in real life helps their dynamic land.”

New York’s Most Wanted In the episode streaming today, Arthur finds himself bearing more than a passing resemblance to a pedophile roaming Manhattan—a shout-out to his guest stints on the Law & Order franchise. (He’s appeared on Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit.) “Though, on my SVU episode I wasn’t playing a pedophile, but the red herring who leads them to the pedophile,” he says. “My character just hid tiny video cameras in the women’s restroom. I am usually cast as oddballs and occasionally actual bad guys, murderers or evil geniuses. Arthur should be a challenge for me!”

Difficult People, Hulu