Jake Lacy, Former Nice Guy, Terrifies in ‘A Friend of the Family’

The old Jake Lacy can’t come to the screen right now. Why? I used to hope he was just on a long vacation, taking some well-deserved time to unplug at, say, a Hawaiian resort. But after watching Peacock‘s A Friend of the Family, I fear he may be *gulp* dead.

For nearly a decade, Jake Lacy faithfully served as our resident on-screen good guy. He swiftly (and I like to think effortlessly) mastered the art of playing supportive supporting characters — men so kind, respectful, and downright lovable that they inspired Nice Guy rankings and headlines like “The Nicest Nice Guy Who’s Ever Nice-Guyed Onscreen.” In the years between joining The Office as the impressively normal “New Jim” in 2012, to assuming the role of Clyde, a thoughtful, reliable love interest in Hulu’s short-lived 2020 series High Fidelity, Lacy was typecast as a gentle, swoon-worthy dude who could easily gain glowing approval from parents. But that all changed in 2021, when the actor stepped into Shane Patton’s leather loafers and wreaked havoc in HBO’s The White Lotus.

In the Mike White dramedy, Lacy played a pretentious, relentlessly smug asshole. The Emmy-nominated performance was a thoroughly detestable — albeit phenomenal — departure from his usual comforting characters. It was refreshing to see Lacy in a new light, but it also left longtime fans of Nice Guy Jake a bit…concerned. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell those fans that Lacy playing an entitled jerk in a Cornell hat is nothing compared to him portraying real-life predator, pedophile, and master-manipulator Robert “B” Berchtold in A Friend of the Family.

Jake Lacy in 'The Office,' 'High Fidelity,' and 'The White Lotus'
Photo: Danny Feld/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images; Phillip Caruso / Hulu / Courtesy Everett Collection; Mario Perez/HBO

The nine-episode limited series tells the horrifying true story of the Broberg family, whose oldest daughter Jan was kidnapped several times in the 1970s by a family friend, B. The case was unpacked in the 2017 Netflix documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight, but Peacock’s adaptation seeks to offer a more personal, immersive perspective of the harrowing events with help from an engrossing, effectively chilling lead performance by Lacy.

When we first meet B in A Friend of the Family, he has all the makings of a Nice Guy Jake Lacy character. He’s not only handsome, charismatic, and caring, but he has the rare ability to make people feel seen on a deeper level. Lacy brings his quintessential likability, humor, and warmth to B, but as B charms his way into the Broberg family, he weaponizes those positive qualities to achieve his grotesque goals. Watching Jake Lacy play a villain is terrifying. But watching him play a villain who twists the typical Nice Guy trope to seduce and deceive the people in his life, including a literal child?! Unreal levels of horror.

Jake Lacy in 'A Friend of the Family'
Photos: PEACOCK ; Illustration: Dillen Phelps

After Lacy let his jerk flag fly on The White Lotus, he told Men’s Health that playing nice guy roles was “never a conscious choice.” A Vulture interview also noted, “He’s not as interested in playing the Jake Lacy Nice Guy unless it’s with an incredible director or co-star, or, he jokes, ‘the money is insane.’” Jake Lacy, sir, if you’re reading this, I get it! I’m all for you continuing to branch out, challenge yourself, and play different characters — especially lead roles. You’re killing it! But also, you’re scaring me!

The swift evolution from good guy to douchebag to real-life abuser is an emotional roller coaster worthy of its own Animorphs-style cover. And what’s next? Something even darker? A more serious drama? I, for one, need a moment to recover. So is there any way we could bring Jake Lacy Nice Guy back for one project, as a treat? If not, as they say in the business, no worries. At least we’ll always have Obvious Child, Girls, How to Be Single, and a slew of other gems from the Good Guy Jake Lacy Library to comfort us after Bad Guy Jake Lacy roles.

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