By Tom Rose
Three-time Emmy Award-winning actor Brad Garrett is the star of the half-hour comedy series “‘Til Death” which kicks off a third season tonight on FOX. And as we reported earlier, Brad is a busy guy these days, fielding not only that scripted series, but a new online reality show “Dating Brad Garrett” which debuts exclusively next Monday on Crackle.com.
But it’s not all play and no work for the 6′ 8″ gentle giant. Last week he made a significant charitable contribution to the “Stand Up To Cancer” telethon by becoming the first man ever to have a prostate exam on live TV.
Even so, Brad was good enough to catch up with us on how the shows are developing, and to fill us in on what to expect.
Q: Because you have both these projects going, and they both have to do with relationships and marriage, in regards to ‘Til Death, do you think Eddie and Joy will always be together? Is there going to be any exploring of them maybe splitting up and doing a little single life with both of them?
Brad: I don’t really know if that’s what we want to do on the show. I’m sure we’re going to address how a marriage can evolve or doesn’t evolve, and I think we may have a bump or two along the way.
I don’t know if we’re really going to get to where we’re exploring single life, per se, but you never know, they do have a lot of interesting stories coming up, and I think maybe one of us may, but I don’t know if it would be where we’re both out and about. I think we have more of a kind of relationship with that.
We’re very vocal about it, we’re very expressive, and even though we seem to be yapping and nipping at each other’s heels a lot, we do express it and get it out and I think it’s the couples that don’t do that, that really have the biggest risk of looking outside the marriage.
Q: As far as the dating show, can you just talk about that a bit.
Brad: Yes, we have one spot available. Seriously, what it really is, it’s just me going out with various women, with various ideas and attitudes and wishes and dreams, like all single people have and how I either berate them or try to get to know them or vice versa.
Q: You were on “The View” Monday. It’s a little off topic, but sometimes people, when you’re on talk shows, because you’re always on the edge, they look a little scared sometimes. How do you decide how far you’re going to go when you’re on something like that?
Brad: A lot of that boils down to the medication. What it really is, I also did Howard Stern yesterday, and I can pretty much do whatever I want. When I’m surrounded by four ladies like I am on The View, I try to be a little bit more tempered. People really know that when I come on, it could get a little edgy, and folks have to understand, it’s really part of my personality, it’s a huge part of my stand-up; it’s really just what I do. I try to curtail it, sometimes it gets a little out there, but most of the time I try to – I don’t have a filter, that’s one of my problems, so I just have to try to put things through the little pea brain before they come out. Whoopi is very familiar with how I work, as is Joy, and I think all in all, there wasn’t much collateral damage.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the new season of ‘Til Death, I love you and Joely together. Is there anything we should know? I hear your neighbors are not going to be around.
Brad: The neighbors have moved on to different projects, to be honest, and sometimes when you start a television show, you really don’t know what it’s about until you get into it. We have discovered the strength of the show really seems to be the chemistry that Joely and I, fortunately, have been able to captivate over the last couple of years.
Joely and I had never worked together; we didn’t really know each other. When she came in to read for the part, it was really, really instant, and we’re just trying to focus on that marriage, and then have characters that kind of come in and out of our lives, like J.B. Smoove, who has been a wonderful addition and who is back for a full season this year as well. Our daughter has just been cast as Lauren Storm who is terrific; Tim Sharp is coming back as her boyfriend.
We’re doing a lot of exploring, but at the end of last season, as the end of year two, I think we really started to kind of get our momentum and we’re really trying to see what the show’s about.
Q: About the Web show, what was the genesis of this? Did you ever picture yourself doing such a thing, even only a few years ago?
Brad: I have a really great relationship with Sony, they’re obviously the people, the studio who is behind ‘Til Death, and their comedy creative team is just a very inventive group of people who seem to kind of be in the wheelhouse, as I am, as far as what is funny and what’s off the wall.
It actually started one day, I had a meeting regarding ‘Til Death and I went in there, and the night before, I had a disastrous date, and I started talking about it to a couple of executives over there. We just started laughing and talking about what it’s really like to be a semi-celebrity, if you will, living in a single world with 30-something to 40-something year old women. It was really just a very odd date and we started laughing about it.
I said, you know, because I’m not big on reality shows because most of them aren’t realistic. My thing was I would like to just take a camera, go out on a date, go to a restaurant, have totally every single date was non-scripted, and just show what it’s like, as much as we can, to be on a date on this day and time, with a sense of reality of what it really is. A lot of it’s really my humor, my cynicism, my take on marriage, and we throw these poor innocent women in the middle of it. Some of them are really funny and some of them couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and a couple followed me home and not in a good way, kind of in a stalker way.
Q: I think J.B. Smoove has been a really great addition to the show. How did it work out that you were lucky enough to get him? What do you think of him as an actor, as a comic, and as a person?
Brad: Lucky is the word. We all fell in love with him on Curb, and we thought he would be a great foil for my character, Eddie. When we saw him, we just thought, boy, how could we incorporate him in the show? It was a bit of a real tactical move to really land him here, and Sony aggressively went after him and we were very excited about it. Then, one of our head writers came up with idea of the Big Brother, this guy was caught in the Big Brother program and never got his brother, we thought, what a funny way to get into it. The minute J.B. showed up, he hit it out of the park from the get go, and he’s been doing it ever since.
He has an amazing likeability about him and he still has that edge, which is the kind of edge that’s such a great counterpoint to these white folks growing up in Philly. He was just a great friend for Eddie because he’s a schemer and a dreamer like Eddie Stark, so it was just a great fit. We got very lucky.
As far as offstage, he’s just a terrific guy; he’s a stand-up like me and like a lot of the writers on the show, so we can very easily get to the funny.
Q: I was just wondering you’ve been on two successful scripted shows in your career. How did you find the leap to the unscripted reality, and was it easier or harder than you were thinking it was going to be? How did that go for you?
Brad: It’s kind of like what I’ve said before, the majority of reality shows are not reality, even though they call them non-scripted, there is an A, B, and C plot, and away they go. These are totally a poor, helpless date and me in a room together. To me, the unscripted part of it was what really made it exciting, and made it experimental and hopefully gave it a feeling of reality. I welcome that.
Q: I was wondering if you could share your most memorable moment you’ve had from various dating debacles.
Brad: In real life?
Q: No, from the show.
Brad: From the show, I have to tell you, gosh, I know this sounds like a debacle, it was kind of like a dream date for me. What happened is there was one lady; actually, she was the last date we filmed. Ironically, she was picked by my Mother, on the panel, to be a good date for me, and she was a very attractive gal. A little Hollywood as far as her various parts, I felt, had a lot of work done. Do you know what I’m saying, which is totally fine. I, personally, believe in evolution and I welcome it, hence the way I look.
We started talking about why women feel that augmentation is so important, and how I felt it was very sexy and attractive for a woman to really be who she is. I found that acceptance of someone to not change their body was kind of cool and the whole thing and we started talking about her attributes, if you will. It kind of got a little defensive in one way and she ended up exposing her blouse clowns. That was kind of off the wall, even for a guy like me, I was quite taken aback, and we’re engaged. No, I’m kidding, we’re not engaged, there’s a paternity suit and a restraining order. That was kind of off the wall, nobody expected that.
Most of them decided, boy, I really don’t want to be here, after they were there with me for a while, which you can’t blame them, look at my life.
Q: Did any of them get to meet your children?
Brad: Oh, god no, oh no, no; no one meets the kids unless I think it’s a woman that I’m going to spend some real time with. See, again, people have to understand, this is more of a comedy take on me being single than it was looking for the love of my life. I mean, I’m not that naive, just like The Bachelor, the mannequin who stands in the castle with the rose in his hand, these are glorified dates. What I did was take the glory out of it, and just made them real dates. I didn’t expect to find the love of my life; again, I just wanted to show people how scary dating can be.
Q: I thought the panel on the online show was very interesting. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how you decided, or who decided, on the experts that would appear with you.
Brad: Well, those are my decisions; I figured they’re the people in my life who I’m closest with. My ex-wife Jill, and my Mom, who has strange taste in people, my urologist, because he knows me maybe too intimately, but probably better than my ex-wife, if you know what I’m saying. And, my exterminator, who I’ve literally known for 15 years. I’m a bit of a recluse; I’m a bit of a hermit. I knew if I had friends do it, there would be some agenda or ulterior motive. I figured my exterminator who really doesn’t like me, to be honest with you, would kind of add a different hue to the whole scenario.
It’s interesting to watch who – my ex-wife, I think, really just picked someone who – she wanted to hurt me, because this person had an Adam’s apple, that’s all I can tell you. It was a little strange.
Q: Any chance of this thing going on television at some point?
Brad: I don’t believe so, no I don’t believe so. It was a lot to do this simultaneously with ‘til Death and it just become a lot of work for everyone involved. I think it was fun, it was great, I enjoyed it, but I think I’m going to focus right now on our show Wednesday’s at 9:00.
Q: Most actors go their entire career looking for a single long-running season, and now you’re on your second. How gratifying is it to know that you’ve been able to play a part of two shows that lasted for so long?
Brad: I feel very, very grateful. I’m a lucky guy, you need a lot of luck, and then when the cameras role, you have to have this group of writers, directors, and actors that just gel, and it seems to literally be happening more and more. I’m blessed to be surrounded by the people I’m surrounded by, there’s so much strength and talent and that has a lot to do with it. I feel very grateful, there are folks with a lot more talent than I that are not on the air, so it’s a crap shoot, but what was exciting for me was to take on a role that was very different than my Robert Barone role. This guy’s a lot like me and it’s fun to play someone close to yourself, so I’m having a ball.
Q: Even before Raymond, you played a pretty legendary sitcom character as the mechanic on Seinfeld. What was that like to be a part of that show?
Brad: Coming up in stand-up, Jerry was really one of my heroes, and it was just great to be part of it, it was their second to the last season. I went in and auditioned and read for Jerry, and thought, this would be great. It’s just amazing the amount of people that remember that role. I’m a bit of a car guy myself, so I am burdened with the personalities of mechanics all the time, and I just kind of took one of a guy that I knew. It was a lot of fun just to be involved with anything on Seinfeld was really a treat.
Q: I just related everything together here. You’re doing dating, Brad, obviously and you exposed yourself, pretty much, last Friday, with Stand Up to Cancer, with the prostate exam. How do you feel about, as a person, doing the role, you’re really putting Brad Garrett out there.
Brad: As far as the prostate thing, I have to tell you, when Laura Ziskin called, first of all, you take Laura’s call, that’s for sure. I knew how passionate she was about this.
Phil Rosenthal, who was the creator of Raymond, wrote the bit and they both called me and said, look, there are very few people that can get away with this on a humor level and there are probably very few people who would even do this. They said we want to bring up awareness through humor; a prostate exam is obviously something that is not the greatest four minutes of your life. They said is there a way we could gingerly do it, push the envelope, and make some awareness?
The exciting thing about it is when it aired there was a company that manufactures prostate drugs for rehabilitation, and they wrote Laura a check for $10 million after the spot. They said it’s the first time anyone has taken this to a place where it’s accessible, where it’s humorous, where it’s real, and then there was a message. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
Unfortunately, cancer has touched my life, I lost my Father to it last November, he had battled it on an off, various cancers, for 20 years, and I’m involved with Children’s Charities. Actually, I have my own charity that I started that helps supplement families with terminal children. I’m very, very passionate about the battle against it, as millions of people are, and it showed that night with raising over $100 million. Even though I am a guy, even with my crazy rhetoric and whatever I do, at the end of the day, I’m pretty darn shy, so it was not easy, I will tell you that. I had to just put myself out there. I was hoping they would go down there and find my career.
Q: To stay on the rectal examination subject here for a moment, were you sure of the doctor, was he a real doctor?
Brad: Yes, it was a doctor I was able to see, meet and greet. I was going to use my guy, but he wanted too much money, which isn’t a joke. I think only in Hollywood would that happen.
Q: How did you feel afterwards?
Brad: Well, we’ve been dating ever since. Look, thank goodness, I’m healthy and I’m okay, and I have three friends that are getting an exam this week on a dare. They said if you do that, I’ll do that. I joke about it, but I mean, my gosh, it’s serious.
Q: Were you confident that you would pass the exam?
Brad: Yes, actually I did because I had an intense physical literally ten days prior to that, out of coincidence. This thing with the cancer benefit happened very last minute because they were worried about the sensors, they were worried about getting it past, they were worried about everything and it ended up – the publicity it got alone just generated so many eyes to it. Look, I’m not going to call it a shining moment in my life, but hey, if a few people called in a pledge, you have to love it.
Q: Back to “Til Death, in between seasons, is there anything you do to get to know Eddie a little more, or by the end of the first season, do you know him inside and out?
Brad: I have to tell you, it took me a couple seasons to really get to know Eddie. How I played him early on, I wasn’t in love with it, I felt he had to be tempered a little bit, and I felt he had to be a little more vulnerable and a little more open, so I’m always tweaking him. It’s funny, he’s closest to myself as anything I’ve ever played and if I could just keep that into it and spice him with a little bit of humanity.
I feel that the last part of season two, the last part of last year where I had that swimming episode where I learned to swim because I wanted to do something great for Joy, take her to Hawaii where she always wanted to go, that’s really where the guy lives. He’s really just a big kid with crazy ideas and schemes to get to that next place in his life where he thinks he belongs, where he can make a better life for Joy.
That’s the wheelhouse where I want to keep Eddie, and I think it’s – Joely hit this role when she was playing Joy, she hit it out of the gate, immediately. She knew who she was and I came from playing such a very different part for nine years that it was important that this one was as different as it could be from Robert, but still had the quality of believability and who I was.
Q: From your early days of stand-up and appearing on Carson, is there anything that stayed with you that helps you on ‘til Death?
Brad: Sitcoms are great for people with stand-up roots because you’re in front of that live audience. I think the fear I had when I was on The Tonight Show at 24, you get through a night like that, regardless of how the set goes, and the set was okay, you get this feeling of, wow, I could almost do anything.
I walked out on Carson, I did this, and it’s all a matter of – to this day, I have anxiety, to this day, I get worried or nervous, it never, ever leaves you, but you just get better at it. That’s what I learned. I look at what I did on Carson when I was 24 and I thought, oh my god, I couldn’t do those jokes if there was a gun to my head today.
The key is to always grow and always get better, always risk and do things that scare you, like the prostate thing. I know it sounds crazy, I was scared, nervous to death, but you know, you get away from something like that, and it’s literally about conquering the fear, which makes you just a better performer, whether you’re a painter, a singer, or an actor, really.
Q: Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch ‘Til Death?
Brad: I think because it’s, hopefully, they see themselves in this relationship. The majority of people that are married, or in a relationship, are trying to make it work, the majority, I’m going to say 90% of people that are involved with someone. It takes a certain amount of work, and I think when viewers can see themselves in a relationship or different colors that their relationship has, I think it’s a feeling of comfort. It’s a feeling of, yeah, this is okay, this is what I’m going through, oh my gosh, my husband just did what Eddie did, or my wife did something that Joy did. That’s why we keep – the mantra I learned from the Raymond people, which I’ve tried to bring over here is can this really happen, and if we keep the writing and the performances within the realm of everyday reality with relationships then whether something is funny or not, if it’s real and believable, we’re halfway home. I’m hoping people find themselves in these characters.
Don’t miss the very funny Brad Garrett on “Til Death” tonight on FOX and “Dating Brad Garrett” debuting Sept. 15, exclusively on Crackle.com