At the “certain age” of 56, Scott Bakula enjoys one of the most stable careers of any actor on television, thanks to ‘Men of a Certain Age, the TNT drama series on which he costars with Ray Romano and Andre Braugher.
On the show, Bakula plays an actor – a footloose single guy and one of three male friends around 50 who are all coping with various middle-aged challenges, from their relationships with their spouses and children, to everyday wellness issues such as the sudden need to wear glasses (as Romano’s character finds himself doing).
The show – which debuted a year ago to critical acclaim (including kudos to co-creator Ray Romano for his performance as the newly divorced Joe Tranelli) – returns for its second season Monday night at 10/9c on TNT.
On the phone recently from L.A., Bakula talked to Fancast about the show, the character he plays, and his long history on TV, starring in ‘Quantum Leap‘ and ‘Enterprise,‘ and turning up for years in guest-starring and recurring roles on shows ranging from ‘Murphy Brown‘ and ‘Designing Women‘ to ‘Chuck.‘
In the first two upcoming new episodes of ‘Men of a Certain Age,’ your character, Terry Elliott, is struggling to sell cars in his new job and also contending with the dealership’s other salesmen, who are giving him a very hard time. Will we see Terry have a little bit of success at the car dealership this season or will he leave to go do something else?
No, you’re going to see Terry have some success.
Terry, of course, is also an actor. Is that where the similarities begin or end between you and him?
He has been, to this point in his life, a confirmed bachelor. He’s run away from responsibility and commitment. I have four kids, he has none. He doesn’t have a mortgage. I’ve been in a committed relationship for a long time – that’s not something that he’s familiar with. And he’s an unsuccessful actor and I’ve been lucky to have the success in my life. He’s really different from me and that makes it just really fun to play.
Terry is kind of rootless and as you say, Scott, he’s a confirmed bachelor with commitment issues. But he’s a likable guy, isn’t he?
I think so and they’ve done such a good job writing him. He’s the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s not devious. We know that Terry loves women. He’s genuine about it. He’s trying his best to be as honest as Terry can be and I think that you forgive a lot of his kind of childishness, the Peter Pan thing, because at his core, he’s a good guy [though] he’s not necessarily the most mature guy.
‘Men of a Certain Age’: Get to Know Terry
Did they write this character with you in mind?
No, I auditioned. Ray and I didn’t know each other. I didn’t know Andre. I did not know [co-creator] Mike Royce and they asked me to come in and have a meeting to see if we could all stand each other just chatting. And that went well enough, and then like a week later, I went on videotape. And we spent another hour together and I got the part.
How has the relationship with your costars and producers evolved through the production of nearly two seasons now?
It’s still great. I was talking to Andre the other day and I said, ‘You know, so much energy in our business is wasted on posturing and building yourself up and making yourself more important on the set.’ And it’s just so nice that basically you have three leads of a show, you kind of split the time in thirds and everybody’s just there to do the work, and we’ve all got families. It’s all kind of mature.
Mature cast, mature show. When you first heard about a show called ‘Men of a Certain Age,’ about men of ‘a certain age,’ did it surprise you that somebody was even making such a show given the fact that TV is not exactly known today for creating drama series about and for older people?
Absolutely. Look, this show doesn’t get on the air without Ray. There’s no way because nobody wants to make a show like that. So I was thrilled that it was being made when I read the script and saw this great writing. I had no [certainty] about whether it would be successful because there wasn’t anything like it on television and traditionally, people don’t go this route, so there wasn’t a reaction like, ‘Oh, it’s a slam dunk!’ It was, ‘Well, it’ll be a great pilot to be a part of [laughs]!’ And that could be the end of it.
‘Men of a Certain Age’ … Have Certain Issues
You’ve done so much TV, Scott. How would you say ‘Men of a Certain Age’ compares to all the rest?
They’re all kind of different and I think that’s one of the things that’s appealing, to go from one thing to another. So this certainly was completely different from, say, [‘Star Trek:] Enterprise.’ So you like to keep changing gears as much as you can. I don’t know that I can compare [all of his shows] other than to say this one has been extremely well-received and it’s always nice to be on that side of it.
Though you have done a handful of movies, you are what we would call a ubiquitous TV guy, someone who producers turn to again and again for lead roles and recurring characters. Why do you think that is? Why do they keep returning to you?
That’s a good question. I don’t know that I could answer that. I think our business is so strange. There’s no rhyme or reason. Sometimes you think, ‘Well, there’s no reason why I’m not in that show,’ or ‘I should have gotten that,’ and yet, you’re not there. I think I have a certain likability or whatever that seems to work well on television. I don’t think I’m a big threatening force to have in your home.
On another subject: Your story arc last season as the father of Chuck (Zachary Levi) on NBC’s ‘Chuck.’ Your character died last season. Well, does he remain deceased, or can we look forward to seeing him – i.e. you – coming back some time soon?
As far as I know, he’s dead, but everybody I say that to says, ‘Well, nobody’s ever dead on ‘Chuck.’’ What a great group of guys. Great show – Zach’s terrific. It was a ball to be a part of it and maybe I’ll get to be part of it again.
Season Two of ‘Men of a Certain Age’ premieres Monday night at 10/9c on TNT