If you didn’t know anything about the new ABC comedy series “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23″ and saw the names in the cast, you would zero in on the name of James Van Der Beek and think that he’s the star of the show. Many of the questions at the show’s panel at the TCA press tour this morning were directed at JVBK as if he was the star.
But the show is an ensemble, with Van Der Beek only being what he calls “the seasoning for the steak.” And in being the seasoning, he gets to skewer the handsome, brooding image that got attached to him during the years he played Dawson Leery on “Dawson’s Creek.”
Van Der Beek plays himself, who’s a friend of the “B—–” in the title of the series, Chloe (Krysten Ritter). He’s playing someone whose star doesn’t shine as much as it used to, and he’s trying to reintegrate himself into the real world. “I auditioned against 6 other James Van Der Beeks for the role,” he joked, but continued in a more serious vein. “I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything.”
By the third episode, he feels, the TV version of Van Der Beek separates a bit more from the real thing. After the first few episodes, they don’t even make a “Dawson’s” reference until late in the season.
Why did Van Der Beek decide to go this route? “I think once the residual money ran out, it became OK to make fun of (my image),” he said to big laughs. “They kept me around Hollywood long enough to have a second coming. It’s fun not to take myself seriously.”
The show is about how the sweet June (Dreama Walker) deals with her new roommate, the deliciously complicated Chloe, after she moves in and realizes that Chloe will be challenging to live with, to say the least. How challenging? The pilot opens with June walking in on Chloe having sex with June’s visiting boyfriend… on top of June’s birthday cake.
But things aren’t all that they seem with either Chloe or June, and Chloe’s relationship with Van Der Beek is part of it. They have a sexual history (“in real life,” Ritter joked), but now are platonic friends, and Van Der Beek knows how evil and loyal all at once Chloe can be.
“I love someone who’s very involved in their own thing, and that’s where the comedy comes from,” says creator Nahnatchka Khan, who was inspired to bring in Van Der Beek after watching him in a funny video he did for Funny or Die. “He’s been a star in a rarefied world and he doesn’t know how to do normal things.”
As for leaving Dawson behind, he mentions seeing the cast members occasionally, but just like what happens to people who went to school together, life intervenes and the time between encounters expands. And those famous flannels he wore might now be at a Goodwill store near you: “I thought my mom would have kept one. But I e-mailed her and she didn’t have any.”
Watch a preview of “Apartment 23″, which debuts April 11 at 9:30 pm Eastern: