NBC’s new comedy “Animal Practice” stars Justin Kirk (“Weeds“) as Dr. George Coleman, a skilled New York City veterinarian who loves his patients, but despises their owners. For years Coleman has been running Crane Animal Hospital in his distinctly unorthodox style. But when the hospital’s elderly owner dies, an unwelcome regime shift arrives in the form of her granddaughter Dorothy Crane (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) — who just happens to be George’s ex.
From executive producers Scot Armstrong (“The Hangover Part II“) and Ravi Nandan (“Best Friends Forever“), “Animal Practice” co- stars Tyler Labine (“Reaper“) as Dr. Doug Jackson, a romantically challenged vet; Bobby Lee (“Harold & Kumar“) as the hapless Dr. Yamamoto; Kym Whitley (“We Bought A Zoo“) as hospital administrator Juanita; Betsy Sodaro as the raunchy Nurse Angela; and Crystal, as Rizzo, George’s closest capuchin companion.
Prior to the show’s Sept. 26 primetime debut, NBC will offer a sneak preview of the pilot episode this Sunday, August 12, following the Olympics Closing Ceremony. Below, the cast offers five things you should know about the series:
The Concept: Writer-creator Brian Gatewood says the idea for the show came to him during a routine visit to the vet with his two rescue cats. “I went and I sort of thought about the interaction between people and the animals and how sometimes I will put my own issues onto an animal,” he admits. From there he approached writing partner Alessandro Tanaka, who loved the idea of a workplace comedy set at a vet hospital. Armstrong and Nandan soon came on board, then NBC. “I’ve never seen a show that was sort of where human behavior was looked at specifically through the prism of animal behavior,” adds co-executive producer Anthony Russo. “And it just seemed like such a fresh and original and surprising way to look at things.”
Monkey Business: One word: Crystal. Yes, the series features an ensemble cast of talented comedic actors, but it’s Crystal, known for her work in “The Hangover II,” and “We Bought a Zoo,” who steals the show. And, like any break-out star, she’s met with mixed emotions on set. Kirk finds her “amazing” to work with. But Whitley has an alternate point of view. “I put it in my contract not to be in any scenes with her because she is a scene-stealer,” she jokes.
Take a Look at a Sneak Peek Below and Decide Where You Stand on the Crystal Debate:
Changes: There are two major changes from the original pilot. One, Dorothy was initially played by actress Amy Huberman, who was let go for creative reasons and later replaced by Garcia Swisher. Star Bobby Lee says the moment Garcia Swisher stepped on set, he knew she was the one. “We did the part with Amy and she was so sweet,” Lee tells XfinityTV.com. “But then when we met Joanna, we got it. She just has a warmth about her, and I felt like that character needed a little bit more of that.” The second switch was the name of Crystal’s character. Originally called “Dr. Zaius,” now Crystal is simply known as “Rizzo.” The reason for the swap was simple: Producers couldn’t get the rights to “Planet of the Apes,” hence Rizzo was born.
A Celebration of Animals: Armstrong, the owner of two rescue dogs, says he hopes the show reflects a celebration of animals and the people who love them. “When we were inventing what this hospital could really be, I think we invented the kind of place that we wished we could go,” Armstrong says of Crane. “This is sort of an aspirational place [where] truly everyone has one thing in common. They all love animals and dedicate their lives to saving and helping animals.” But, he notes, it’s also a human story. “We have a really unique character [George] in that he really sees the whole human population as animals, and then another main character [Dorothy] that is more of a people-person.” That combination, he says, allows for a more balanced approach to the series. “Hopefully the comedy and the way that these really strong characters interact stands on its own… But then we can rely on how cute the animals are too, and play off that.”
Bobby and the Python: The pilot features one incredibly realistic scene with Dr. Yamamoto wrestling a python wrapped around his body. There’s a reason it seems so realistic — because it was. “I was thinking [we'd use] a CGI [snake] or something, but we didn’t,” Lee explains. “I think we did two takes with the snake. It strangled me…And it literally pissed on my face.” Although the python was trained, Lee still recalls feeling uneasy as it coiled around his neck. “I saw a light. I saw my grandfather,” he jokes. “And then I heard ‘Cut.’ It squeezed pretty hard.”
“Animal Practice” premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 8/7c on NBC.