PTR Senior Staff Writer
When you have actors Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh on the phone at the same time, getting a word in edgewise is a challenge. You just want to try and keep up as they riff off one another, finish each others' sentences and let the one-liners fly.
Just don’t call their new show Trust Me a dramedy (you know, that combination of "drama" and "comedy").
“We don’t like saying ‘dramedy.’ Will one of you [bloggers] please coin a new phrase?” jokes Eric.
“Nobody likes to say ‘dramedy,’” adds Tom. “Come up with a new thing. That’s your single mission.”
The new TNT series, which premieres Monday at 10 p.m., centers on two best friends working as creative partners at a top-ranked Chicago ad agency. The series also co-stars Monica Potter (Boston Legal), Griffin Dunne (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), Sarah Clarke (24), Mike Damus (Lost in Yonkers) and Geoffrey Arend (Garden State).
In between both laughing AT and WITH Eric and Tom, we learn this was the right script at the right time for both actors to draw them back into series television.
Says Eric: “I missed being on a series. I wanted something smart that was about grown ups but was also funny. I didn’t want to be a cop or a lawyer. And the authenticity of this script – both the advertising part and the friendship part - really spoke to me. It was exactly what I wanted to do, and I just prayed to get paired up with somebody great.”
He pauses for a moment.
Cue the punch line.
“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. But, I do get Tom Cavanagh, which is just fine. It’ll do.”
Tom laughs and says: “I’m [always] looking for anything that’s well written, and this was one of those instances. There is no good show without good writing, and in this instance, I like playing the guy who is a little darker [and] different from some of the other stuff I’ve done. [My] character walks a line, and the show [itself] walks a line between funny and serious. As an actor, [being a part of a show like this] is just a boon to play.”
Set against the backdrop of the high-pressure world of advertising (no, this is NOT a present-day Mad Men), the show focuses on Eric’s character of Mason and Tom’s character of Conner as a pair of ad men who have enjoyed a successful creative partnership for a number of years – albeit a yin-yang relationship.
Art director Mason is the responsible, workaholic family man with a wife, two children and a loyalty to the brands he helps sell. Copywriter Conner is single, impulsive and has the attention span of a teenager. Their relationship is put to the test when Mason is named a creative director of the agency, making him Conner’s boss, and the series follows the changing dynamics between the two friends.
On playing Connor, Tom says: “I like everything about it. I like the fact he’s irresponsible, petty, shallow, immature and brilliant. He can skate on a lot of things simply because he’s decent at what he does [work-wise], but he [is also] actually a decent friend. There’s goodness in spite of all [his] womanizing and drinking. And he feels very real – like a lot of the guys I know. So, it’s enjoyable playing him. And he’s exceptionally well written. Any time you’re doing episodic [television], and you’re going to see and play the [same character] every day, you want it to be something that you like to do and [also have it be] a character that is well written.”
On playing Mason, Eric agrees and says: “For me, as much as it’s fun to play characters that are a complete 180 degrees from your own personality, there’s a part of me that really likes bringing my own sensibility and sense of humor to [a role]. I had eight years [on Will & Grace] of [portraying a gay man], so it’s nice to now be able to play [husband and wife] stuff. And some of what has been written for Sarah Clarke’s character and I - as husband and wife - has mirrored my life in terms of some of the arguments I’ve had and some of the situations I’ve had with my own wife. So, that is fun – to be able to bring your real life [into] those [fictional] situations. And, I like Mason’s central dilemma; the idea of a guy that didn’t really think he wanted any power suddenly having power and trying to figure out how to use it. As an actor who has been a producer, I’ve had that exact dilemma where one day I’m happy to be the boss and happy to be in control, and the next day I just want nothing to do with it. I just want to play like actors play and let somebody else make the decisions. So I think I relate to [his dilemma].”
Inevitably, one wonders how audiences will take to Eric’s new role after having adored him for so long as the incomparable, Emmy® award winning Will Truman on Will & Grace. That is, does he fear audiences have typecast him as being an actor only known for playing gay-centric roles on sitcoms?
“I guess we’ll find out,” says Eric. “But, I don’t think so. What I found when I started to shop around again and meet with some of the people at the networks to see what the next step might be [to get back on a series], they weren’t only presenting sitcoms to me, and they weren’t only presenting gay roles. There was a lot of leading man stuff. So, I think I managed to play [Will] and circumvent that [kind of typecasting]. I’m very proud of Will and of [Will & Grace], but I think people know that was just a role I was playing, and they will hopefully give me a chance to be Mason.”
When I specifically asked both actors what they found most challenging about being on the new show, it actually turned into what they’ve found most rewarding: the writing. Seeing as this show is being brought to us by Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny, c0-executive producers of TNT’s hit series (and PTR Fave) The Closer, we’re not surprised.
Says Eric: “Both of us have worked on hour or half hour [shows] where half of your energy is spent looking at the dialogue going, man, how do we fix this? How do we make this work? But here, we’ve just found [script after script] arrive, and we don’t want to fix anything. It’s all just really working. Every script has been really great.”
So what does the duo think will compel people to want to watch the new show?
“If you can get in on Trust Me from the beginning,” says Eric, “you’re going to love these characters and the fresh setting. This show doesn’t feel like any other show that I’ve seen in the last few years. I’ve been saying it’s kind of thirtysomething, but it has almost a Boston Legal kind of madness to it as well. I think it’s a real mix for people looking for a smart funny hour.”
But leave the type casting at the door.
“Don’t judge us,” says Tom.
“I think both of us have shows behind us that we are really proud of, but we are exceptionally proud of this [show]. We hope people that watch television understand that we’re actors, and we have to move from thing to thing. But, at the same time, if you’re a big fan of a certain show, certain characters get burned into your minds. Just give us a chance to be these [new] guys and not the guys we used to be. I think you’re going to love these characters.”
And tell your friends and family to watch.
“And their friends’ families and their families’ friends,” says Tom.
Trust Me premieres Monday, January 26th at 10 p.m. on TNT. You can learn more about the series by visiting the Trust Me Official Web site.