Chat with actor Bradley Whitford

Jul 30, 2010

Bradley Whitford discusses his work on "The Good Guys," "The West Wing" and more.

Is Josh Lyman or Dan Stark closer to your own personality?

I hope Dan is far from my personality. Unfortunately there are elements of both. Josh is closer.

Who is more fun to play: Josh Lyman of the West Wing or Dan Stark of Good Guys? Also, any chance of teaming up with Aaron Sorkin on another project?

No question, Dan Stark. The research has been fascinating.

As for Aaron, I would love to work with him anytime. I just saw him two nights ago. I'm sure down the line we'll do something again.

 

 

 

Did you only take this role because of the mustache opportunity?

No, I took it because I wanted to do something completely different. It's amazing to me how much attention the mustache gets. If you walk around LA and you bump into a cop, it's not a stereotype it's the truth, they all have mustaches. That choice came later. Luckily I'm bursting with male hormones.

Watching The Good Guys is great fun, partly because you look like you're having fun doing it! Any plans to get revenge on Josh Malina for constantly making fun of your mustache on Twitter?

Yes, I do. Although, with his career going the way it is, I think revenge would be redundant. Is Josh still doing the acting thing?

What is "Cabin in the Woods" about and what was it like filming it? Should I go see it when it comes out?

Yes you should, I think it would be very interesting. And I'm not going to tell you what it's about, or I'll get sued. But I think it's going to be a really good movie. (Another movie, by the way, that Josh Malina is not in.)

This week's episode was... revealing. How did you feel about putting yourself out there like that?

I was horrified! 'Manny Panties' was an improvised line. It was like OMG. Originally they were supposed to be whitey-tighties, which I thought was a cliche. Then they were supposed to be these big boxers.

But yes, standing around a set in a Speedo was deeply humiliating.

You've played so many kinds of characters in your work. Is there a kind of role you've never had, but would like to do someday? Of all of the roles you've had, which has been the most demanding? Which have been the easier ones?

I think that what is fun and demanding simultaneously for me is changing course, playing a character like this after playing so many sharp, smart guys in suits. I like playing guys that have totally different thinking rhythms. From a guy who is real sharp and clear to a guy like Dan, who is thinking in a fundamentally different way.

The kind of role I would like to play -- I'd like to play a fop in a restoration comedy. With platform shoes and a pomeranian on a leash.

That just reminds me of what a terrible actor Josh Malina is.

I absolutely loved the West Wing but as yet haven't seen The Good Guys. Why should I watch (apart from the fact that you're in it and I assume you're great!)?

Just because it's a total change of pace. It's utterly unique, I don't know of any show that I would compare it to right now.  Everyone I know that loved "WW" wonders the same thing -- why would I want to watch a retro '70s cop show? And they all come away laughing their butts off.

Try it, you'll like it.

I'm a big fan of the show and of your character. How did he and the show come about? Where do you get your vision for Dan Stark?

This show had a strange kind of birth. I did a pilot called Off-Duty for NBC, which NBC did not pick up -- this was when Leno was going on and they didnt have a place for it.

Kevin Riley at Fox tried to buy it. In this I was playing a dilapidated, alcaholic cop with a bright future behind him. When NBC wouldn't sell the pilot to Fox, it turned out FOX already had a program in the works called "Jack and Dan." Riley called up Matt Nix, who wrote it, and said I think we have a guy who can play Dan.

 

I don't have a vision for how to play Dan. Dan is the result of quite a bit of, some people would call it experimenting, I would call it messing around, playing, as much as possible.

Bradley, you obviously have a special relationship with Aaron Sorkin, having worked with him for more than five years on two very different projects. What makes you a Sorkin player? What makes him a Whitford writer?

I've, from the moment I met him, I came in as a replacement for a Few Good Men on Broadway, we're very good friends and we make each other laugh. I feel like I understand and feel comfortable in the rhythm of his writing, and I feel like he's comfortable that I understand what he's trying to do. And I'm just very very lucky to have that relationship with anyone, let alone someone who has written such amazing stuff. He knows I know what he's trying to do, I think.

Do you plan on returning to Broadway in the future?

I would love to. Broadway is a blast. I was there two years ago doing "Boeing Boeing," which is a French farce, and that was a blast. Chicks in miniskirts, doors slamming, it was fantastic.

You know who is not on Broadway? Josh Malina is not on Broadway.

Hey Brad. Love you on the Good Guys. I was just wondering how much of your performance is scripted and how much you get to ad-lib.

I get to ad-lib a lot, which is a radically different thing from the world of Aaron Sorkin. There is a lot of ad-libbing. Manny panties, all sorts of stuff. But it's fun.

Hi Bradley (or maybe I should say Dear Abby), I always end up falling for Josh Lyman types, even though I know I should be looking for Sam Seaborne types. Do you have any insights on redeeming qualities of the character you played so well on West Wing?

It sounds to me like you're barking up the right tree! You just haven't found the right Josh Lyman type yet. You don't want a Sam Seaborne -- didn't he sleep with a prostitute? You don't want to get mantan on your sheets.

The dialogue on West Wing seemed incredibly complicated. Was it hard to learn and memorize lines? How often did you mess up?

You had to be really ready. You would mess up a lot. You had to be very, very precise. I found, the problem with memorizing is that if it's half-memorized, your blood can't flow. So once I had it memorized, I would continue to run it at least 10 times, just so that it would be at the mercy of me instead of me being at the mercy of it. But it was definitely a challenge on that show.

And you could see how the great actors like Allison Janney, it would just flow out of them, but terrible actors like Josh Malina, it was just awful.

Hi Bradley - I love "The Good Guys," Dan Stark is one of my favorite TV characters ever. Do you ever have problems getting through scenes without cracking up?

All the time. All the time. In fact, there have been some very late, in the last episode I decided to bring esspresso, when I was playing the Silvio character, into the Lt.'s office. He asked what I was drinking I said espresso in an italian accent. It sent Colin into a 20 minute laughing fit followed by a shame spiral.

We crack each other up all the time. Colin is hilarious.

Why did this show not make it past one season? I thought it was fantastic!

Honestly, I think that it was a an example of the changing economics of television. It was too expensive without being a massive ratings hit right off the bat. And in this atmosphere, they can't wait.

The sad thing is, if the "West Wing" pilot came along today, it would never be on network television, simply because of that.

When was the last time you visited your hometown in Wisconsin? The name of the town escapes me right now? Are you able to disapear in that hometown or are you like a mini-local celebrity?

I haven't been back to Madison in a couple of years. I love Madison. The people are very nice -- they certainly know who I am there more than any other place, but I remain the same size.

How is Colin Hanks to work with? I have to admit that I wasn't a huge fan based on his movie roles but I'm liking him as your straight man. I see a good bit of his dad in him and think TV is a good venue for him.

He's a complete joy to work with. It was extremely, technically I'm a producer on this show, and basically the entire reason that was important to me is that it's all who you are working with, and he is a complete joy.

He cracks me up. Smart, funny, sane -- it's really obnoxious. He just got marries, his wife is smart, funny and sane too.

Did you like the way that storyline was wrapped up on TWW?

I vaguely remember being in bed with her.

No, not vaguely.

Yeah, I was fine with it. I was glad that they connected -- with relationships like that, there's nothing more boring than premature consumation (the title of my 2nd album.)

You know, it was obviously inevitable. I remember early on, when we realized that that was a really fun relationship, I remember in the 2nd year of the show, Tommy Schlamme saying "I'm just praying that Aaron doesn't get you together too soon." And he certainly didn't.

But I loved acting with her. Almost as much as I hated acting with Josh Malina.

Thanks for your questions, watch 'The Good Guys' -- I think we are on next Monday and then on Fridays in Sept. Tell your friends to watch too.

And most importantly, never forget, that Josh Malina is a terrible actor.

In This Chat
Bradley Whitford
Bradley Whitford plays cop Dan Stark (above) on FOX's "The Good Guys," and he spent seven seasons as Josh Lyman on NBS's "The West Wing," winning the 2001 Best Supporting Actor Emmy for the role.
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