Every time you see Greg Grunberg in a movie or film, he just makes you smile. You just know he is going to have a funny way of making his role the one thing you remember and laugh about. Bringing that charismatic charm to the ABC Family comedy series BABY DADDY, Greg took a few minutes to chat about his new character Ray Wheeler in a recent press conference call and gave the scoop on what inspired him to take on this role and what he hopes to do in the future.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you started working on the show, how you got the part?
GREG: Sure. My agent called me up and said, “Well your dreams have come true.” No, that’s not true. No, my agent said, “Listen I think there’s a really cool show that you’re going to love and your kids can finally watch something that you’re doing.” I’ve been very, very fortunate and had a, what I think is a really nice career so far. Unfortunately all the things I’ve done from FELICITY to ALIAS to HEROES, even HAWAII FIVE-O, or the other show that I did called LOVE BITES; they’re all just kind of inappropriate for my kids in one way or another. I’ve been looking to do something, certainly multi-cam and comedy driven, and also it would be great if my kids could watch it. This show, let me tell you something, I don’t know if you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you have, it’s so funny and its smart; the actors are fantastic, especially with the way my character comes in. They’ve been talking about him so much and he’s such an integral part of this family, it’s just such a fun, kind of cameo and hopefully it will develop into more, who knows, but I’ve had so much fun working on it. So it was really just a fortuitous thing, and again this cast is fantastic, I had a blast.
Is your character going to come back again, do you know?
GREG: I don’t know, that would be up to you, blog your head off. I have a lot of friends on the show; I made a lot of friends and also Michael Lembeck who’s just brilliant. He and I worked together many, many years ago at the beginning of my career and then, actually a few times, and he is one of the producers and director of that episode. So he told me, and then a lot of the— everybody at ABC Family has been so supportive during that process of making the show. So it wouldn’t surprise me if I came back, I would love to come back in any way possible. I had a really good time.
What can you tell us about your character as Ray Wheeler?
GREG: Ray Wheeler is the kind of the much talked about father of the two boys and now grandfather and ex-husband. You know Melissa and I, we had this relationship and it’s hard not to love Melissa, so it was kind of challenging because we were kind of at each other’s throats in a really funny way when I first get introduced on the show. There are some major surprises to my character, there are a lot of unknowns when I come in, so they’re talking about me like, oh you know it’s dad and their whole reason why my character comes back at this point is because they’re trying to reenact this Christmas card, this tradition that they’ve had on the show, the family has had, of taking a family Christmas picture. It’s a shock to Melissa and to the family and to our friends, that they’re saying, oh, he’s coming back, he’s back? It’s great to have this kind of mystery behind it and then my character comes in at the very beginning of the episode, so it’s fun. What I loved is the whole holiday aspect of it and the family aspect of it and also working with everybody, they were great.
What was your favorite part about playing Ray?
GREG: That there were so many sides to him. That he’s kind of an unexpected character with what he does for a living and like there’s this stuff, because he’s been out of the family for so long, so when he comes back it’s kind of like, well dad, so what’s been going on and what are you into? One of my favorite things is there’s always that tension between a husband and wife that we’re married, they raise these great kids and she is such a funny, she’s so brilliant and she’s so funny, Melissa is, so it was great. You’ll see; I mean they’re all hoping that everything will work out, that we will kind of rekindle our love and how that plays out it’s just really, it’s just done in a funny way. The writers are brilliant and they really came up with something funny. I’m excited. I’m also doing a live tweet. I’m going to be on my Twitter stream taking questions live during the East Coast feed tonight at 8:30, so I wanted, if I could just put that out there @GregGrunberg on Twitter, you can go back and forth while the show is on, which is going to be cool, and that’s tonight.
Comparing your former work to BABY DADDY, did you have any experience with comedy previously to BABY DADDY?
GREG: I did, I did a show called LOVE BITES, which was on a different network and it was really funny and then I got to work with Constance Zimmer, who I’ve always been a huge fan of, but that wasn’t multi-cam comedy. You know multi-cam is in front of a live audience, so you really get a direct response from the audience and it’s theater, which is a blast, and especially when your working with actors that can really kind of adjust and if something comes up and it’s really spontaneous and funny, you want to be able to go toe-to-toe with somebody who can give it right back to you; I mean in the little ways. I mean this show is a very, very well written and the jokes are funny and the situations are great and characters are great, but it was just really a dream. I had such a good time on the show, and like I said before, my kids can see the show, which is great. I’ve done pilots before and I did a sitcom with Michael Lembeck, the director and producer on this many, many years ago called FLYING BLIND and that was also a comedy. So I kind of started off— and everything, like on FELICITY I always tried to infuse comedy into it. ALIAS, you know everybody would walk into the room with a gun, I would have a calzone; I tried to be funny, but it usually ended up on the cutting room floor. So this is funny, it’s a good way to be able to do comedy, but also in a way that’s written real. If you watch the show it’s a sitcom, no question, but the characters are real and the relationships are real. So it’s relatable and it’s not off-putting; you don’t kind of go, no one talks like that, everybody in the show talks like that, they’re real people. So that’s what attracted me to it.
After BABY DADDY do you prefer a single cam or a multi-cam?
GREG: Both actually, I really just want to do comedy, I really, really want to that, I keep getting drawn into dramas and sci-fi stuff because of the success of HEROES, and I’m never going to turn down reading a script or something that’s just wows me and it’s just incredible. I’m definitely going to consider it and I would love to, I just love to work and I love to work with a lot of people, but single camera; there was a show on Stars years ago called HEAD CASE. If you haven’t seen that, that’s something to look up, that was sort of loosely scripted in kind of a CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM way and that was a single camera and I loved doing that. But there’s just really nothing better than, to me, multi-cam where you’re with a group of people that all can hold their own and are great actors and it’s like my band, Band From TV. You know I play in this band, I’m the drummer, if I make a mistake everybody knows it, and there’s something very exciting about that. When you’re in front of a live audience you can play to that and you get more takes and you can fix mistakes, but it’s just a blast. It’s so much fun; it’s the dream job for an actor, especially with a group of people like this. So I had a great time.
How was it playing a dad of these two young men?
GREG: Well, first of all, they’re awesome. They’re just so great, and then I’m like a kid. I really am, so the fun part about it was that I could let that side of me out. It’s written that way. It was he’s really down there with his kids having fun, even in the first moment I walk in the door. It’s like hey, you know, he’s that kind of dad and hopefully you just love to him right up front. Then I think hopefully the audience will like Melissa’s character, she kind of breaks and goes, you know what, he’s a great guy I want see. So hopefully the audience will want to see us get together again, and then they’ll love the outcome and the surprises and the stuff that’s revealed about my character, but I just had such a blast. The weirdest thing for me was getting the script and going wait a minute I’m a grandpa? Hold it, hold it, what? I’m looking for gray hairs on my head, I’m like this is crazy, but there are a lot of people— I got married young and it completely makes sense. I think it works. These two guys, you know I’m 46, so I could definitely play their father and I would not want my 16-year-old to have a baby right now, but it’s possible. It was great being able to be the dad, being able to have romance stuff going on with that you’re dealing with, and also all the emotional stuff of seeing your granddaughter for the first time. It was really fun.
Did you get to work with an actual baby, and how was that?
GREG: Yes, they have twins on the show and these babies are great, but they’re not both great at the same time; they’re babies. I worked with babies on Heroes, I had a son, my character had a son on the show and I tell you the weirdest thing is when a baby is on set and he’s more professional than any other actors on set. It’s like when you say action—
No crying, huh?
GREG: Yes, it doesn’t cry, action and they’re in that robot mode, that’s weird, that’s really weird. You go, “Wait a minute what is going on?” They’re like cyber-baby. But that wasn’t the case on this, and it’s a challenge because there’s a live audience. I don’t know how they do it every week, but the kids are great and they pre-shoot also, so you know without the audience we’ll pre-shoot. But there’s a big difference when that energy of the audience is there, so they’re really brave in the fact that they do shoot with the real kids, with the real baby in front of a live audience and it just works. You know there’s a lot of a chorus of awwww, because the baby’s the cutest baby in the world.
Spending more time on the whole live audience aspect, how was your experience with that?
GREG: I loved it. It was really cool. The one thing that I, my reveal, like when I come in the door you don’t know who the dad is so, you know, they talk about him, talk about him, talk about him, and then I walk in and as soon as I walked in I had this entrance they’ve shown on the promos where I walk in, I’m like Ben, Ben. I had this big kind of dad’s home kind of moment and it scared the baby when I first walked in, so not only is there the live audience to deal with, but there’s the baby and the whole thing, but it was a blast. I’ve got to tell you, the idea of— and it’s a lot like this, I have got to say, you know like tonight I’m going to be live tweeting during the episode on the East Coast at 8:30. There’s this direct response where you see the reaction of the audience and you can actually interact with people and see their direct response. I mean for 20 years I’ve been acting basically in a vacuum and I have to wait months till I get a call from my aunt that goes, “I don’t understand what just happened on HEROES, can you explain it?” This is like a direct response from the audience and they’re laughing and they’re enjoying and you feed off that, so I loved it.
As a father yourself, were you able to steer the character in any way, do you provide input on how he should act in this situation or something like that?
GREG: I would have if it wasn’t so well written. There are a lot of parents that are part of the writing staff and Michael Lembeck is a brilliant director and show runner kind of producer/director guy, and I’ve known him forever. There is something that goes along with, I try to bring part of me as much as I— you know, I’m not getting all philosophical, but as a dad you just, it’s more taking stuff off and not playing the dad. I’ve always tried to be friends with my kids so that they’ll open up to me and tell me stuff, to a limit, I mean you want to be a dad, this was written exactly that way. I mean I wouldn’t have changed anything. It was interesting coming back after; imagine you haven’t seen your dad, your dad left the family a while ago and then he comes back into your life and they really dealt with all that stuff in a great way.
Actors start out pretty much as young kids or in their teens. You started a little later than that; what were you doing prior to acting and what led you to start?
GREG: Throughout school, throughout elementary school, junior high school, high school, I always dabbled in theater. I did the school plays and stuff but I never considered it a career, it’s a really tough road. I grew up in LA and everyone around me was doing it and my best friend, who was J.J. Abrams, and if you look back on his super eight movies when he was a kid, I star in all of them. It’s like we were making those movies back then and he was becoming successful and I thought I just have to try this. But before that I was very business minded, too. My character on FELICITY was kind of modelled after me. I’ve always had a bunch of different businesses. Right now I’ve got an app and the number one mobile coupon app on the market called Yowza, and I created that and I’ve always had that kind of entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve applied it to my website, talk about it to help people with epilepsy; talkaboutit.org, and also my band, Band From TV, which is all a charity band with other actors. I have to have an outlet for that. So I would have been in business or I would have been acting and I just gave acting a shot and luckily I’ve had some very successful friends and I learned working with them. FELICITY was kind of my college acting school, I really kind of got my chops on that show and the acting on that show was just incredible; I had great actors all around me, and obviously Alias was just a natural progression after that. But I’ve always wanted to do it and things worked out luckily.
You just mentioned the person I was going to ask you about in my next question. J.J. Abrams, you guys met when?
GREG: When we were four; four years old. We’ve been friends forever, and by the way, what’s interesting about BABY DADDY is that it’s a sitcom, I’ve always wanted to do a sitcom and J.J.’s—believe it or not—he’s one of the funniest guys you can imagine, he’s just brilliant in every way, but he’s really funny and we have always talked about doing a sitcom together. So now this is my opportunity to kind of go okay, I really want to do it. That’s why, hopefully tonight everyone will really enjoy the episode and see, if you haven’t seen me do comedy, you’ll see a different side of my acting that hopefully people will like. I mean I try to be as real as possible and stay true to that, but I love the response from the audience and I loved working with all the cast and crew.
I know you’re in that videogame L.A. Noire. Can you tell us a little bit of what your experience was when they captured your face and voice for the videogame?
GREG: Yes, absolutely. I was just playing this last night with my son. I love this videogame. L.A. Noire, as you know it’s a 1930s, ‘40s detective game set in Los Angeles and it’s very accurate. The thing that I loved about it, I’ve done a bunch of voices for games from Halo to Condemned to Need for Speed, a bunch of things, and this was very different. This was about 45 to 50 cameras video capturing my face as I was acting, so there is no separation between voice and animation and it just renders kind of an avatar, a moving, acting avatar of me and it’s me. So I remember the best compliment I got was the director— and by the way a lot of great actors on that game from Mad Men and other places from; I forgot the other show, but some great, great actors on there, and you really get a sense of the emotion without any separation. There have been times when I’ve done voices and suddenly I’m like oh, that guy doesn’t look like me and yet he’s really stiff in his movements and this was just as fluid and especially when you’re interrogating somebody and you want to see subtle clues as to whether they’re guilty or innocent. It was just awesome, it was a great process. My favorite thing is though, my kid’s friends are like, “I’m interrogating you right now Hugo Moller, you’re going down, you’re guilty.” And I’m like, “Okay, keep going” because I know secrets they don’t know, which is really funny. By the way, there are some secrets in tonight’s episode too, speaking of secrets. So watch BABY DADDY tonight and I’m telling you you’re going to be pleasantly surprised at what you think is the obvious is not; it’s just really, really cool the way they wrote it.
With all your different projects, I mean Band From TV, Yowza and all, and how on earth can do you manage to find time to join BABY DADDY?
GREG: Well you know, my first and foremost is my acting career and then keeping that going and I put feelers out that I really want to do something good, something funny and a live audience sitcom and something else that my kids could watch. So I did a pilot that did not get picked up, but I had the most incredible people behind it and it was disappointing that it didn’t get picked up, but it just kind of established my love for this medium, and I really wanted to do a sitcom and then this came along and it was perfect. It was with people I’ve worked before; Michael Lembeck, who’s a genius, and then the cast of the show, they are just stellar, they’re just great. So I had a blast, I just kind of fit in. I only did one episode, I’m hoping that I get to do more; it would be so much fun. It’s just really a great group of people, the network is just growing by leaps and bounds and I think this show is going to be one of those huge hits that’s going to go on for years and years. There are so many really great characters that they can write for and I hope to be one of them. I do have a lot going on, I have two movies coming out that they’re doing special effects on; one is called Mega Spider and the other’s called End of the World for Sci-Fi Network. Then I’ve got the band, Band from TV, and we’re still raising a lot of money for charity, and my app, Yowza, is doing really well. So I’ve got a bunch of things cooking, but when the perfect storm hits that’s when it’s really tough, like when I have to go out of town for a meeting. Like right now we’re doing a huge promotion on Yowza so I’ve got to get the word out about that, at the same time I’m talking about BABY DADDY, so it just balances. I make it work and it’s a lot of fun.
BABY DADDY just got renewed for a second season, any plans there?
GREG: Who knows, I’m hoping that they’re thinking about me right now. My plan is to watch the show, that’s for sure, and hopefully I’ll be watching myself in more episodes. But yes, I don’t think, in my mind there wasn’t a question. After I worked on the show I was like, if an audience sees this show, and ABC Family has a great audience, if they see the show, it’s going to work. It’s funny, it’s relatable, it’s silly at times, but they deal with the real thing, they have a baby to raise. I loved RAISING HOPE, it’s another friend of mine’s show, Greg Garcia’s show and the idea, it just makes it real important when you’re talking about children and babies, and so there’s that level of realism that you can’t get away from and they deal with it on this show. One of the episodes I loved this year so far was when they thought that someone was supposed to be watching the baby at all times and one thought that the other was watching, and those consequences, the stakes are real high; it’s a baby. So it’s funny, but then it’s a very serious, and that’s what makes for, I think, a really interesting show.
Could you just talk a tiny bit about working on LOST and the experience since you worked with J.J. and everything?
GREG: Yes, I mean J.J.’s one of my oldest friends. Working with J.J. was working with someone that we have a great shorthand with so there’s no kind of beating around the bush. If first take he didn’t like it, he came up to me and he was like okay that was literally the worst thing I’ve ever seen, let’s go again. It’s not like how do I tell the actor—you know, we’re best friends and it’s always been like that working with him and Matt Reeves and Bryan Burk and all those guys over there, but it was incredible. I mean I didn’t know on that show Jack was supposed to die, it was the original plan; that character’s supposed to die and I remember talking to J.J. about that in the script and going I don’t think you should do that because he such a great character, and he’s the doctor, and he can help people. Then Victor Garber, I think, was supposed to play the pilot— was Victor supposed to do it, someone supposed to do it and then J.J. was just trying to figure out what he would have me do in the pilot, just a cameo. That came up and he said, get your butt to Hawaii, let’s shoot this scene and it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I did and it turned out to be a really memorable cameo, and then I did a few flashback episodes and it was just great, it was great. I was so lucky that he—I’m always lucky when somebody that I’ve worked with in the past wants to work with me again, especially my best friend; it was great.
Do you have any other projects in the future?
GREG: I’m about to start a movie that I’m writing and I’m going to star in and produce so yes, I’m always looking for people that I’ve worked with in the past — I mean it’s nice to take chances and discover new people, but it’s also great to take somebody up a show like this and kind of say “Hey, I have something that no one’s ever seen you do,” and it could be funny, but also scary and that’s kind of work what I’m working on. So I always pull from the people in the past that I’ve worked with that I know can nail it. I hate the audition process. I would much rather, and after 25 years of acting I have a lot of people that I’ve loved working with in the past and I always call them up and go hey, let’s do this thing and if they’re available sometimes it’s worked out.
What’s a dream show for you to get start, sort of your bucket list show?
GREG: I really want to play the dad on a sitcom to be perfectly honest. I just had a meeting with my agents about that and I said that is what I want to do or get on a great sitcom that would have an ensemble that I’m part of. I don’t have to carry a show. You know I don’t have to be the lead in the show; I really love the idea of being a character. I mean if you look at some of the greatest characters like from SEINFELD or even from FELICITY, when you say who’s your favorite character from SEINFELD you never say Jerry Seinfeld; he was just the rock. He was so great on that show, but there are these great characters around him that you go, “Oh George was amazing.” That’s what I would love to do. I’d love to be on a show for a long time, like BABY DADDY. There’s another show that I’ve done called, that’s a competing show, so I shouldn’t mention it but, HOW TO ROCK I think it’s called and I play the principal on that show. It’s fun to be that kind of character that kind of pop in. Hopefully tonight people will really love my character on this show, it’s that kind of thing. They’re such solid characters and actors on the show; it’s fun to pop in and do something unexpected.
Is there anybody you just talked about kind of your dream role, but is there anybody that you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
GREG: Yes, I mean, there are a couple of people. I would love to work with Vince Vaughn, I tweeted out the other day about that and I just think he’s amazing; he’s really funny and brilliant. I would love to work with Tom Hanks. I did a movie that we were both in, but I didn’t get to actually work with him and he’s just something special. I mean, he’s just so great, he’s so honest. Then on the silly side who I think is a good actress, really good is, there’s a bunch of them, I mean I could go on and on, but Jim Carrey I think is incredible. You know I have these people that I really want to work with and it’s just as an actor it’s really tough, it’s tough because it’s got to be the right role. They could want to work with you. I see them, I get surprised sometimes, people, I’ll see a basketball player, a baseball player, another actor and I’m such a fan of theirs and they come up to me and say, oh my God I watched you all the time on this and it’s like what, because people watch TV, you know, and occasionally they’ll say let’s work together, but it has to be the right role, you’ve got to fit that role, so it’s tough. I have a list, but there’s only so much I could do as far as making that happen.
You were talking about that you had a lot of friendships on the set of BABY DADDY. Is there anyone you didn’t know that you walked away knowing a little better?
GREG: Most of them I didn’t know. I walked into that situation and it’s always weird too when, because I didn’t audition for it and they were kind enough to ask me to do it and so there is an expectation. They don’t really know what I do comedy-wise except for Michael Lembeck, I’m sure vouched for me because I had worked with him before doing comedy. Then you’ve got such strong comedy actors, especially Melissa, I mean she is just amazing. So walking into that situation and hoping that she’s going to be a kind of, not a selfish actor and allow me to be funny as well, and that’s exactly what she does. There’s a balance, and all of them do. I mean Jean-Luc, he’s just amazing. They’re really, really good, they know their strengths and they play to them, and it’s in a way that’s like— and they were so welcoming, all of them are so welcoming. I bring a lot of baggage, and it’s good baggage I hope, but it’s, I have people who know who I am, not in a huge way, but they know who I am, I’ve done other shows and stuff and they couldn’t have been more with their arms open wide saying, hey let’s have fun. All week it just got better, and better, and better and then tape date was a blast. I did want to leave. I was literally like, can I please stay, and luckily my character is a family member, so hopefully they’ll want to bring me back.
To see Greg bring yet another unforgettable character to life, be sure to tune in Wednesday, August 29th for the summer finale of BABY DADDY at 8:30PM on ABC Family Channel (ABC Spark in Canada)
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