Sean Hayes has been a household name since his days as Jack on Will and Grace. Now he is back and better than ever on NBC's Sean Saves The World, which premieres tonight.
TVGrapevine recently talked to Sean in a conference call he did with the media. Here are some of the highlights:
Q) Talk to me a little bit about your character. We know he’s single from the pilot episode. Is he going to stay single? Is that what you would like to see or are we going to see him out there in the dating world? What can we plan on seeing on this show? A) He’s going to open a concubine and just, you know. He - no, of course the goal is for him to move forward and evolve as the show goes on and that includes more dating, and hopefully sooner than later, settling down with somebody and including that person into our family and mine and his. Q) Megan Hilty wasn’t in the pilot but we know she’s a part of this show. Can you talk about who her character will be and what she herself adds to this show as Megan Hilty? A) Yes, well she is actually in the pilot because we reshot those things but maybe not the version you saw. Yes, so she is in the pilot now. And she’s fantastic. I mean we were so fortunate to get her and to have her come on board to share her talent. And you know, I’m excited for our viewers who are fans of hers from either Smash or Broadway or anywhere, to see on a large scale her comedy chops which are brilliant. And she is just a delight to have around and adds so much comedy to the team. So we’re very lucky to get her. Q) So can you talk about landing Linda for the sitcom. She looks great. A) That was actually the title we had at first, Landing Linda. And then we just switched it to Sean Saves the World because that sounded too dirty. Landing Linda is actually a great title. She is a living legend. She is - a lot of people don’t know her extensive success on stage and on Broadway. We’ve got a lot of theater folks on the show which I think is a huge factor in cultivating a hit sitcom. Sitcoms are multicams, I should say, are the closing things related to theater. And so in that sense, we are so fortunate to get Linda onboard. Tony Award-winning Linda Lavin who you could give literally any line to and she would get a huge laugh. So aside from being incredibly talented and gifted in zingers and playing the truth of scenes, she is also an incredibly warm, down-to-earth person and we’ve developed this wonderful working relationship where I actually do feel like it’s my real mom, you know. Of course, nobody can take the place of my real mom but she certainly comes close. Q) Are there musical numbers? I mean there is always talented musical people. A) I know right. I mean my gosh, that would be fantastic. I always think it’s funny when people can’t sing, but if we ever do get the opportunity, it would be great to showcase all of this talent on the show that has more than one threat going on besides acting. Q) So the series announcement mentions Pinterest in it and I see the show has its own account. How addicted to Pinterest are you and what is your favorite board to pin too? A) I don’t know anything about Pinterest. I can barely do Twitter. But I’m starting now to get more involved in Twitter. Q) Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” What would you tell her, "It just takes one Sean?" A) It takes one great pantsuit. Q) Would you ever consider telling everyone in NBC to make a Hollywood Game Night app with all the games? A) I think we’re working on that. I mean it’s been tossed around. But we’re in kind of a time crunch for the second season to start. So if we can get to it I would love that; I think it’s a great idea. Q) What is more exhausting to you a full week’s worth of work on your new show or a week on Broadway? A) Broadway is the most difficult thing or it’s one of the most difficult things any actor can do. And if you haven’t tried it - it’s also the most rewarding and most enjoyable at that. But if you haven’t tried it you should if you’re an actor. It’s grueling but it’s wonderful - it’ like going to the gym and how great you feel after. Q) Do you think you’re going to try it again? A) Yes, I’m sure I will. I don’t know about a musical, but if the right one comes along and the timing is right like anything - never say never - but I would really like to do a play and I’m working on something now to possibly do next year. Q) You have inspired so many people starting off with your role of Jack in Will and Grace. I want to know; who are some people that inspire you? A) Oh that’s such a great question. Well my comedy idols growing up were Marty Short and Steve Martin. And my music idols classically were Mozart, for sure. And then in Pop music, Andy Bell which is a blast from the past. I just met him the other day and I was like, “Oh I forgot what an influence you were on me as a singer,” for like Broadway and stuff. But as far as comedy goes, definitely Marty Short, and anybody funny; anybody hilarious. I loved Carol Burnettand Tim Conway, and I was a big fan of sketch comedy so any sketch artist I loved. Eddy Murphy, you know, when he was on S&L and all those guys. And definitely Peter Sellers by-the-way. Q) And you have such an exciting life. You’ve done producing, Broadway, acting. Have you considered writing a book and telling us all about your life? A) Yes, but I don’t know if this is the time or the place. I don’t know how to write; I’m kidding. No, writing a book? Yes I mean that’s always a tricky thing. You know, the answer is no, I’m not going to write one right now but maybe someday. I just feel like you have to have something that you want to say to the world as opposed to just writing about yourself or people to read more about you because you can get that on Twitter or Facebook. Q) With all the shows that you’re producing right now on television, what made this project the right thing to return to television with? A) Well, everything is about timing. And I know a lot of friends and fans had been saying, “When are you coming back to TV? When are you coming back to TV?” which is a wonderful thing to hear. And then the network asked, “When are you coming back to TV?” And like everything, it’s about timing, and so all these things just came in line. And when I met with Victor Fresco, the creator of this show, we were tossing around ideas and we landed on this one. And I was like, “Yes, I’ve never seen that character on TV before, a single gay dad raising a family,” or raising his daughter actually. And so to me, television is all about characters you haven’t seen and relationships you haven’t’ seen. And this one I haven’t seen yet so I thought that was interesting. Q) Why do your shows have that great traditional sitcom feel? A) I don’t know that we concentrate on what’s traditional or whatever the opposite of traditional is. I think if traditional means funny, then yes we focus on that. But I don’t think it ever matters how many cameras there are or what style the show is, it just has to be good and it has to be funny. And one of our things we concentrate on at Hazy Mills Productions is does it fall under the umbrella of, A, it’s something we’d want to see, and B, everything has to have an undercurrent of comedy. Even in Grimm there are comedy moments just to kind of give it some breath between the scary moments. So everything we do has to have some kind of comedy to it. But you know, I’d love to see multi - multicams are huge on CBS, that’s for sure. So they’ve never really gone away, it’s just the bad ones have gone away. The good ones stay for a long time. So hopefully - knock on wood - we can get into the good-ones-business. Q) Now that you’re a successful producer, when you’re reading stuff as an actor, has it changed your perspective in how you pick parts? A) Oh, sure, sure sure; of course it helps. I think in order to be a better anything, you must be educated. So as an actor, to be a better actor, I think you should just know a little bit about as much as you can. If I knew a little bit about directing and acting and producing and writing and line producing and craft services and all of it, I think it makes you, first of all, appreciate how lucky you are and appreciate, more importantly, the people who work around you. I think a lot of the times when you’re a young actor like I was, I was dumb and a lot of people still believe. And I should say maybe naive in that I was unaware of my surroundings and what made - what went in to making a machine of a show, because I believe every show is a machine that you build by hiring the right people and all the parts have to work together. So I think I’m more self-aware now of what goes into making a good machine. Q) I just want to know besides your own shows, is there a show you just cannot live without right now? A) Everybody asks me that and I love watching what - I love watching Veep; I think it’s really funny. And I love Through the Wormhole with MorganFreeman. Isn’t that one of the best shows? And of course Grimm. I’m not just saying this. If I had nothing to do with it, Grimm would be my favorite show. Q) Besides laughing, having a people have a great time, what would you like people to take from this show. Because to me, much like the new normal, this is a very groundbreaking show. Would you want them to take a different message from it? A) Absolutely not. If that’s a bi-product of their viewing experience, fantastic. But it’s definitely not in the forefront of our minds when creating this show week-to-week. It’s making people laugh and telling great stories. I think with me playing a gay dad, the gay part should be the fifth most interest thing about the character. It should definitely doesn’t need to be focused on that just like in real life. So if it’s groundbreaking for being extra funny, great. But there is no agenda here other than to be funny. Q) And so why did you decide on the title? A) That was actually the first title that Victor came up with; Victor Fresco, the show runner. I hate coming up with titles and he just though - he just loved the irony of my character thinking the weight of the world, quite literally, was on my shoulders, and balancing all of the crazy people in my life, in my own world, which feels like the entire world is on your shoulders. So I just think that’s just the thought of it. And it’s kind of fun for my name to be in the title. And it just speaks to - it just seemed that the title fit the show perfectly for what my character goes through every week. Q) So is there room for improv in this role? It seems like there could definitely be. A) Yes definitely, of course. We - seriously, you know, every person says this and in every interview you guys ask, we always say we have the best writing team. But we really, really do have the cream of the crop writers in town and they are of the highest caliber. So what they write is pretty close to genius and sometimes it is genius and most of the time it is genius. But with that being said, they do - they are fine with us improvising us and having a good time and playing around on set to come up with fun new stuff just to add to the greatness that they’ve written. So it’s really fun and freeing to do that. And a lot of times it ends up in the show. Q) And what do you find the most challenging? A) What I find most challenging about this show? I have a little bit of a control factor going on, and for me to release the control is a big step for me and a very healthy step for me. So that was a challenge and I’ve overcome it all ready and so it’s great.And the challenge is just - in addition to that it’s just - it’s being funny every week. I don’t know that people really get how hard it is - nor is it their job to get how hard it is. Their job is just to be entertained. Q) What was it about Megan Hilty that made you want to have her on the show? And how much did your work with her in Smash influenced the decision to cast her? A) Megan Hilty is phenomenal. Of course working with her on Smash was amazing and a wonderful fulfilling opportunity for me. And I knew that she was hilarious. I don’t know that America knows that yet because Smash was a drama. So I’m excited that America gets to see Megan be funny and hilarious and a way they’ve never seen her be before. So there was many talented girls that read for the part. But when she came in she just nailed it; she just was it. And as they often say, a lot of people don’t have it and she does.
Q) Had you known her prior to Smash or no? A) I did; in certain circles, social situations and a couple - she actually auditioned for me when I produced another show for the CW so I knew of her talent. But we didn’t know each other very well, but in-school friends, I would say. But now we’re out-of-school friends as well. Q) How does it feel to be back in a leading role on TV? A ) It feels great being in my first leading role on TV. But yes, it feels great. It feels familiar which I love, but yet it feels new and there’s forward movement in me as a person and me as an actor, and hopefully America will see that. It’s definitely a different character than I’ve played before. This is a real leading-man kind of role in that he’s a responsible grounded person with the voice of reason to the rest of the characters. Q) Yes, kind of going off of that because you’re an EP and also the star, you clearly have placed a lot of confidence in this project. What exactly did you see in Sean Saves the World that gave you so much faith in it? A) I said it before and I don’t know if you heard, and forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but I think when you’re making TV you always look for, as much as you can, you always look for new characters that you haven’t seen before and new relationships that you haven’t seen before. And so to me I’ve never seen a single gay father on TV dealing with these kinds of things that are very relatable to America, but also in a kind of different way. Q) But you also said that was only the fifth most important part of the show though. Is it clearly on the forefront of the show or does it take the backseat? A) No, absolutely not. Just to clarify, the characteristic of the man being gay is the fifth most interesting thing. But on a day-to-day level in society dealing with these kinds of issues are within my daughter’s life and my life and our life together and now it’s our life outside of it and at work and all of those things, I’ve never seen that on TV. Q) And what do you think that says about modern TV audiences? A) Well they’ve definitely progressed in a great way. I think, you know, with the success of social media, the world is being moved faster than ever and only to benefit the education of America to everything, and the world. And so I don’t know that this is that shocking of a character anymore as the gay thing goes, but the situations in which a single gay father is in is new. Q) What do you like to do for leisure? What do you do on a day off? A) I never have a day off, which I love, and I don’t do a lot of leisure. I just hang out with friends and go out to dinner; it’s pretty boring. I find tremendous joy in filling every hour of the day in the entertainment business in whatever that may be.
Q) Tell me about Sami Isler. How did you cast her? What did you see in her, what is it like to work with her? And did no one ever tell you not to work with kids? A) Well Sami Isler is fantastic, and she came in and read and right away we all agreed she’s the one. She actually is so unbelievably talented and her instincts are huge. I don’t know where she learned them. I mean that’s why they’re called instincts I suppose. But it’s one of those uncanny things where she was born to do it. And we saw so many girls over such a long time, and she was the only one that wasn’t very - that didn’t have that kind of expected Hollywood take on the character. She didn’t seem like a Hollywood young actress. She seems like a very, very real person. And then when you meet her, she is gorgeous and funny and super smart and very well mannered and just really seems to have it all together. And kudos to her parents for doing such a great job. And we laugh so hard, and we actually respect each other and ask each other, “Is this funny or is that funny?” And she gets it and she’s great.And so when you say, “Did anybody ever tell me not to work with children?” I may have thought differently until I had Sami. Q) I was wondering has comedic timing always been something that came natural to you or have you had to work at it? A) I think I watched a lot of TV growing up. I watched a lot of S&L and Carol Burnett and all those 70’s sitcoms; Three’s Company, Facts of Life, all those things. And then a lot of movies; Peter Sellers movies, a lot of Steve Martin movies, a lot of Marty Short stuff. So I think I learned from observing, and I think I learned from - I’m the youngest of five kids in my family growing up so I think I was an observer more than anything. And I studied music since I was five years old. And as you may or may not know, there are many similarities in music as there is in comedy. You have rhythm and beat and musicality in both music and comedy. Q) What do you think it is about Sean Saves the World that will really make people want to tune in and watch? A) It’s funny - question mark? I think they’re going to see - I think people miss the sensibility of Frasier and Will & Grace and Cheers and Seinfeld and all the NBC comedies. And I think if you missed that sensibility on television, you’ll hopefully get it again with Sean Saves the World. Q) How you mentally prepare for being a leading man as opposed to a supporting character? A) I think it’s the same. I mean you definitely set a kind of tone, and I didn’t want to set any other tone being the lead on my show as I was a supporting character which is to come in and have fun, because if you have fun, everybody else will have fun. And if you have fun the audience will have fun. And it’s almost like, you know, you’re hosting a party every week. If the host is upset or has anxiety or is nervous, then everybody else will feed off of that. but if the host is having a good time, then everybody else will. Q) So now that you are the executive producer of this show that you are staring in, are you going to take a big part in casting your boyfriends? A) Funny. No different than - there’s a lot of people that way in all decisions. So being an Executive Producer on any show just means your opinion holds some kind of weight which is always nice. You just throw your opinion into the ring with everybody else’s and it actually counts for something as opposed to nothing. Q) Can you preview like your shows that are coming up like when we can expect from the second season of Hollywood Game Night, what’s coming up for Grimm? And is that shocking moment at the end of Hot In Cleveland tonight going to play through next season? A) Well that I can’t reveal, you’ll have to watch and see. Grimm, as you know, ended with Nick in a coffin. So - because he got zombie-fied. But he will quickly render his Grimm abilities in order to keep doing the show Grimm. But you will see how that plays out with (Adeline), that’s very exciting. Hollywood Game Night, we’re just starting to cast now, and a lot of people who were on the first season has all ready inquired to come back - have all ready inquired that they want to come back, so that’s great. Amy Poehler said she’s like to come back and a bunch of others, so that’s exciting. And now it will be easier to show new people what the show is like, so we’re all ready getting lots and lots of calls; it’s great. Q) You started producing just before you left Will & Grace, and I was wondering if part of the impetuous of that was that you thought maybe no one else would hire you after that job. And the other thing I wanted to know is what does producing bring to you that you don’t get from acting? A) , I mean to be honest if I’m self-aware which I always try to be and sometimes to a fault. But I knew this faith of identifiable sitcom stars, you know, in identifiable roles that - I don’t want to say iconic. Other people are using that word, not me. My role models are Woody Harrelson, Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Will Smith, who all starred in iconic TV roles. So I guess I - you know, I’m friends with Tom Hanks and I saw what he did with Play Tone and I thought, “That would be really neat.” And I saw how he always had a Plan B. And so I started, towards the end of Will & Grace, knowing all of this, I thought, “Hey, he’s a big influence on me, Tom, and why not try to emulate what he’s tried.” And you know, we’re still trying because they’re pretty fantastic, but we’re still a young company. And so it was kind of my Plan B which has now turned into a Plan A-1, you know, just because I still love acting and I still love - and I love producing. And I knew once the show was over, I needed to know what my place in this business was. How do I remain in this business? And if you love anything, you’re in it for the long haul. So I wasn’t looking to get rich quick or be successful right away. I was in it for the long haul, so whatever that took to be a producer and produce what I love, then that’s what it’s going to take. Q) Does producing give you something that you don’t get from acting? A) Oh yes; definitely. I mean acting, you get the thrill of an audience reacting to you immediately. And you get the thrill - and if it’s in film, you get the thrill in immersing yourself into whatever role, you know, TV or film making. But producing, there is a release that comes from not having to be the face of a success or failure. Producing also excites my brain in a way about having my hands in a lot of pots, and a lot of my opinions matter about creating a machine meaning a show. And a lot of times acting doesn’t, you know, get that. So acting is more internal and producing is more external in a way. Q) Playing a dad, this is something kind of new, a little bit done before for you. But did you approach this with more research? Did you borrow some friends’ kids and, you know, try to get into their heads? Or specifically the aspect of playing a dad, how did you prepare for that? A) I was somewhat of a surrogate dad to one of my nieces for a year or two and that helped a lot. She is exactly the same age as Sami Isler who plays - Samantha Isler who plays my daughter. So I called upon that. But I’ve always wanted to be a father in some respects, and other respects not. but I like the parenting thing, and you know, everybody thinks they can parent other kids better. “Well you know, if I was that kid’s parent I would do this.” And I kind of get to fulfill that fantasy by being on a television show being a parent. Q) Well totally switching gears, you mentioned how great it is to work with Megan and Linda. Who else would you like to see maybe somewhere down the line? A) Well the cast is set so that’s our cast. But as far as guess stars go, gosh, anybody. I’m going to get my friend Ben Affleck on the show whether it’s the last thing, you know, if it’s the last thing I do. Q) Can you talk about some of the guest stars that will be coming up? A) Yes, we just shot an episode last night with Stacy Keach playing Tomorrow Lennon’s character, Max’s father. And he is stunningly hilarious, he is so funny and perfect for the role. I mean it’s one of those pieces of the puzzle that kind of fit perfectly and so we’re excited about that. We’ve only shot three episodes - well, since the pilot, three episodes. And let me see who else is on, of course they all run together after a while. How else is on? No, we’ve only shot four episodes so really that’s the only big guest star that you would know maybe. Robert Gant played a date of mine. He was on Queer Is Folk for many, many years. But the show is up and running October 3rd. So once we find our legging I’m sure I’ll get some of my friends to come on. Q) Is there a particular scene that like you’re excited for people to see that’s coming up that you can talk about without spoiling too much? A) Well the one we’re working on now is very funny. There is a wonderful scene where Max and I, my boss, are in a dance competition, because my mom and I are fighting. It’s very funny. Q) Where did you draw your inspiration from TV dad? There’s so many different approaches to how dads are acted on TV. A) Yes, I didn’t really think of watching or learning about other TV dads. I just, like I said, drew my inspiration from my own experience with one of my nieces and then jests really observing - being an observer of all of my friends that do have children. There is so much more you can learn from an outsider rather than being in it. so I try to take what I learn from watching them and apply it to this role Q) And who is your favorite TV dad of all time? A) Oh my gosh, that’s such a great question. That’s an overwhelming question. It’s like what’s your favorite song? I liked Archie Bunker, Bill Cosby, Bill Huxtable, right. Who is another great TV dad? Gosh, I don’t know. It’s a good question, I’d have to think about that. Archie Bunker and Bill Cosby or Bill Huxtable.
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