Brad Garrett is a busy guy. If he's not launching the third season of his popular sitcom "'Til Death," with Joely Fisher tonight on Fox, he's starring in an online dating show called "Dating Brad Garrett" or he's having his prostate examined on live television. (Yes, that last one is true.) Despite his many commitments, Garrett sat down to field question about all the above from our Jim Halterman.
Changes are afoot on the new season of "'Til Death." For one thing, cast members Eddie Kaye Thomas and Kat Foster, who played neighbors Jeff and Steph Woodcock are gone while last season's J.B. Smoove is a back full time as Eddie's pal and partner in crime, Kenny. Even going into its third season, Garrett explains that, "sometimes when you start a television show you really don't know what it's about until you get into it. And we have discovered that the strength of the show really seems to be the chemistry that Joely and I fortunately have been able to captivate over the last couple of years." He further talked about the natural chemistry with co-star Fisher that he says existed from the get-go. "Joely and I had never worked together. We didn't really know each other. When she came into read for the part it was really, really instant and we're just trying to focus on that marriage and then have characters that kind of come in and out of our lives."
Another thing Garrett has learned over the last few season is getting to the core of his alter-ego, Eddie Stark. "It took me a couple of seasons to really get to know Eddie. How I played him early on I wasn't in love with it. I felt he had to be tempered a little bit. I felt he had to be a little more vulnerable and a little more open. I'm always tweaking him. It's funny, he's closest to myself as anything else I've ever played and if I could just keep that... and spice him with a little bit of humanity. I feel that the last part of last year where I had that swimming episode where I learned to swim because I wanted to do something great for Joy, take her to Hawaii where she always wanted to go, that's really where the guy lives. He's really just a big kid with crazy ideas and schemes to get to that next place in his life where he thinks he belongs, where he can make a better life for Joy."
The way he approached the role of Eddie was different from how Fisher immediately latched onto who her character of Joy was. "Joely hit this role when she was playing Joy," Garrett explains. "She hit it out of the gate, immediately. She knew who she was and I came from playing such a very different part for nine years that it was important that this one was as different as it could be from Robert, but still had the quality of believability and who I was."
As for future storylines on "'Til Death", Garrett was asked whether he could foresee the characters of Eddie and Joy temporarily split up to explore the single life, Garrett explains that, "I don't really know if that's what we want to do on the show. I'm sure we're going to address how a marriage can evolve or doesn't evolve and I think we may have a bump or two along the way." Eddie and Joy are also, he lays out, "very vocal... and very expressive and even though it seems that we're yapping and nipping at each other's heels a lot we do express it and get it out and I think it's the couples that don't do that that have the biggest risk of looking outside the marriage."
As for the full time addition of J.B. Smoove, Garrett can only think of one word to describe how he feels. "Lucky is the word. We all fell in love with [J.B.] on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and we thought he'd be a great foil for Eddie. We saw him and just thought how could we incorporate him into the show and it was a bit of a tactical move to really land him here. Sony aggressively went after him and we were very excited about it. One of the head writers came up with the idea of Big Brother. That this guy was caught in the Big Brother program and never got his brother. The minute J.B. showed up he hit it out of the park from the get-go and he's been doing it ever since." Outside of his spot-on take on the character of Kenny, Smoove has more going for him that Garrett quickly points out. "[J.B.] has got an amazing likeability about him and he still has that edge which is the kind of edge which is such a great counterpoint to these white folks growing up in Philly. He was a great friend for Eddie because he's a schemer and a dreamer like Eddie Stark so it was just a great fit and we got very lucky.. Off stage, he's just a terrific guy. He's a standup like myself and like a lot of the writers on the show so we can easily get to the funny."
With a long run on "Raymond" and success with "'Til Death," Garrett clearly doesn't take any of it for granted. In fact, he says, "I feel very, very grateful. I'm a lucky guy and you need a lot of luck and then when the cameras roll you gotta have this group of writers and directors and actors that just gel and it seems to literally be happening more and more so I'm blessed to be surrounded by the people that I'm surrounded by. There's so much strength and talent and that has a lot to do with it. And I feel very grateful because there are a lot of people more talented than I that are not on the air." He also acknowledges that taking on a role very different from the one he was most famous for wasn't a guarantee for any level of success. "It's a crap shoot," he points out. "But what was exciting for me was to take on a role that was very different than my Robert Barone role and this guy is a lot more like me and it's fun to play someone close to yourself so I'm having a ball.
As if his plate wasn't full enough with "'Til Death," Garrett has a web-based reality show premiering on Crackle.com on September 15 called "Dating Brad Garrett." The divorced Garrett stresses that, "It's important for people to understand that this isn't Brad Garrett looking for love. This is Brad Garrett really making a window around what its like when a guy going through a semi mid-life crisis is out there in the playing field of the single world... it's me going out with various women with various ideas and attitudes and wishes and dreams like we all single people have and how I either berate them or try to get to know them or vice versa. It's the 'Anti-Bachelor.' It's the realistic take of 'The Bachelor.'"
Garrett also took part in last week's "Stand Up To Cancer" special and actually received a prostate exam on-air. "A prostate exam," he explains without reservation, "is something that's not the greatest four minutes of your life [but] the exciting thing about it is when it aired there was a company that manufactures prostate drugs for rehabilitation and they wrote Laura [Ziskin, one of the producers] a check for $10 million after the spot because they said after the spot that it was the first time that anyone has taken this to a place where it's accessible, where it's humorous, where it real and there's a message. At the end of the day that's what it's all about."
"'Til Death" premieres tonight on Fox at 9:00/8:00c while "Dating Brad Garrett" premieres on Monday, September 15 on Crackle.com.