Brief encounters from the TCA Press Tour, Part 2: Networks, Zach Braff interview, Matt Groening

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And we're back! Before we were so rudely interrupted by the passage of time, we brought you coverage of some of our encounters from the cable days of the tour, and now we're back to tackle the broadcast networks. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of great things to be said for the TCA Press Tour, but as a writer, the best thing about the event is that it provides us with unparalleled access to the stars and producers of just about every show on television. The dirty little secret, however, is that the access is often limited to only a few questions. Last year, we managed to combine several of our close encounters into a single piece, which we called "Brief Encounters from the TCA Press Tour." This year, we decided to blatantly recycle the idea...oh, sorry, we decided to make it an ongoing tradition. (That sounds better, doesn't it?)

Zach Braff ("Scrubs," ABC)

Zach BraffBullz-Eye: You're well-documented as a music fan. What are you listening to these days?

Zach Braff: Well, it's not really unique, but I'm in love with the new Coldplay. It's amazing. Joshua Radin's got a new one coming out that I'm really excited about. Ingrid Michaelson, William Fitzsimmons…that's what I'm listening to.

BE: So are you, like, really, really psyched that this is your last season, or are you still enjoying doing the show?

ZB: I'm having a lot of fun. I'll miss it when I go.

BE: Is there anything you'd like to see J.D. do that he hasn't done yet?

ZB: I don't know. I love the wackier, crazier, broader stuff. That's what I like: the stoner humor.

BE: Oh, really? Well, that begs this question, then: what's your favorite stoner comedy?

ZB: Wow. That's a great question. I think it's actually about to be beaten by "Pineapple Express." In fact, just based on how funny the trailer is, I'm going to go on record as saying that that's my favorite stoner comedy.

BE: (Laughs) So what was it before that?

ZB: (Thinks for a moment, then shakes his head) I don't know, man. You're making me think, and…and I don't want to do that.

Creed Bratton ("The Office," NBC)

Bullz-Eye: I actually wasn't aware until relatively recently about your musical history.

Creed Bratton: The Grass Roots!

BE: Absolutely. And I knew the Grass Roots, but obviously not well enough. How did you first get into music?

CB: I started playing trumpet, classical music, when I was about 10 years old, then I switched to guitar when I was 13. Everybody in my family…my parents, my grandpa…played music, so I grew up playing in family bands. At 17, I started working professionally, and that was it.

BE: The way I actually found out about it was when you broke out that Grass Roots song at the "Office" convention in Scranton.

CB: Oh, yeah, the convention! (Leans into the mike) They didn't have my guitar amp up loud enough at that convention, by the way!

BE: How much leeway do you have with Creed's lines on the show? Are you able to ad-lib?

CB: They're all scripted. Once in awhile, I'll throw in an ad-lib, but not often. We've got such great writers that, y'know, why would I bother? And I'm not the ad-libber that Rainn and Steve are, by the way. I'll just take the good lines they give me and go with those.

BE: Has there ever been a line where you said, "This is too bizarre even for me"?

CB: No. And there probably never will be, because he's such a weird character. Creed does not say "no"… (Leans into the mike) …ladies.

Kyle Chandler ("Friday Night Lights," NBC / DirecTV)

Kyle ChandlerBullz-Eye: I recently discovered "Early Edition" when it came out on DVD. Obviously, Gary Hobson was a completely different kind of character than Coach Taylor, but do you have fond memories of the show?

Kyle Chandler: I do. It was hard work. Winters in Chicago on a lot of bridges…? I don't know if I could…well, I'm sure I could do it now, but it was a lot easier when I was in my early 30s. I mean, these guys who wrote it back in L.A. would write, "They're on a bridge in Chicago." It's February! It's minus 30 degrees out! I remember one time shooting across from the Sun-Times – it was the only time it ever happened – and the cameras froze! We had to go home! I was, like, "Oh, my God!" But it was a fun show to do, yeah.

BE: With the new season of "Friday Night Lights" premiering on DirecTV, do you have any fears about whether the fans will follow you over?

KC: No, no, it's all positive. I think it's a very positive move. I think the fans will follow the show. I really do. Depending on how much of a fan they are, of course. But if what they're saying is true, then I think it'll gain an audience in that arena as well. So I'm not sure, but it'll be interesting to see. What I'm more excited about is just starting again.

BE: How long has it been since you've filmed an episode?

KC: Since…December, I guess? November or December. So it'll be fun to get back in the loop.

BE: Someone during the panel mentioned the possibility of people who don't have DirectTV downloading episodes off bit torrent before they air on NBC.

KC: I don't know enough about that to tell you. I don't know how that works. Was he saying that, after it's on DirecTV, they can download it immediately?

BE: Well, actually, he was talking about people burning it to DVD, and then uploading it to bit torrent so others can download it illegally.

KC: I guess if it can happen, people are going to do it. A certain amount of people are going to do it, anyway. I know I don't have enough time to pirate and download things. I don't have time to watch TV as it is! But he sure had the idea in his mind, didn't he?

BE: Yes, I think he made air quotes and used the word "hypothetically."

KC: (Laughs) "I have a friend…"

BE: Is there any place you'd like to see your character to go this season that he hasn't gone yet, or are you just happy letting the writers go wherever they go?

KC: I'll wait for the writing. I have asked them…I'd like to meet my father on the show, to get an idea of the background of where he came from and why Coach is like he is, and to see what the relationship is like.

BE: Have they really laid much back story about his father in previous episodes?

KC: Never. None. I don't know of any back story for Coach. We got a little bit of Tami's – Connie Britton's character – when her sister came to visit, but I don't think there's ever been any of mine.

Terry Crews ("Everybody Hates Chris," The CW)

Terry CrewsBullz-Eye: Your show has got to be one of the most underrated sitcoms on TV.

Terry Crews: Dude, we know how good it is, and you know what? I think that time will tell. In syndication, we're gonna…we're gonna be like "Gilligan's Island." (Laughs) You know? You get to see all of the episodes from all over the years, and you fall in love with ‘em. And I think that's what gonna happen with "Chris." But we all love it. We think it's great.

BE: I'm waiting for my copy of Season 3 to arrive, so I can rave about that, but in my reviews of Season 1 and 2, I'm always praising how it's just such a funny show that transcends age and race.

TC: Well, you know, TV itself is different. It's not the same. All ratings are down across the board, and it's more spread out. Cable's getting more ratings than anything! But it's all work, anyway. As long as I've got a show and a chance to act, I'm good.

BE: Do you have a favorite episode?

TC: I love ‘em all, dude. Literally. Because there aren't many times that you get a chance to do what you love, and I appreciate every opportunity I get. I'm also fortunate enough to have a foot in the movies as well, so I'm doubly honored. I'm, like, "Wow." Because a lot of TV stars don't get to do that. But to be able to do both…? I have no complaints. I mean, I get to wear this white suit and walk around and hob-nob. I'm good!

BE: As a matter of fact, that's what I said to my wife, "See that guy in the white suit? He's the dad on ‘Everybody Hates Chris'!"

TC: That's me! Hey, where are you guys from?

BE: Chesapeake, Virginia.

TC: You know, I used to play for the Redskins. I was in Herndon, Virginia.

BE: Somewhere in my parents' attic, I have a photo that was taken of me standing with Russ Grimm.

TC: Wow, that's the real deal! The Hogs!

BE: When you were doing "Get Smart," you also ended up with a scene in the straight-to-video companion flick, "Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control." Did you know at the time that it was going to be part of that?

TC: Oh, yeah. All the way. I mean, I just loved working with Pete Segal, and the whole "Get Smart" movie was such a great experience for me that I was, like, "I'll do whatever ya'll want me to do," you know what I mean? They're already talking sequel, ‘cause it did pretty good. It was exciting, and it was fun being around Steve Carell. I'm just happy, you know? (Laughs) Can't you tell?

BE: (Laughs) You hide it well. You know, I love the way they manage to work in guest appearances on "Chris" for classic sitcom stars of the past.

TC: (Grins) Dude. Ernest Thomas…? Jackee…?

BE: Jimmie Walker.

TC: Jimmie Walker! I mean, these guys…when did the talent ever leave? They're still as funny now as they were then. It's so crazy. People just kind of threw them away.

BE: Is there any talk of Chris Rock coming back to the show for another guest spot?

TC: Well, you know, right now, he's been touring a lot, so it's really hard, but hopefully before the season's up. Right now, we're in the middle of filming our fourth season, and we've got about ten or twelve episodes left, but I'm sure he'll make another appearance before it's over. He'll make his way back in.

BE: And, lastly, I just wanted to make mention of how much I love the recurring references to the greatness of Billy Ocean. I had no idea he actually invented the moon walk before Michael Jackson did.

TC: (Laughs) Billy Ocean! We love some Billy Ocean on our show!

BE: But have you actually heard from him about all of the references that've been made?

TC: You know, he's given us permission to do all that! But I'll tell ya: I think I've heard enough "Caribbean Queen" to last me!

Frank Darabont ("You Must Remember This: The Warner Brothers Story," PBS)

Frank DarabontBullz-Eye: So I read your "Indiana Jones" script.

Frank Darabont: Oh, man, let me tell you about that. Somebody had obviously gotten a studio copy somewhere, because they went to the trouble of re-typing it, right…? Because usually those have watermarks on them or someone's name is printed on every page. So somebody re-typed the damned thing…and, unfortunately, whoever re-typed it has never passed a high school English class, much less a typing class, because, look, I take great technical pride in what I do. I don't forget to capitalize sentences! My punctuation isn't an accident! You know? So it was re-typed so badly that I felt enormously embarrassed, frankly. Oh, great, everybody's gonna think I'm the asshole who doesn't know where to use a comma or who says "floor" when he means "follow" or something. Oy. Oy, oy, oy. Now I feel like I need to tell people now that I know how to punctuate, and that I really do know how to spell. I'm really good about that sort of thing!

Melora Hardin ("The Office," NBC)

Melora HardinBullz-Eye: Can you offer us any tidbits about the upcoming new season?

Melora Hardin: You know, I haven't even read the episode yet, so I don't know! But there'll be lots of good stuff, with Jan being pregnant and Michael wanting to be the father, and Polly and Michael and how Jan feels about that. It's gonna be really funny.

BE: The dinner party episode last season was an absolute classic episode.

MH: Oh, thank you! It really was. I loved it; it was so much fun. The writers just gave me so much fodder there.

BE: How much forewarning did you get about Jan's pregnancy?

MH: Not that much. Maybe a week or so ahead. Not very far. But I thought it was just a hilarious idea, to see Jan as a mother. The concept alone is so funny.

BE: How's your singing career going?

MH: Really good! I'm doing "Les Miserables" at the Hollywood Bowl, and I'm really excited about that. It's a total dream come true. So things are great, and I'm hoping it opens some doors toward Broadway!

Neil Flynn ("Scrubs," ABC)

Neil FlynnBullz-Eye: So I've seen the new "Indiana Jones" movie twice now, and both times there was a laugh of recognition when you came onto the screen.

Neil Flynn: (Laughs) No kidding!

BE: Yeah, people were whispering, "It's the janitor!" Did you enjoy working on the film?

NF: Oh, yeah, I was thrilled to be a part of it. It's sort of like having been in the crowd of a legendary baseball game or something. You can say, "I was there."

BE: How did it come about?

NF: An audition, like always. It was very secretive. It was when I was in the theater watching the movie that I learned what my character was talking about! I hadn't read the script because I wasn't given the rest of the script to read! But I was thrilled to be included, and it was a real achievement, in my mind, to be on set and be directed by Steven Spielberg.

BE: I know you're not going to give it up, but do you have a list of possible names for the janitor under consideration for whenever "Scrubs" finally ends?

NF: I haven't bothered to worry about it…and it may or may not be significant, anyway. I don't think there's any name that we could actually have for the janitor that is gonna be, y'know, a 600-foot home run. I mean, how much can you accomplish by naming somebody? And that's why we haven't named him all along. If you knew his name was Bob Smith, I don't see why you're any happier or better off. So we'll come up with something, but, no, I don't think we're going to try and be too clever about it.

BE: Actually, maybe it should be something like "Bob Smith." Then J.D. could say, "That's it? Wow, that's so disappointing."

NF: (Laughs) Yeah, or maybe John Doe.

Matt Groening ("The Simpsons," Fox)

Matt GroeningBullz-Eye: Are there any guest-stars who you haven't yet had on the show that you'd like to see?

Matt Groening: (Considers the question) No. You know what? Actually, honestly, I don't really care about them. When we do guest stars, it's usually just a goof. I like animation voices. I like voice actors. If they have good voices, then I'm glad to have them. The lead singer of Fall Out Boy came to a "Simpsons" read, though, and I want to find a way to get Fall Out Boy onto "The Simpsons" sometime, just because of the name!

BE: People like to take cheap shots at the quality of episodes from the more recent seasons, but do you have any personal favorites?

MG: I liked the one that was like a time travel thing, where Homer was in a memory bubble, floating around ("Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind"). I thought that could've been a great last episode of the series, actually.

BE: Someone actually picked up on that idea during the panel. So you don't really have a plan for a final episode?

MG: I used to. But that was…nineteen years ago? (Laughs) And we did so many things since then. I had a really crazy idea for a final episode, but I want to honor the characters, and, uh, my idea did not honor the characters. Now I want to do something that honors the series. But, you know, the way we work so far ahead, when we do the final episode, we probably won't even know it's the final episode!

Bill Lawrence (Creator, "Scrubs," ABC)

Bill LawrenceBullz-Eye: So did you check out Gary David Goldberg's book, "Sit, Ubu, Sit"?

Bill Lawrence: Hell, yeah, I checked out his book! Are you kidding? I made sure he was all nice and shit. No, actually, I threw him a book release party! I gotta go hook up with Gary next week, actually. We're doing some stuff for a "Spin City" DVD.

BE: So I know you've got a stop-over at your alma mater, The College of William & Mary, planned for the future.

BL: Yeah, the cool thing is that a lot of the young people there really like "Scrubs," and I was getting a lot of inquiries and doing interviews with the school paper, asking, "Would you ever come here and speak?" And I got, like, a hundred E-mails from kids asking me to come there, and the second I said, "Yes," William & Mary was great. They offered me a whole bunch of dates, trying to build it around a football game so that the wife and kids could come, and I'm gonna teach a little TV-writing seminar and talk about the show and stuff.

BE: When I talked to you before, you mentioned that you had fond memories of going to see U2 at Hampton Coliseum. Any other concerts you remember attending while you were there?

BL: Oh, shoot, I'm trying to remember. R.E.M. was actually at William & Mary, so I was at that.

BE: Actually, so was I! That was the show where someone nailed Peter Buck with a wet sweat sock!

BL: Nice! Wow, that's a huge memory, dude! The Pretenders were also at William & Mary, and the BoDeans were at that weird place in Norfolk. It was, like, the Boathouse or something? Oh, shit, I was all over that place. That was one of the best places on earth to see a concert.

BE: It's pretty much gone now. Damaged in a hurricane and never repaired.

BL: Oh, that's awful, dude! That was such a great place. I saw Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs there, too. All these people. Good stuff.

BE: As far as the upcoming season, are you looking forward to it? Are you still excited about the show?

BL: I am reinvigorated, man. The writer's strike, as much as it sucked, gave me a chance to catch my breath. I was giving myself shit, I thought I did some mediocre work in sections of the recent past, and I kinda got geared up to finish the show really strong. I'm being cocky: I'm sending episodes out to people to see if they like them the same way.

BE: Well, you've got my address.

BL: I do…and I mean it, too! We're gonna finish some shots in the first week or two of September, and then I'm gonna mail ‘em out to some people…and I hope they like ‘em!

Zachary Quinto ("Heroes," NBC)

Zachary QuintoBullz-Eye: How much relief did you feel when Leonard Nimoy approved you for the part of Spock in the new "Star Trek" movie?

Zachary Quinto: Well, it's an incredible honor, obviously, and to have him be as involved in this process as he has been was one of the highlights of the experience for me. I was really fortunate to be the cast member that had, like, direct involvement and the direct support of the original character. And to get to know him as a person…it's an incredible honor, I have to say.

BE: You've done a couple of appearances together as well, haven't you?

ZQ: We've done one public appearance, but I've spent time with him just personally, hanging out with him, and he's just…he's just cool! He's an incredible man. He's got a beautiful life and a beautiful family. It's reassuring. It's really nice to see. And I think he enjoys it. It's so…I don't know, there's something just really graceful about him, and I feel grateful to be around him.

BE: Did he offer you any warnings about being associated with the character?

ZQ: Well, I think his trials of being associated with the character are his, and they're different from mine. I've certainly talked to him about his experience, but I don't think he's under any expectation that his experience is mine. I think he's just very supportive of me in general… (Laughs) …and that's a good feeling!

Ben Silverman (Co-Chairman of Entertainment, NBC)

Ben SilvermanBullz-Eye: Did "Journeyman" ever have a chance at coming back for a second season? I mean, I know it wasn't an NBC-Universal show, but…

Ben Silverman: You know, we're wide open to getting shows from all over the world and all kinds of different suppliers, but the fact is that, with "Journeyman," we really wanted that show to work and to take hold. We enjoyed it. And it had every opportunity. It aired every single one of its episodes, even though the ratings were becoming more and more marginal. We double pumped it, we tried anything we could to have it just even hold up a slightly higher percentage of its audience, and it just didn't take hold, which really bummed me out. And it didn't have the kind of critical following that, say, "Friday Night Lights" had, which provided an opportunity for that show.

BE: What would you say to people who said that it didn't get the same kind of promotion that, say, "Heroes" did?

BS: I would say that it had our best time period and had the best opportunity to succeed of any show that we had on the air last fall.

Barry Sonnenfeld (Producer, "Pushing Daisies," ABC)

Bullz-Eye: Given that you've got such a distinctive visual style, do the other directors have difficulty reproducing it or matching it?

Barry Sonnenfeld: No, because between Michael Weaver, the cinematographer, who should've been nominated for an Emmy but wasn't, and Michael Wiley, the production designer, and the executive producers who are on the set, I wrote an instruction manual after I directed the first two episodes! It's about 10 pages long, and it's about lenses, who to trust, what to do, how to move the camera. And I think that the directors have all been incredibly faithful to going with the visual style…which is hard to do, since it took seventeen days to shoot the pilot and they have less than half of that to shoot an individual episode.

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