Interview Date: 06/30/10
Run Date: 07/23/2010
Jordana Spiro easily fits the qualifications for the descriptor “cute as a button,” and when she’s playing P.J. on the all-too-underrated TBS sitcom, “My Boys,” where her character is a beer-drinking, poker-playing sportswriter…well, come on, don’t tell me that doesn’t make her sound sexy as all get-out. Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Spiro in conjunction with the return of “My Boys” for its fourth season, and we asked her about Jim Gaffigan’s departure, Rachel Harris’s arrival, and the chemistry she has with co-star Kellee Stewart, but we also slipped in a question about her work in “The Goods.” Fair warning: I had some lead time on this interview, as you’ll be able to tell when she talks about how she’s in the midst of watching the World Cup…which, yes, makes her even sexier still
Jordana Spiro: Will…?
Bullz-Eye: Hi, Jordana, how are you? It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
JS: Likewise! Thank you!
BE: I’ve been a big “My Boys” fan since it premiered, and I’ve done the best I can to promote it whenever the opportunity presents itself.
JS: Oh, wow, thank you so much! I really appreciate it!
BE: Well, I’ve gotten a chance to watch the first two episodes of the new season…
JS: Oh, cool! What did you think?
BE: I thought they were great.
JS: Because, what, you’re going to tell me you thought they were terrible? (Laughs)
BE: Hey, I think I made it pretty clear that it was already going to be like shooting fish in a barrel… (Laughs) …but even so, I enjoyed them. Of course, it starts off with the news that Andy has moved to China, and it’s pretty clear that you guys had been practicing your Jim Gaffigan impressions for quite some time.
JS: No comment! (Laughs)
BE: I interviewed him last year, and he did a lot of hemming and hawing when I asked about the show, and he eventually admitted that he had a real struggle between honing his own stand-up material and having to read someone else’s words on “My Boys.”
JS: Of course, of course. I think a lot of stand-ups have that concern. Yeah, I’m bummed that he’s not part of this season, but, y’know, on the positive side, it did give us room to include the very funny Rachel Harris, so we’re pretty excited about the addition of her.
BE: In one of the scenes in the season premiere, when you do two versions of the same flashback to when you were in college in early ‘90s…I have to admit that they looked way too similar to what things were like when I was in college!
JS: (Laughs) That was a really funny episode, because we were all sitting around thinking…I mean, it’s really easy to do a flashback to the ‘80s, the ‘70s, the ‘60s, but to flash back to the ‘90s? It was, like, “What were the defining styles of the ‘90s?” So it was kind of fun to try and figure out what they were!
BE: Yeah, my wife has said before that the ‘80s, she thinks, are pretty much the last decade where you can readily identify it by looking at it.
JS: That’s true! But, you know, once you start picking it apart and thinking, “Okay, what were the ‘90s styles?” You’re, like, “Oh, yeah, that’s right…”
BE: A little bit of grunge…
JS: That’s right! A lot of flannel…and a lot of angora!
BE: Well, I won’t give away who replaces Andy in the poker game…
JS: …or who wears the angora… (Laughs)
BE: …but I kept my fingers crossed that it was going to be Trouty.
JS: Yeah, but, you know, I think Trouty’s a little too busy with “The Big Bang Theory” these days!
(Writer’s note: the character of Trouty, who has appeared in a trio of episodes during the course of the show’s run, is played by Johnny Galecki.)
BE: Yeah, I didn’t figure he could probably make it to the game every week.
JS: Oh, but he’s one of my favorite characters, too. I love him so much!
BE: So when you found out that Jim wasn’t coming back, how long it did take for them to figure out what the angle was going to be to replace him? Or were you not involved in that?
JS: I don’t know. That all takes place in the writer’s room before I even get there. (Laughs) So, unfortunately, I can’t really give you an answer on that one!
BE: I didn’t know if they discussed the transition with you guys at all.
JS: I’d love for you to find me a writer who asks the actors what they want to do in the upcoming season. (Laughs)
BE: So will we see any guest stars this season? Anyone from previous seasons coming back?
JS: No, not really. I mean, our main recurring character is Rachel Harris, who I think you probably know from “The Hangover.” She’s kind of amazing. She fit like a glove. It was kind of crazy, actually. But she’s one of those people who can literally walk into the bar, say, “I’ve never been to this bar,” sit down, and for some reason, the way she does it, it’s the funniest scene I’ve ever seen. She just has that…well, whatever that thing is! Talent, I guess? I wouldn’t know! (Laughs) But she’s great, and we were really excited to have her.
BE: Will there be another board-game decathlon this season?
JS: Will there? (Thinks about it) No, there isn’t. But we do run through our board games while we’re high as a kite while we eat some special brownies in an upcoming episode. (Laughs)
BE: And I’ve seen that, and I was very impressed that you managed to get through the entire episode without ever saying aloud exactly what made the brownies so special. (Laughs) So it looks like you’ll have a little bit more time to play alongside Kellee Stewart in the new season…not like you weren’t getting that opportunity already.
BE: You guys have a really great chemistry.
JS: Thank you. Yeah, we actually like each other! Well, I like her. I don’t know how she feels about me. (Laughs) Yeah, you know, I love that about this season: she can actually take the driver’s seat a little bit more this season. She has two episodes that I really love. In one, her book gets picked up by a Hollywood producer to be made into a film, and she gets seduced by that whole world…and Kenny, of course, can see right through the B.S. of all of that, and they kind of have it out. And then the second episode that I love, particularly because I’m finding it totally relatable right now, is when she comes down with World Cup Fever, and she goes insane. I sort of feel like I’m dealing with that right now! (Laughs) I’ve gotten bitten a little bit with the World Cup bug.
BE: As is only appropriate for someone who plays a sports writer on the show.
JS: That’s right!
BE: I talked to Kellee a few years ago at one of the TCA functions, and she talked to me about how she met you briefly before her screen test, so you two were able to do kind of a practice read beforehand.
JS: Yeah, well, she…you know, that was kind of crazy, and, actually, in that table read, the seed was planted for her to be with Kenny, in a sense. We didn’t have a Stephanie cast yet, and we were maybe a couple of hours away from the table read of the pilot, but she came in, she was one of the last people to audition, and she just took complete control of the room and had everybody in stitches. She was literally just…I mean, it was clear from the scene that the role was virtually custom-written for her. She was amazing. And she went into the parking lot to drive home, and they called her back and said, “Wait, wait, you’ve got to stay, because we’re casting you, and you need to come to the table read!” (Laughs) She hadn’t prepared anything but the scenes that she was auditioning with, so she sits down and…now, this is in front of 50 people, because all of the network people are there, all of the Sony people are there, and so on, so it’s a relatively formal thing. But she sits down and she just knocks it out of the ballpark, and…she did this thing where she said Kenny’s name in such a way that suggested so much sexual tension that they were, like, “Oh, wow, we never thought about Stephanie and Kenny together…” But from that moment on, they were, like, “Oh, we’ve got to find a way to get them together!” So it was basically because of her take, the way she said his name, that made them think that that could be a storyline.
BE: So how did you originally come aboard the series?
JS: The previous year, I did a pilot with Betsy (Thomas), and I always wanted to work with her again, because I just thought she was really cool, really smart, and just an amazing person to work for. And then the following year, when she had “My Boys,” I read it, loved P.J., loved the sitcom, and just sort of jumped at the chance to jump through all of the audition hoops with everyone else. And, luckily, I got it!
BE: Do you have a favorite episode of the series? Or a couple that particularly stick with you?
JS: Let’s see… (Considers the question) Well, this season coming up, I’ve got a favorite episode. It’s where things start to get a little boring in the bedroom… (Starts to laugh) …and they’ve got to spice things up, and all of my guy friends tell me I’ve got to do the whole naughty librarian routine…and it just goes terribly wrong. Like, everything that can go wrong goes wrong about the whole thing, and for me…well, it was just a really funny episode. I’m regretting it a little bit, though, ‘cause I had to rock these Christian Louboutin shoes that cost, like, the down payment of a house, and I did not get to keep them. So I’m a little bit perturbed… (Laughs) …but I’m working my way through it.
BE: When I talked to Kellee and, come to think of it, Jamie (Kaler), too…well, it was a couple of years ago, but both of them immediately cited “Douchebag in the City” as their favorite episode.
JS: Oh, yeah. (Laughs) Totally. I loved that one!
BE: I interviewed Adam McKay last year…
JS: Oh, wow!
BE: …and he told me that you auditioned for the role of Alice in “Stepbrothers,” and although you didn’t get it (the role ultimately went to Kathryn Hahn), it was directly responsible for you being hired for “The Goods.”
JS: Oh, wow, that was very nice of him! Yeah, that’s funny: you never know quite which movie you’re auditioning for when you’re auditioning! (Laughs)
BE: What was it like working on “The Goods,” with an ensemble like that one?
JS: Crazy! (Laughs) They’re insane, every single one of them. Insane. I thought I knew what insanity was, working with all these guys on “My Boys,” but I really learned the true meaning of the word working with Adam McKay’s group. They’re nuts. I turned out to be the biggest fan of Ed Helms and Rob Riggle after that movie. I was a fan prior to the movie, but after the movie...? I just have loads of respect for them. They’re amazing. They can take a word…any word…or any line of dialogue and just riff on it for 20 minutes, and it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard, even though it’s coming out of their mouth for the first time. Their improv skills…they’re kind of unbeatable.
BE: What was the experience like of working on “The Huntress”? Because that was a USA Network series before they’d become a go-to place for original drama.
JS: Oh, my God! (Laughs) That’s so funny you ask about it, because I’d hadn’t been thinking about that series at all, but Annette O’Toole and I still stay in touch, and we still write our E-mails…like, we sign off our E-mails…with “your fake daughter” and “your fake mother.” (Laughs) And I literally just got an E-mail from her yesterday, where it said, “Your fake mother.” She’s incredible. And that was a really lucky introduction into this business for me, because I got to work with someone who’s so even-keeled, like Annette is, and so grounded, and yet so talented. She’s just a very nurturing person to be around.
BE: I keep waiting for it to come out on DVD. It seems like it’s one of the few USA series that’s yet to get a release.
JS: It feels like ten million years ago. (Laughs) It really does. I’ve had so many hair colors since then…
BE: So which would you say was more of a turning point for your career: “The Huntress” or “Must Love Dogs”?
JS: Wow, you’ve clearly been reading my IMDb page. (Laughs)
BE: I even did it in advance!
JS: Wow! (Laughs) You’re, like, “How can I find a way to fit in this credit?” But, you know, it’s funny, but I keep waiting for just this big break, and…I guess for some people that’s happened, but for me, it seems that each of them so far has just been kind of a little stepping stone. I guess the one project to date that’s really given me the most exposure and the most opportunity to be known in any capacity is “My Boys.”
BE: What would you say is your favorite project that you’ve worked on that didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?
JS: Gosh… (Considers the question) Clearly, I have put the answer somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Um…my life? (Laughs) I really don’t know. I’ll have to think about that one.
BE: So I’m curious: what’s the status of “Love Bites,” your NBC series? Is it still in play?
JS: Yes, I’m happy to say that it has been officially picked up, however, I did the pilot in second position, so I actually won’t sort of know what my involvement in the show will be officially until the fall.
BE: Yeah, what I was wondering was what the status of “My Boys” would be.
JS: Sure. Well, what happens with second position, which is a pretty standard thing, is that the project you’re in first position for, which in my case is “My Boys,” always takes precedence…which, I guess ,the term kind of implies. So, therefore, we’re kind of waiting to see how everything shakes out. But they’re both amazing shows, and I’m really looking forward to the launch of “Love Bites” as well as “My Boys.”
(Writer’s note: Unfortunately, since our conversation, Spiro has formally departed the ranks of the “Love Bites” cast. Similarly, Kyle Howard – who plays Bobby on “My Boys” – was forced to drop out of another NBC series, “Perfect Couples.” Guess they should’ve followed in the footsteps of their co-star: Reid Scott, who plays Brendan, was able to pick up a gig on Showtime’s “The Big C” by making it a recurring role rather than serving as a full cast member)
BE: With “My Boys,” obviously, the way the show is structured, you get to work with everyone on a regular basis, but is there anyone you’d like to work with one-on-one more?
JS: Oh, wow. Um…you know what? That’s a really good question, because we have noticed that, when you’re doing a scene with the whole group versus when you’re doing a one-on-one scene, the dynamics of your relationship to that character do totally change. I love when I get to do scenes with Jay Tarses (Jack Briscoe), because you know you’re working with a legend to a degree. And Rachel Harris is our rookie, so I would love to have more scenes with her.
BE: What was your sports knowledge going into the show?
JS: Dumb as rock. (Laughs) Really.
BE: So did you research the role once you got it, then?
JS: Absolutely. Of course! You know, it’s funny, because right when I got this show, I was, like, “Oh, crap.” And even my friends were going, “How did you get this job?” (Laughs) So I started shadowing sports writers, hanging out in press boxes, going into locker rooms…you know, clearly suffering for my art. (Laughs) Drinking a lot of beer, all in the name of research. And then I grew a gut, and they said, “Stop with the beer.” (Laughs) I’m kidding. But then the show started going in more of a relationship direction than toward a workplace sitcom with an office dynamic, so my knowledge of baseball wasn’t as imperative as I had initially thought it would be. So then I just started drinking more beer, basically. (Laughs)
BE: So to wrap up, what are your hopes for the new season of “My Boys”? Because it kind of flies under the radar.
JS: It does, yeah. I would hope…you know, we’ve had such incredible, loyal fans that I’m really grateful for, so I would hope that, with time off, they’ll find us again and enjoy and support the show as much as they have before, because they’ve certainly kept us going.
BE: Well, it’s been a pleasure talking with you, Jordana.JS: Likewise! Thank you so much for your time!