Briga Heelan and Skylar Astin
As one of the stars of Broadway's Spring Awakening and the hit a capella film Pitch Perfect, Skylar Astin has won fans and stolen hearts thanks in no small part to his beautiful voice. Which is why it makes total sense that, despite the fact that he's playing a suit-wearing banker on the new workplace comedy Ground Floor (Thursday, 10/9c), TBS is putting his singing talents to good use. Not only does he get to rock out to Aerosmith in the show's promos, but he also belts some Elton John in the show's premiere. "It's always done with a comedy twist," Astin tells TVGuide.com. "It's always done out of a real, genuine story-driven moment and it never feels cheap or unearned. People are really going to have their cake and eat it too."
To preview his new show, in which his character, Brody, falls for a maintenance supervisor (Briga Heelan) who works on the ground floor of his building, Astin talked with TVGuide.com about moving to TV, co-star John C. McGinley's stories and performing in front of a live studio audience.
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Why did this role appeal to you? Why did the show appeal to you?
Skylar Astin: When I read the script, I responded. I thought that Bill [Lawrence] had a fun, simple story that had so much humor in this situation. I was hopeful that he would cast a wonderful group. So once I got to set and got to really get a vibe for the people involved, I thought it had the recipe to be very successful and very fun and that's exactly what it's been.
Was TV something you were particularly looking to do?
Astin: I wasn't looking to do one thing over the other. I sometimes think that too when I see certain actors going to TV. I go, "Oh wow, he was looking to do TV?" Maybe that's the case for them, but for me, I just got the script like any other day. I wanted to dedicate the potential multi-year contract because I thought that I could invest in this character and live in this character's shoes and just have a really good time making people laugh and giving them just a little bit of heart every week. I thought why not?
Bill Lawrence has done Cougar Town and Scrubs, and his work has a very particular feel to it. Were you a fan of his other shows?
Astin: I'm a fan of all of his work so you don't really want to say no to Bill Lawrence. He always has such a vision, and if I'm involved in that vision, I would have to be really silly to not get on board immediately.
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Brody and Jenny's upstairs vs. downstairs romance is obviously a modern telling of Romeo & Juliet. What do you think this show adds to the story?
Astin: That story is the age-old tale of star-crossed lovers. It's certainly not a tragedy like Romeo & Juliet, but that forbidden love is something that's always prevalent. I think if you've had an office romance or thought about having an office romance, or are firmly against office romance, you're still going to find that common thread. We're not telling it in an HBO world or a super-safe world. We're telling it in an honest, fun situational comedy-way. I just love that. You look at The Office with Jim and Pam, and Cheers with Sam Diane — these things happen at work.
It's clear that Brody and Jenny are attracted to each other, but what will be their obstacles going forward?
Astin: They're working backwards and they can be uncomfortable at times. Because they got together Night 1 and now they're trying to date and not be as impulsive and learn. ... Sometimes people make mistakes, and it's funny to watch Brody make mistakes and it's funny to watch them argue and it's beautiful to watch them get along, but it's not the same story 100 times because why would people watch that? You have the dynamic of the boss/father figure. You have a funny bromance upstairs between Brody and Threepeat. You have the nemesis in Harvard who also is a softie for Jenny. You have the rest of the ground floor crew that's just outspoken and ridiculous. If you combine all of those things and when all those characters get introduced to each other, it makes for a really great ensemble.
Speaking of the father figure, you get to share a lot of scenes with John C. McGinley, who has been in the business for such a long time. What has it been like working with him?
Astin: Yeah, it's been such a learning experience. His resume is insane. The guy has done every form of every movie, and he brings such professionalism to the workplace. But now, I've developed such a personal relationship with him. I goof around with him. We really have fun. He's one of the gang. He's funny Johnny C. I absolutely love the guy. When I first was working with him, it was difficult for me to not see him as Dr. Cox, but he's slowly become such a buddy.
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I feel like he's got to have some great stories.
Astin: That's one of the best parts about him, and they come out of nowhere. Sometimes he'll tell a crazy story about a similar situation that happened, but instead of it being me, it was Al Pacino.
You're used to performing on stage in front of an audience from Spring Awakening, but how different has it been filming a TV show in front of a live crowd?
Astin: Even though it's in front of a live audience, it's not live so we get a couple cracks at it. Sometimes we're able to adjust right there on the spot whether it's a funny line that was working in rehearsals, but wasn't working on the show. Or just something that we now know is going to be a bigger laugh. It was a learning experience for all of us, and now tape nights are my favorite night of the week. It's so fun. I don't get nervous anymore. ... You want to jump out of your skin when you're doing it the first night because it's so exciting, but now I've found the balance so I can really hone in the performance and make it work for both the audience at home and the audience on set.
Is there anything special you do before you go out there to tape?
Astin: Coffee, coffee, coffee. I always like at least 30 minutes to myself beforehand just to get everything together and also to conserve my energy because it doesn't take 30 minutes to shoot an episodes. It takes between 3 and 5 hours so I just want to make sure that I'm ready to do that and give my all.
Ground Floor debuts Thursday at 10/9c on TBS.