"This is my first Season 2 experience, and I really like it," he tells TVGuide.com. "It's just nice to be employed."
Despite his talent, good looks and charm, Walton is quite familiar with the alternative of not having a gig. Over the past decade, he has starred on six failed network TV shows (Cracking Up, Heist, Quarterlife, 100 Questions, Perfect Couples and Bent) before finding success on About a Boy earlier this year. "There's a lot of young actors and people who have success very quickly who kind of expect it or don't have the experience to really appreciate it," he says about his long road to a hit series. "I feel and I know I'm incredibly fortunate to be in this situation."
Adapted from the 1998 novel and the 2002 film for the small screen by Friday Night Lights and Parenthood showrunner Jason Katims, NBC gave the half-hour comedy prime real estate in a timeslot following The Voice and even previewed the show after the 2014 Winter Olympics. But after his many previous TV experiences, Walton still had doubts that About a Boy would go the distance. "I always try to be cautiously optimistic," he says. "Network TV is insanely competitive and gut-wrenching for so many people who dedicate years of their life and creativity and passion, and [their project] makes it not even out of the starting gate or you take one or two steps and you're disqualified."
Spending so many seasons on the TV bubble may have left Walton slightly hardened about the process, but it also taught him a few things, particularly about how to not sweat the small stuff, i.e. the show's ratings and the amount of publicity from the network. "You can really get down the rabbit hole of analyzing ratings and, 'Oh, they didn't promote us at this time. Why didn't they promote us right after the touchdown on Sunday Night Football?'" he says. "It's very tempting to look for any sign or clue about what your future will hold, but ultimately you have no real control over it so you should just maximize your efforts and passion to the thing that you can control.
"I'm quite successfully a little more low-key at this stuff than I was the last time."
Even so, it didn't take long for Walton to notice the positive feedback and continued push About a Boy received as the season progressed — a stark contrast to three of his past TV shows, which were pulled even before all their episodes had aired. "I think it was Episode 4 or so when our ratings stabilized and they continued to really publicize us and you got reports that everyone was happy," he says. "Of course, you never know."
Any doubt Walton had concerning About a Boy's long-term future were put to rest in May when the show was renewed for a full 22-episode season. "When they actually did tell us we had a second season ... I let out sort of a war cry," Walton recalls of his celebration, which also included two bottles of Cristal courtesy of one of the show's production studios, Working Title. "I think I sprayed a little bit on my child, unfortunately."
Yet, Walton still felt the (albeit by proxy) sting of cancellation. One day after About a Boy was renewed, his wife Majandra Delfino's comedy series, CBS' Friends with Better Lives, was axed after just five episodes. "It was very frustrating because that was a dream job for her too," he says. "That's just an example of how brutal the TV business is. ... I could really feel for her."
So is there a chance Delfino will pop up on About a Boy, perhaps as a future love interest for Will? "I'd like maybe to have her play someone that I have a very antagonistic relationship with," Walton says with a laugh. "It's always fun to play against what the reality is."
If Walton has his way, it will be awhile before Will has any serious girlfriends in his life. In the wake of the bonds Will formed with his young neighbor Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) — the show's central relationship — and Will's girlfriend Sam (Adrianne Palicki), the actor says his only request to the writers for Season 2 was to stunt his character's emotional growth a bit. "Will really changed a lot in the first season. ... I just wanted to make sure that my character didn't become too much of a good guy," he says. "You don't want Will doing everything right all the time. So I guess my general direction, and the writers were already there, but it's you want Will screwing up a lot. I like screwing it up, and getting into really difficult situations or having situations backfire horribly."
Other than a note or two about his character's maturity (or complete lack thereof), Walton is trying to continue to worry less and "stay in the moment" more, he says. "The silver lining of having a lot of disappointments in television is we go to set every day and it's really a family environment. Everybody really loves each other, everyone's having a total blast and everyone's really on the exact same page trying to make as good TV as possible."
About a Boy airs Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.
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