The cast of NBC's upcoming fall comedy Animal Practice ignored W.C. Fields' advice to "Never work with animals or children," and the result was a Tuesday's monkey-centric Television Critics Association TV fall previews panel.
In particular, reporters wanted the dirt on acting opposite famous capuchin Crystal (The Hangover Part II), who plays the miniature-scrubs-wearing Dr. Rizzo at the quirky veterinarian's office on Animal Practice. "I love the monkey, but I put it in my contract not to be in any scene with it because she is a scene-stealer," cast member Kym Whitley told reporters. "Dr. Rizzo is a mess just like the rest of them."
"She's the most famous monkey in Hollywood... We didn't realize how amazing she was until that first day on set," said Weeds' Justin Kirk, who plays the misanthropic yet animal-loving Dr. George Coleman. When asked about Crystal's impressive skill set, he added, "I do all that stuff!"
The pilot had to be reshot, first to recast the love interest played by lead actress Amy Huberman with JoAnna Garcia Swisher, and then to redub dialogue to reflect that the monkey's name change from Dr. Zaius to Dr. Rizzo. "We changed it because we couldn't get the Planet of the Apes rights," confirmed executive producer Alessandro Tanaka.
In non-monkey news, Bobby Lee, who plays meek Dr. Yamamoto, described shooting a scene in which a boa constrictor is wrapped around his neck. "It strangled me and it [urinated] on my face," he said. "We did two takes with the snake. It squeezed as hard as it could... I saw a light, I saw my grandfather and then I heard 'cut.'"
As the panel came to a close, lights flashed and a siren sounded to announce the arrival of Crystal herself, riding atop a toy ambulance onto the stage to deliver a note card to announce that reporters could only ask one last question.
"The show's about people, and the animals are this great backdrop and the cherry on top," Garcia Swisher concluded, adding that all of her friends had visited the set. "They've been as supportive of anything I'ver ever done in my career."
Animal Practice sneak-previews the full pilot episode following the Olympics closing ceremony on Aug. 12 and will officially premiere on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 8/7c on NBC.