As Undercovers' skilled CIA agent-Steven Bloom fanboy Bill Hoyt, Ben Schwartz knows how to lighten the mood no matter what serious international crisis his character may face. Behind the scenes, Schwartz is a comedy writer who won an Emmy for penning Hugh Jackman's opening number at the Oscars. He talked with TVGuide.com about what's coming up for Hoyt, doing his own stunts and finding room for improv in the spy world.
TVGuide.com: What will we find out about Hoyt's back story?
Ben Schwartz: I think the fun thing about him is we really have no idea what his background is. He's quirky, he's a little bit crazy and he obviously is just enamored with Steven Bloom. As the season goes on, we get to learn more about why that is — and all the secrets Josh and J.J. don't really tell me about. I only learn about them when I read the scripts.
TVGuide.com: Hoyt is so funny in the field. I can picture what he'd be like in training school.
Schwartz: I want you to write one episode about me in training school. We could shoot it all film noir-y, like black and white, and it could be one huge flashback episode [laughs].
TVGuide.com: How has it been doing the action stunts?
Schwartz: If I were ever in a situation where there was someone who put their hands around me — and allowed me 15 seconds to get a hold on them — I could do the same maneuver that I get to do in these episodes. I have stuntmen and they taught me all these things that I get to use in upcoming episodes. Even jumping around or jumping over things, for somebody who comes from a comedy background, is the coolest gift.
TVGuide.com: What's your secret to getting laughs in more serious scenes, but not going overboard at the same time?
Schwartz: I think it's a testament to the writing. Our showrunner, Josh, and our writing staff are good at writing it for me so I can see when I'm doing my jokes and then when it's time to be serious. If we're diffusing a bomb, they pick and choose their places so perfectly for me to throw out one-liners.
TVGuide.com: Are you able to improvise your lines at all?
Schwartz: I'll pretty much stick to the script and maybe I'll add something a little bit here and there. Josh has been so cool about allowing me to improvise in certain places. We're on the tenth episode now and I have learned exactly where I have room to improvise. ... I'm so lucky because Josh writes for me so well. We talk a lot and he just knows my voice.
TVGuide.com: How does your improv background influence your work on Undercovers?
Schwartz: Taking improv has helped every other aspect of my field. I've been doing it for seven years, and the ideas of improv and the rules I've learned help with my acting and my writing. ... A lot of the time, you're supposed to play to the top of your intelligence, as truthful as possible. But when you're on stage making people laugh, you're still acting. I think it helped me a bunch to go on stage two or three times a week. I never went to acting school, so improv was my training. Just being quick on your feet helps in everyday life.
TVGuide.com: Beyond J.J. and Josh's involvement, what made you want to do the project?
Schwartz: I really wanted to do something like this where I could kind of flex different muscles. For me, I always want to get better whether its writing or performing on stage or acting, and I just thought this would be a wonderful place for me to really work hard. This is an opportunity that I can't believe came so early in my career and I was so excited to jump on.
TVGuide.com: What else are you working on right now?
Schwartz: I'm writing a script for Imagine Entertainment and Brian Grazer. I sold one more script. I sold my third book a little bit ago. ... And then I perform every Sunday at 11 p.m. at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, the place where I started. I still perform for free and its one of my favorite things. It's one of the most relaxing and entertaining things that I love doing. I remember when I started at the UCB Theatre, I was taking out the garbage and taking tickets just so I could take classes, so it's such a great feeling to have a weekly show [called "S---- Jobs"] over in LA.
Undercovers airs Wednesday at 8/7c on NBC.