John Francis Daley in <EM>Waiting...</EM> John Francis Daley in Waiting...

John Francis Daley has a lot on his plate. TV-wise, he's currently costarring as Jim, the easily mocked restaurant worker on Fox's Kitchen Confidential (which returns Nov. 7, after the baseball playoffs). And right now, he's also cooking up a storm as Mitch, the shy, easily abused trainee in the film Waiting..., which follows the generally unsanitary antics found at ShenaniganZ, a restaurant chain that happens to rhyme with Bennigan's. Ironically, the 20-year-old actor can't cook anything beyond basic pasta, but he served up some tasty answers to our questions. There are similarities between your characters in Waiting... and Kitchen Confidential. Are you now the go-to guy for put-upon restaurant trainees?
John Francis Daley: Well, I consider it a strength. But, you know, I'm hoping that somewhere along the line I'll be able to branch out. I mean, I know I can do it, but it'll just take convincing other people. Fortunately, in Waiting... I have this huge blowup at the end where I basically call out all of the flaws of the characters. In Kitchen, it's a much more gradual thing, because they can't completely change a character in one episode. You've never worked in a restaurant before, but have you had any part-time jobs?
Daley: At one point during either Freaks and Geeks or The Geena Davis Show I thought to myself, "You know, I'm a kid, I should have some experiences that normal kids have." And so I considered briefly working at a burger joint so I could have that experience. I also thought, you know, it'd be kind of a cool thing to tell reporters — "You know, I'm working at a burger place...." But then I realized that was a stupid idea and why the hell would I want to do something like that? [Laughs] In both Waiting... and Kitchen Confidential, your characters get hazed in a variety of ways. Have you ever gone through anything like that during your acting career?
Daley: Well, when I did Waiting..., in my "blowup scene," my character flashes his genitals. Yeah, it's that kind of movie. [Laughs] The director and producer approached me and were like, "So, are you ready to show your goods?" And I said, "Well, it's not like they're going to actually show it." They were like, "Um, no, we are going to show it. That's what you agreed to." I said, "What?? No! What are you talking about?" At first, I regarded it as nothing but a joke, but if someone continues to insist that something is true, after a while you start to believe that person. So by the end of it I was thinking, "Oh, god, I'm going to have to call my agent. They're going to fire me because I'm not going to do it...." Finally they told me that they were just messing with me. Nice. You're still well known for playing Sam on Freaks and Geeks. After the show was canceled, was it challenging to go to auditions as you went through your growth spurt?
Daley: Well, fortunately I landed The Geena Davis Show immediately after I found out Freaks was canceled. And if you compare the first episode with the last, you can see that I start out a full foot shorter than Geena, and by the end of it I'm almost her height. All that in one year.
Daley: Yeah. It was painful. My legs always hurt. You were also in the film View From the Top. How was it working with Gwyneth Paltrow?
Daley: I played Gwyneth's stepbrother, but all my scenes were deleted [because] they were kind of incestuous. What's funny is in one scene I grab her ass, and after each take the director would say, "We want you to squeeze the ass a little harder, John. Just a little bit harder." I looked up at her and [said], "I'm sorry." She was like, "It's fine, it's fine. Just do what he says." I think I was the first 16-year-old that ever got to squeeze Gwyneth Paltrow's ass repeatedly. I have that. I can put that on my résumé now.