When it came time to lure George Segal back to primetime television for TV Land's new sitcom Retired at 35, he had two mandates: his character would have to smoke cigars and play the banjo.
"I said [it was that] or no dice," the industry veteran, 76, joked Wednesday at the Television Critics Assn.'s winter preview session.
Added series creator and executive producer Chris Case: "There was no banjo in the original pilot script until George came on board. It's so collaborative, this medium. You go, you know what George Segal plays the banjo. Let's do that."
Retired at 35, premiering Jan. 19 at 10:30/9:30c, follows David, a 35-year-old hard-working New Yorker who trades in his cushy Wall Street gig to live with his retired parents in Florida. The multi-camera sitcom not only brings Segal back to TV, but also pairs the Just Shoot Me star with Arrested Development's Jessica Walter.
Both Segal and Walter, who play David's parents Alan and Elaine, said they've never themselves considered retirement.
"No, I love it too much. As actors, we sort of feel like we're retired until we get the next job, Walter said. "If this were to be it, I couldn't complain that's for sure."
Walter's character was only supposed to appear in the pilot episode — Elaine originally left her husband — producers liked her so much they decided a rewrite was in order.
Now, her character leaves and comes back, only she still doesn't want to be with her husband. "[David] thought he was going to relax and re-evaluate his life," Case explained. "In fact his parents are separated and putting him through all these problems."
Johnathan McClain, who plays David, says he's taken a lot away from working with both the high-energy Walter, as well as Segal. "I've seldom worked with somebody who, as an all-star, is as willing to pass the ball," McClain said. "He's a great scene partner."
"I'd love to work with this guy you're talking about," Segal said.