Interview: ‘Franklin & Bash’ Stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Breckin Meyer

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CHICAGO – The stars of the new TNT legal comedy “Franklin and Bash,” Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer, have been playing the PR game long enough that they’re completely comfortable sitting in front of a reporter and just being themselves. When I walked in on them at the Four Seasons in Chicago, they were both on their smart phones laughing and tweeting. It seemed a natural place to start.

HollywoodChicago.com: It’s the first time I’ve ever been in an interview when someone is tweeting. It’s important sh*t now.

Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We were just talking about this today. Does it really matter? Why do shows succeed? Why do they fail? It’s one of our biggest fears with this show. We think we have a great product. But we don’t know what helps. I guess you just do it ALL in hopes that you make a difference.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: You’ve done a lot of shows. You don’t have that instinct that one is going to work and another one is not?

Gosselaar: NO. No. You don’t know. I guess there’s parts…I will watch my work and know I could have done something better. The show can be tuned up. This particular show — we were watching rough cuts very early on and we both were hesitant to do that but we were both like “This is a f**king good show.” We would watch rough cuts and, again, it was like we had something. But we don’t know if that translates to the viewers.

HollywoodChicago.com: Do you get frustrated about the things that are outside of your control? Marketing, promos, etc.

Gosselaar: Absolutely.

HollywoodChicago.com: They marketed the crap out of this one. You guys basketball fans?

Gosselaar: (Laughing.) Totally.

Breckin Meyer: “Franklin and Bash.” “Falling Skies.” “Franklin and Bash.” “Falling Skies.”

HollywoodChicago.com: Do you get frustrated if you think they’re selling it the wrong way?

Meyer: Absolutely. But we’ve both been doing this 20+ years and it’s a futile effort. It’s SO outside of your control. Unless it’s “Louie,” where he does everything on the show, you have to trust that they know what they’re doing. And, look, TNT does. They like the show. And you got to hope it all works.

Gosselaar: This is what you hope for when you do a show — to have the support we’ve gotten from TNT. It’s not the case with network television. You don’t have this feeling of a “sniper bullet” they have with their shows unlike the networks who use more of a “shotgun blast.” They put a lot of resources into these two shows.

Meyer: Most shows have SIX new shows to premiere. TNT has two.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: Is that the main thing? Or is TNT more focused on treating just a couple shows really well? Is it quality or quantity?

Gosselaar: It’s quality over quantity. They’ve set a precedent for picking these shows. They have a vision. Every show represents a different night in a way. Our show is a compliment to “Men of a Certain Age” in that it’s more whimsical. It’s great to part of a network that’s precise.

HollywoodChicago.com: You mentioned you’ve been doing this for twenty years. What’s changed?

Meyer: You don’t have time to grow. You used to have 3 or 4 shows that would just simmer. Here, you’re big or you’re not. You don’t have time to grow. You have to bring people in or it’s not cost-effective. We’re lucky with TNT because they hire creative people and then they let them do their job. It’s rare.

HollywoodChicago.com: I hear that all the time from stars on creatively successful networks — HBO, FX, TNT. You’d think more networks would follow.

Gosselaar: They can’t.

Meyer: They have more hours to fill.

Gosselaar: And GE or Viacom are running the show. They have corporate funding. They need to make money.

Meyer: TNT has no filler.

Gosselaar: They open up a slot for you.

Meyer: It’s funny. The social media thing. It’s so new. It’s not proven. You kind of go at it with “it can’t hurt.” Facebook, internet interviews — you hope it helps but it’s so early that it hasn’t been proven that it doesn’t. It also sounds hokey but we’re both really proud of the show.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: If someone hears about the show and feels like they’ve seen all the legal shows, how do you sell it to them?

Gosselaar: I feel like the legal aspect of our show is a catalyst for the inside of who the two main leads are. Because you come home with us. You get a sense of who these characters are. Can you figure out a better way?

Meyer: No, that’s it. There are legal drama elements but these guys are life-long buddies who fight for the underdog but now they’re part of the big corporation. How do you stay true to yourself? But you watch TV to be entertained. We have some of the ripped-from-the-headlines stuff but also it’s fun. The way they win their cases are in ways you wouldn’t expect.

HollywoodChicago.com: I was watching the first few episodes and my wife said something important — “I believe that their friends.” That’s CRUCIALLY important.

Meyer: Yeah.

Gosselaar: That was important.

HollywoodChicago.com: Did you guys know each other before?

Gosselaar: Just a little bit. In passing.

HollywoodChicago.com: How do you develop that chemistry or were you just lucky?

Gosselaar: Luck. It was important. When I was given the script to review, that was one of the big concerns for me. They had an actor in mind and I wasn’t sold on it. First of all, he was ten years older than me. “I’m not buying that.” As a viewer, I wouldn’t buy it. When Breckin’s name came up, I thought that if he was on-board that I would definitely sign up. We were the same age. Same values. Same work ethic. Grew up in the industry. I knew he was a good guy that I could work with. It’s luck that we have this chemistry that we can inject into the project.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: It came naturally?

Meyer: Yeah, it really did. We had time to work on it in Atlanta. We didn’t get to go home to our families. We had to hang with each other. We would get dinner and go over work. One of the things that I liked was that I hadn’t done a drama or TV in forever. This gave me a chance to do a little drama. I always loved the actors like Michael Keaton, Richard Dreyfuss, and Tom Hanks who danced the line [between comedy and drama]. I loved that this show had that opportunity for me. And, for Mark-Paul, I’m not speaking for him, but I knew him as the guy who had done “NYPD Blue” and “Raising the Bar,” which were DRAMAS.

Gosselaar: You never saw “Raising the Bar,” you f**king liar.

Meyer: (Laughs.) But I knew you had DONE them.

Gosselaar: You were like, “That’s Zack Morris.”

Meyer: Right. But, even on “Saved by the Bell” he was SUPER dramatic. (Laughs.)

Gosselaar: There were a few episodes.

HollywoodChicago.com: The intervention.

Meyer: Right. The intervention with Jessie. That was dramatic stuff. (Both guys are laughing.) Since Mark-Paul was SEVENTEEN, he’s been basically doing drama. And this gave him a chance to be funny. I got very lucky that Mark-Paul and I had chemistry instantly.

HollywoodChicago.com: Does that chemistry allow for improvisation?

Meyer: Definitely.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: And they give you that creative freedom?

Gosselaar: Yes. A huge credit goes to the director of our pilot — his vision is what you see. His execution of what he had planned for the show.

Meyer: He had a super rigid vision but allowed us to find the characters within it. He would just be “Let’s see what happens.” In my experience, for TV, that is so f**king rare.

HollywoodChicago.com: Because you’re usually on the clock.

Meyer: Right. We know our stuff so well that we can then veer.

Gosselaar: These are accomplished writers. I’ve worked with accomplished writers in the past who are like “Say our words motherf**ker. This is gold.” This time they saw it as a structured framework and they let us build on it.

Meyer: We found some great stuff. We found some sh*t too. Truthfully, if it’s great…usually I can remember if it’s an improv or not but there were a couple where I couldn’t and that’s great. It’s ours. It’s absolutely ours. It’s for the good of the show.

HollywoodChicago.com: You don’t want to be able to tell.

Meyer: NO. That’s the thing — In movies, when you can tell they’re improvising, it kills you. “Why don’t you just look in the f**king camera? Say it to me, Ferris.” You don’t want the audience to think that Breckin is trying to make us laugh.

HollywoodChicago.com: You guys have mentioned doing this as long as you have. I’ve always wondered if someone could go back and ask Kyra Sedgwick if she was ready to play the same character for a decade what she would say. Have you considered that possibility?

Gosselaar: I’m hoping for that. It’s so hard to find that perfect storm of why things work. It’s not like we’re doing some project where we don’t like the writing. If it was something where I was pulling my hair out, it would be tough. But to work on something rewarding. We signed on and looked at each other and asked if we could do this for five years and we both said yes.

Franklin and Bash
Franklin and Bash
Photo credit: TNT

HollywoodChicago.com: So you had that conversation? Interesting. Because you don’t want to have to replace Franklin or Bash.

Meyer: Eh. You could replace me with a DUCK.

Gosselaar: AFLAC!

HollywoodChicago.com: I think Gilbert [Gottfried] is free.

Meyer: (Laughs.) Gilbert’s around. Gilbert’s absolutely free. When you sign on, technically, you sign on for six or seven years. But when you’re done with the pilot, everything is out of your control. When you like it, you think, “Man, I would really like to do this.” We wrapped and I called him because I was bored and wanted to go back to work. I had such a good time. Getting to only do ten is great because the writers really get to focus on those episodes, but you only do ten, as opposed to another 16 on network.

HollywoodChicago.com: You’d rather have that?

Meyer: Only because I had such a good time.

HollywoodChicago.com: What’s your airport question? What’s your most common interaction?

Meyer: (Thinks.) Whatchoo play in? Whatchoo come out in?

Gosselaar: “Are you….?” And then you’re just standing there. “F**king say it! Are you what?!?!”

Meyer: And then you’re going over your resume and the first six they’re like, “Nope. What else?” Usually “Road Trip.”

Gosselaar: For me, it’s “Saved by the Bell” but because I don’t look like the character that much any more there’s usually some confusion — “Are you DAWSON?”

Meyer: “Are you URKEL?” “Are you BALKI?”

Gosselaar: “Are you from “Silver Spoons”?” They think they went to school with me because I was in their room every single day.

Meyer: I had a guy who was like “Seth Green!” And I was like “Nope.” And he goes “YEAH, you ARE!” And I was like, “Dude, nope. I’ll call him right now.” Or “Breckin Green!” Or “Seth Myers.” Which would be cool.

Don’t get Breckin Meyer and Mark-Paul Gosselaar confused with anyone any more by watching the series premiere of “Franklin and Bash,” airing on TNT tomorrow, June 1st, 2011 at 8pm CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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