The Light from the TV Shows: Jack McBrayer gives thanks for ‘The Middle’ and other post-”30 Rock” roles

It’s been a few years since Bullz-Eye last chatted with Jack McBrayer…and by a few years, we mean more than half a decade: the previous occasion was when both the second season of “30 Rock” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” – both of which featured McBrayer, in case you’ve forgotten – were making their DVD debut. Since then, “30 Rock” has taken its final bow, leaving McBrayer without a full-time TV gig, but lord knows the man hasn’t been lounging around doing nothing. In addition to a very high-profile role in last year’s “Wreck-It Ralph,” either his voice or his actual physical being have turned up on Adult Swim’s “Childrens Hospital” and “NTSF:SD:SUV,” Comedy Central’s “Drunk History,” and, to bring this intro in for a landing, ABC’s “The Middle,” where, as part of his recurring role as the dentist for whom Frankie Heck works, he’ll be turning up for the annual Thanksgiving-themed episode, airing on Wednesday at 8 p.m.

JMcB-Dentist

Bullz-Eye: Well, I was able to watch the Thanksgiving episode of “The Middle” this morning, thanks to the kind folks at Warner Brothers, and I’m happy to say that it lives up to the high standards the series has set for its holiday episodes.

Jack McBrayer: Oh, good! I haven’t even seen it! [Laughs.]

BE: So how did you find your way onto “The Middle” in the first place, coming off of “30 Rock” as you were?

JMcB: Well, I had been a fan of the show from way back. I’m friends with Neil Flynn, who plays Mike Heck. I’ve been a friend of his from way, way back. From Chicago days. He was in Second City. We were at Second City at the same time: he was performing, I was in classes. And, of course, Patricia Heaton we’ve all known for years and years. And the show in general just kind of struck a chord with me, growing up in Georgia, in a small town, with parents who were overextended and always tired, and, you know, we’d eat cereal for dinner and…it all hit home to me! And, also, I happen to know a couple of the writers. Robin Shorr is a writer over there. So I think when they knew “30 Rock” was over and that some of the cast members would be available, they were, like, “Oh! What can we do?” [Laughs.] So I was happy to say, “Yes!”

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Lorenzo Lamas (“The Joe Schmo Show”)

For someone who’s best known for his work in prime-time soap operas (“Falcon Crest”), syndicated action series (“Renegade”), and straight-to-video shoot-’em-ups (including the “Snake Eater” trilogy, among many, many others), Lorenzo Lamas is a pretty funny fellow, and he gets a chance to show that side of himself – along with several other sides, to say the least – when “The Joe Schmo Show” returns to Spike TV tonight at 10 PM / 9 CST. Lamas took some time to chat with Bullz-Eye before and after the show’s panel at the winter Television Critics Association press tour, and he talked about how much fun he’s having showing off his comedy chops while also taking time to delve into his life and times up to this point.

Bullz-Eye: Well, I was able to watch the first two episodes…

Lorenzo Lamas: Oh, yeah…? How did you like it? What did you think about it?

BE: It was great. I liked the first season, but I never actually saw the second season. But this looks like it’s right on par with what the show’s been like before.

LL: From what I gather, the guy they cast for this “Schmo” is a lot different than the first guy. And what I’m gathering is that…the first guy was just a really great, friendly, open, more innocent kind of guy. Like, a real Joe Schmo, y’know? [Laughs.] Whereas I found Chase to be a very analytical, intelligent, not quite as naïve guy.

BE: Yeah, he seemed like a sweetheart, but he also seemed like a guy who really wanted to win, too.

LL: Yeah, really competitive. Absolutely.

BE: So how did you find your way into this? Did they approach you, or was there a casting call and you heard about it?

LL: You know, John Stevens and I had done something last year together – a pilot for an action show, a hybrid that was part reality, part scripted – so we met on that project, and then when Sharon Levy talked to John about doing this version of “Joe Schmo,” John says, “Well, what do you think of Lorenzo Lamas?” So he kind of brought it up to Sharon, and then Sharon asked, “Does Lorenzo do comedy?” Because the whole idea is this 10-day-long improv where everyone’s in character and they have to really stay in character. So John called me and said, “I’ve got something that’s kind of out of left field, but…would you be interested in doing this show?” And then he kind of formulated a pitch to me. And I had just finished doing “The Eric Andre Show,” and I loved it. That was improv, too. I did one episode, then they brought me back and did another episode. I’d just finished doing it, so I said, “You know, John, I think this might be meant to be…” Because prior to that, I’d also done a couple of episodes of the Nickelodeon show “Big Time Rush.” I played Doc Hollywood, who’s a bigger-than-life character, almost slapstick comedy. And I’ve been enjoying that. I’ve been enjoying the change, wrapping my mind around just…not doing action, y’know?

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