I see Christopher Meloni, I automatically think of Law & Order: SVU. I can’t imagine him doing comedy. Just like Andre Braugher on Brooklyn 99. But I was pleasantly surprised there and I hope to be here as well. FOX has been known to pull off some great comedies. I’m watching one of their originals as I type this, Married with Children. It just goes to show the range of actors. Compare Al Bundy to Ed O’Neill’s current role, Jay Pritchett on Modern Family. Awesome. Christopher Meloni is Jack on Surviving Jack. His wife goes back to school, leaving him to take care of their two kids. Rachael Harris plays his wife, Joanne. Now, Rachael is certainly not new to comedy. She’s one of those actresses that you know you saw somewhere. Most recently she played Louis Litt’s freaky Harvard recruiter girlfriend on USA’s Suits. She was also in “The Hangover.” Their children on the show are Frankie, played by Connor Buckley, and Rachel, played by Claudie Lee. Surviving Jack looks like a great show; it premieres tonight, March 27, at 9:30PM ET after American Idol on FOX. A few days ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Christopher and Rachael and get some of their thoughts. Please enjoy!
TwoCentsTV: Chris, I was wondering; this is your foray into a sitcom. Were you nervous at all, or were you have any trepidation when you first began taking on this role?
Christopher Meloni: No. No, trepidation. I love comedy and I have confidence that—well, I know it’s funny. Maybe it doesn’t translate that it is in fact funny, but yes, no trepidation.
TCTV: Can you just kind of talk about how you became involved in the show?
CM:For me, it’s just kind of the usual – lot of scripts sent my way. I responded to this one because I thought it was the best written. I knew Bill Lawrence both personally and professionally. So, I trusted his taste and his ability to give this project the best shot of seeing the light of day. And then after that, I met Connor and Claudia and then Rachael came onboard. So, it all just fit in rather well for me.
Rachael Harris: Yes and for me, I came into the project later and what attracted me to it was I had worked with Justin and Patrick before on another show. I had met them and they were lovely and collaborative. But really, when I knew Chris was attached, I thought that was a very big draw for me just because I had loved his work in so many other things.
TCTV: What is both of your favorite part just overall working on the show so far?
CM: I would have to say how they’ve written the characters and their relationship to one another, the parent’s relationship, Rachael and me, and the parent’s vis-à-vis the kids. I just think they’re well written relationships.
RH: Yes and I can say yes to that and then also, my favorite thing is just rehearsing and trying to find like the best things that we can. Like I find the rehearsal process for the show has been really fun and really collaborative.
CM: Good answer. Damn, I wish I’d thought of that.
RH: I know. I know. I know. But really, the fun part is making it work. You’re not in control of the outcome or what other people think, but I know we’ve had a really good time making it. So, that’s been the best part so far.
TCTV: So, Chris, can you talk a little bit about the American Gladiator scene in episode two and having the fun with regard to the physical comedy?
CM: That was a lot of fun to do. It was pretty precarious to be tethering on top of furniture while hurling broomsticks around with pillows attached to the ends. Those three guys, my son and his two buddies on the show, are always grab-assing around anyway. So, it gave me a nice, fun opportunity to get in there and basically “play with the boys.” So, that was a lot of fun.
TCTV: How does your characters’ marriage differ from other marriages we’ve seen on TV sitcoms before.
CM: Do you want to take it or do you want me to take it? Go ahead.
RH: Well, just steer me in the right direction if I start to meander. Well, first of all, I think what’s different is kind of no eye rolling and I never put my hands on my hips, like, “Oh, Jack, what are you doing?” because obviously, he’s taking up parenting as I go back to law school. But, I think the thing that’s great about our relationship is they really love each other. They don’t feel put upon by each other. I’m not the ball and chain and he’s definitely not this man that I don’t respect. I think what’s different is we have a deep respect for each other. We both really like each other and we both have each other’s backs when it comes to parenting. We may differ as far as how we would go about things, but at the end of the day we’re both really glad to be parenting together. We really like each other. How’s that?
CM:I like that. Yes, I think that one of the marching orders was how deeply—and it comes from the pilot episode. “Jack,” my character, deeply, deeply loves this, not needs Rachael’s character, “Joanne” in his life. He voices that without compromise or anything. He loves his wife deeply and unashamed to admit to it.
TCTV: Chris, a lot of people might not know this, but you got your start on a bunch of sitcoms. I find it funny that you’re still kind of playing off this tough guy persona here. “Jack” is funny, but he’s also kind of scary. Was that part of the appeal, and were you actively looking for a comedy after Law & Order?
CM: I was leaning towards a comedy and the threatening “Jack” thing, I didn’t intentionally make it thus. I guess all I did—it’s just how the script struck me and I think possibly my physicalness kind of lends itself to that in combination with how Connor plays his part. He seems like he’s a kid who seems perpetually uneasy in his own skin. When you compare that to a guy like “Jack” who seems to me perpetually absolutely calm and comfortable in his skin, it really then makes my character a little more threatening or whatever.
Don’t miss the premiere of Surviving Jack, tonight, 3/27, at 9:30PM ET, on FOX!
Anne Bayley – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief