If there’s one thing you can expect from Kyle McLachlan, it’s the unexpected. After establishing himself as a quirky leading man in films like “Blue Velvet,” “Dune” and on TV shows like the cult classic “Twin Peaks,” McLachlan had of late seemed destined to get into sitcoms with comedic turns in “How I Met Your Mother” and “Portlandia.” But he’s all business as a buttoned-up lawyer with a blue collar background in “Made in Jersey,” premiering Sep. 28 at 9:00 p.m. on CBS. I talked to him during the recent TCA press tour about his latest role, why he isn’t ruling out a sitcom and why his new series had reshoots to up the comedy quotient — but not from his character.
HitFix Interview: Kyle McLachlan talks about playing straight in ‘Made in Jersey’
You play a character with a soft spot for Martin Garetti (Janet Montgomery)’s working class background. It’s an element we don’t initially expect from your character. Is that the key to making him sympathetic?
[My character] talks about when I first came to New York to be a lawyer I rented suits because I knew that made a difference in perception, so everyone has their way to find, to get in the door. And from there you have to ascend the ladder. The beautiful thing about Janet’s character is she’s this woman who’s intriguing to me, so I’m curious to see what she’s made of.
Was that duality what made the character interesting to you?
When you say what attracted you to the role… there are dimensions there and layers there that, depending on how much or not they’re supported in the writing, I’m certainly going to bring that out. That’s my responsibility and I’m really going to enjoy that.
We were told CBS wanted more humor from the pilot than what was initially shot?
From what I understand they went back to do an extra day of shooting, some stuff with her family, her family in New Jersey.
But that didn’t impact your character, did it?
It’s hard to predict, but I think the family environment and the Jersey world is fairly contained, and that will be held up against the intensity of New York law firm.
While her Jersey background is pivotal in the pilot, that isn’t going to play a role each week, is it? There are only so many times a crime can be unraveled due to an understanding of how to put on tight jeans.
I think some will be obvious for her, others will not have the same ability to really cut through. It’s been said to me that there will be times when the case doesn’t work, and that will be a learning experience on its own. I think they’re open to not everything being a slam dunk for her in every episode, because that would be really boring in every episode. That’s going to run its course soon, I believe. But Dana [Calvo, executive producer] and Kevin [Falls, executive producer] are both very very clever, and they’re starting with a core group of characters who will slowly open up windows into these people so we learn more about them, which is one of the beauties of television that you get to do that.
One element that seems to be important to the show is the bias people in Manhattan have against New Jersey. Did you have any beliefs going in?
I think everybody does that, there’s the knee jerk about a community or a town or somewhere and the stereotypes come to mind immediately. And Jersey, you can do that with Jersey. You can do the same thing for Staten Island, New York and the environment of New York is very specific, they’re painted in very bold colors. Part of the fun is actually going to be changing people’s minds and educating them a little bit, too. Dana said Martina’s family is an American family that just happens to be set in New Jersey.
It’s surprising to see you in an hour-long drama when it seemed as if you were destined, due to your work on “How I Met Your Mother” and “Sex and the City,” to go into half-hours. Were you gearing up for sitcom?
It was definitely on my mind. I had such a great experience with Pam and Carter Bays. He was really well written and it gave me an opportunity to bring out a side of myself I hadn’t been able to do. It was a format I really responded to. Four camera, no audience, I loved it. I was really, it was really an exercise in precision. Not so dissimilar from “Portlandia” in some ways.
Speaking of “Portlandia,” Mr. Mayor…
I’ll be back!