Sometimes it seems like I spend a disproportionate amount of my life talking with actors about the differences between single-cam and multi-cam comedies.
Here's another of those interviews.
TBS and Sony Pictures TV's “Your Family or Mine” returns star Kyle Howard to the network and studio behind “My Boys,” which had a well-regarded four-season run (but somehow aired only 49 episodes, which surprised me a little) ending in 2010.
In November, I sat down with Howard on the “Your Family or Mine” set to talk about whether he feels any continuity between his earlier sitcom and the new one — this was before a new creative administration took over at TBS — and how the difference between single-cam and multi-cam comedies impact him.
Howard agreed with co-star Kat Foster that the two leads have a very good chemistry and that that kind of chemistry is both rare and lucky. He also explains why he didn't have time to be star-struck around Richard Dreyfuss and JoBeth Williams, who play his “Your Family or Mine” parents.
“Your Family or Mine” premieres on Tuesday, April 7 on TBS.
Check out the full Q&A below.
HitFix: So I talked to Kat Foster earlier and she said…
Kyle Howard: Oh God. What did she say?
HitFix: Only good things.
Kyle Howard: Oh no.
HitFix: She said that she initially just thought that there wasn”t such a thing as chemistry between actors, you know, you can just act with anyone. But then she realized after working with you that chemistry is actually a real thing, that you can have chemistry with your co-star. Do you feel the same?
Kyle Howard: How sweet is that?
HitFix: It”s very nice. She was very complimentary.
Kyle Howard: So she thinks that her and I have chemistry. Is that what you”re saying?
HitFix: That was what she implied.
Kyle Howard: No, I think that”s really true actually. I think that”s nice. I would agree that I”ve probably had times before where I thought that it's sort of a fictional fantasy thing to have this great chemistry with someone. But I think you can fake it in certain situations and I think we”ve all had to fake it in certain situations. But I think having those experiences and then having an experience where you do have real great tangible chemistry with someone makes you appreciate that more. And I do think that her and I totally have that. And unfortunately it”s the kind of thing that you sort of have to luck into. I mean her and I read together I think once before they hired us both. And hopefully that”s enough for executives and a showrunner to see that we have chemistry. But it”s certainly not a lengthy experiment in it. So I feel like part of it is luck, but thank God we do. And I think without that this would be a totally different show.
HitFix: I like that the premise allows for the possibility that you can effectively be playing two different characters. You play your character on his home field and your character when he”s on the road, when he”s on defensive. So how is Oliver different when he”s with his family versus when he”s with hers?
Kyle Howard: Yeah I mean that”s a good point and something that we sort of thought about when we were shooting the other family, but didn”t really know what was coming until we kind of got into it with this new family. In my own family, I end up to blame for things less. Even if things are my fault like for some reason my own family tends to let it slide a little bit and tends to take things out on Kelli as they do on me and her family. There”s just a lot more of me sort of trying to not ruin things on her side of the family than on mine, which is fine. It”s actually been so much more fun for me to be like on that side of the coin than being the one that”s always destroying things and always ruining things and always getting yelled at by her crazy father.
HitFix: Talk to me about sort of the order of casting. Did you come in before Richard and JoBeth, after?
Kyle Howard: Yeah, Kat and I were the first. So that was interesting. In fact, I think it got really down to the wire. I”m trying to remember. Because her and I got the job and knew about it for quite a while and then I think like a couple of days before our table read they finally had locked down Richard and JoBeth, which was a trip because we had heard different names that they were kind of throwing around but nothing had happened yet. And so it was almost to that point where we were like, “Uhhh… is this gonna happen. Or like is this gonna have to wait a while?” But then they swooped in and they”re amazing and, you know, it”s one of those things that like now 10 episodes later you can”t imagine it any other way. But it was a bit of a mystery there for a while.
HitFix: Were there things that you were only able to fully understand about your character once you saw where he came from? Once you saw those two people who were his parents?
Kyle Howard: Yeah I think so. A portion of it is just there on the page. But then yeah, of course, anytime the actors come in and make it their own and especially Richard and JoBeth just have done that to such an extreme. Then I think it enhances all of that existing stuff that”s already in the script.
HitFix: Had you had expectations when you heard “Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams” and how have they compared?
Kyle Howard: Yeah, you know it”s funny. Like I think I was a fan of both of theirs and I was excited when both of those names came up. But I hadn”t seen either of them do anything like this, any multi-cam sitcom work. So in that way I didn”t have expectations. I was just curious to see where they would go with that.
HitFix: But you haven”t had any fan boy moments with either one of them?
Kyle Howard: I don”t know. I wouldn”t say so really. I mean look, it”s awesome to work with really legendary actors like that. I feel like I have more like fan moments maybe on something that like I”m not a part of. It”s easier to look at something else and sort of be wowed by it. But in this situation, not that I”m not wowed by them but it”s this collaboration and it”s a teamwork thing and I don”t know. So there”s almost not time for a moment like that.
HitFix: There”s always time to quote “Jaws.”
Kyle Howard: True, true. I guess, all right. Fair enough.
HitFix: You have done a long-running Sony-produced TBS comedy in the past. Does it seem like there”s any continuity like in your mind when you think of the two projects? Does it feel like a familiar terrain at all or is this totally different?
Kyle Howard: Totally different only in the sense that many and most of the same people network and studio-wise are still around, which I love.
[Note: After this interview, TBS underwent a major executive upheaval.]
I love that about both of those places that there”s not this crazy turnover the way that there are at some networks. All my favorite people at Sony and TBS have been there since way before “My Boys,” even. And so in that sense there”s continuity with the personalities and just like the sort of professional side of things. But creatively it”s a whole different world for me and a world that I am sort of happier and more comfortable in here. I mean I loved “My Boys” as a show and I loved it as an experience with all the people that I”m still the closest of friends with. And I loved it creatively, but if I had to choose for me personally just as far as going to work every day, I think I”m always happier going to work on a multi-cam. I just love the energy of it and the vibe of it and it just is something that I”ve always had a little bit more fun with. Single cam can get a little monotonous and a little bit just exhausting in a way. Particularly on “My Boys” when we had these huge seven-person poker table scenes that we would shoot one scene literally all day long. And I love that here we just move, move, move and in front of the audience we spend 20 minutes on a scene and we”re on to the next and new jokes are flying in. We”re saying things that have never been heard before for new ears and I love that energy of it.
HitFix: So had you been specifically looking for a multi-cam to do?
Kyle Howard: Yeah, I mean the last probably several years I”m specifically looking for that thing, the right one certainly. But it”s always if it”s something that I liked script-wise, it”s always sorta my first choice when looking at pilots. Again I love the energy of it. I love also the schedule of it. I mean it”s a pretty fantastic schedule and for me it”s the most fun. Whatever. I just like to work and I like to work on things that I believe in and that I think are funny. But I think I am my happiest when I”m doing a show like this.
HitFix: Do you pay any attention to the the industry conventional wisdom and the shifting when it comes to multi-cam, single cam? Just paying attention to how many pilot scripts are coming your way that are one and not the other and how that ebbs and flows?
Kyle Howard: Yeah I totally do. I mean I pay pretty close attention to that because when there”s less multi-cams around I notice it and I”m sad about it. So for me, those years that the multi-cam trend is kinda back a little bit, I get excited and, you know, I want to read more of that stuff and I want to work on more of that stuff. But, at the same time, then there”s a show like “My Boys” that comes along that wouldn”t have worked as a multi-cam and, you know, would have been an entirely different show and I”m so happy that that show was what it was. I mean the format of that show suits it perfectly and I would never have changed that and I never would have taken back the experience of being part of it.
HitFix: What do you watch?
Kyle Howard: You know, very little of either is the answer of that, which is a terrible answer because I work in television and I probably should watch a lot more television.
HitFix: You”re not the only one who has that “I”m too busy making TV to watch TV…” problem.
Kyle Howard: Yeah, and there is a certain element of that sort of deeper understanding of a medium that it sucks to say but that can like ruin the magic of it a bit for you.
HitFix: So you can”t laugh?
Kyle Howard: I”m not saying I can”t, but I”m saying it makes it harder for sure. And man, to be honest with you, I can”t think of a contemporary multi-cam that really does make me laugh. Obviously I”m a huge “Seinfeld” fan. I”m a huge “Friends” fan. I”m a huge “Raymond” fan. I can”t think of one necessarily on the air now that I would call myself a fan of. I guess I watch some single cam stuff. I watch “Workaholics” and I watch “The League.” And those are super-funny to me. And other than that I watch “60 Minutes” and “Shark Tank.” It”s like if you go to work at whatever factory all day you don”t necessarily want to be a consumer of that product in your everyday life. I don”t know.
HitFix: Well this is an industry in which “Big Bang Theory,” the biggest show on TV, so that obviously proves the multi-cam can work.
Kyle Howard: Yeah.
HitFix: But networks still have this very difficult time launching multi-cams. And so you keep hearing the oh audiences just don”t respond to it. Except for the biggest show on TV. How do you look at that conflicting conventional wisdom?
Kyle Howard: That”s a really great question actually. I don”t know. I mean I do think about that and it”s sort of a weird paradox. And sort of I guess I don”t know the answer to that but it is a really good question to ask. I guess maybe it”s somehow, I don”t know, finding that magic in a multi-cam is somehow more rare because like yeah, it”s the big show on TV but then it”s not like the rest of the top 20 shows on TV is mostly multi-cam. It”s like that and then a ton of like procedural dramas. But I”d love to understand the science behind that more than I do I guess.
“Your Family or Mine” premieres on Tuesday, April 7 on TBS.