I understand you’re the mastermind behind this show.
Yes, I am the mind behind the show.
But not the master?
Well I don’t know about master. I guess, yes, yes I am. I’m the mastermind. Well I own it. Yes, I am the mastermind behind this show.
The show features a gay character Larry, played by Jesse Tyler Feurgeson (The Class). What is that character all about?
You know for Larry, Larry to me was kind of based on the persona I play in the room with the writers – just the grumpy married gay guy. He’s the only married person on the show, the only person in a long-term committed relationship, and he’s the only gay person. And as a gay person myself, I wanted his relationship to be as complicated and weird and ambivalent and angry and hurtful and then exciting and loving as an actual relationship is. Victor, his husband, doesn’t work in the hotel...I keep saying husband, but I guess in New York it’s not he isn’t his husband.
So they are not married?
No, they are not married, but they are the only people in a long-term relationship and they live together. And for me it was just, I wanted to do the gay character who is like a normal guy. In an upstairs/downstairs world, which is what this hotel is, he’s downstairs. He has a relationship and he’s thirty-years-old and he misses the day when he could be bar trash. He has to grow up now and he has to face his relationship and he is kind of ambivalent about it, and face growing old with another man. And I think that was what was interesting about writing it—the truth of that situation. I know so many gay men in their thirty’s who are like, ‘Why don’t I have a boyfriend? Why don’t I have a boyfriend?’ Cause it takes so much fucking work and if you aren’t going to do it then you aren’t going to have one. And if you keep going to Fubar looking for him, you aren’t going to find him. And so I feel like, let Larry be the guy who is in a transition in his life between having fun, no commitment, no responsibility life of your 20’s and the now he has responsibility. I’m in a relationship with someone, and I love that person, but I’m occasionally ambivalent about it.
So, working at this high end hotel with a womanizer like the hotel’s manager Neal (Jerrry O’Connell) and all those beautiful people coming in and out, will he be tempted to cheat?
Well he will get his at home. There is actually an episode coming, one of the earlier episodes, where we, where he is sort of blaming his relationship on someone, but it is then solved by sex. I shouldn’t say this cause the AfterElton guy gave me shit because my character was sexually obsessed and we’ve already seen that, and I went back, actually I didn’t even have to go back, he has one line about sex in the pilot - one line of about sixty that he has he makes a joke about sex, but he has already been deemed sexually obsessed by someone. And my response to that was, I’m gay and I’m pretty concerned with sex.
I don’t think his lines were sexually obsessed, but anything they seemed a little like he’s bringing back to the fact that he’s gay a lot. But, he is definitely the gay character, and you have to do a lot of character establishment in a pilot.
That’s what it was. So to set up he’s gay first of all and second he’s in a relationship and he’s in a bad relationship or a relationship he’s not certain about. You know for me it was like, I’m not going to hide the fact that this is a gay character, for all of us gay people, we all whine and complain about this representation and that representation and this representation, and then one person says ‘Why is he so sexual?’, the other person says ‘Why is it about him being gay?’, the other person says…but it’s like I’m not going to hide from the fact that he is gay and he is sexual and he is complicated and he will have stories that have nothing to do with that and stories that have a lot to do with that.
Did you have to do anything with this character to get it by the network?
No, they let me have free reign on this character. I mean he was pitched as basically, “you’re going to get me, a grumpy gay guy.” And they were like, ‘That’s fine. We want to do that.’
Why Jesse Tyler Ferguson?
Well partly because I like Jesse and I think he’s hilarious. I think he is extremely funny and I think he has an original quality about him and about his voice that lends itself to an original gay character. He’s not you’re straight up queen, he’s not you’re straight up muscle boy, he’s not your straight up this or your straight up that. He’s an interesting person. He’s got some weird shit. He can be very still and very serious and he can be bitchy if we need him to. He can feel bad about himself if we need him to which I think a lot of his character is someone whose dilemma in life is chipping away his self-esteem and he keeps having to build it back up. I think Jesse is an original person with an original voice.
No I like him and he does put upon well.
He does put upon well and he also looks like a normal guy. I didn’t want to do glamour gay guy with a perfect body. I didn’t want to do somebody who was either a whore or neutered. I wanted him to be sometimes he’s feeling sexual and sometimes he is blaming his relationship because other people aren’t viewing him as sexual.
Right. Will there be any, well I guess he is going to be married, but will there be any hijinks between any of the characters where sexuality is concerned?
Throughout the other characters? No. There will certainly be jokes. I mean there will certainly be…I like that, this experience has just, the experience of writing a TV show and putting something out there to have people comment on it is surprising when gay is supported and when gay is an insult that no one realizes. When people are insulting about gay or when people are supportive of gay without realizing it, and that is stuff I want to incorporate in the show. Like characters who say things that they don’t even realize are insulting cause that happens all the time and that happens from gay to gay and from straight to gay.
This is a four-camera sitcom and those seem to be a dying breed these days. What made you want to do this show in this way?
Well, the premise of the show…to be honest they asked me to write a multi-cam and I had no real objection to it. My only objection to it is that there is such a public, it’s not even veiled animosity anymore, to say you are making a multi-cam show people feel like you have leprosy and they run so they don’t get it.
So do you feel like you were going backwards at all from Arrested Development?
No, not at all. I always felt Arrested Development was what it was. I always liked multi-cam shows. There are a lot of single-camera shows. There are some single camera shows I find really funny and some single camera shows that I find really boring and I think they would be more funny if they were in front of an audience frankly. I love multi-camera. It was so much part of the joy I had watching television growing up. It’s really fun to write for and it is fun to shoot in front of a audience and it’s fun to have four days of rehearsal to get it right and practice it like theatre before you put up in front of someone, rather then single camera where you write it in a vacuum, send it to the table, you maybe get one pass on it and then it’s gone and it’s shot. You’re not part of the laughter of it that I like about multi-cam. That’s what I like about it.
But does the public agree?
I’m not saying this out of self-pity whatever happens, happens, I think it is hard for multi-cams to survive right now and weather they are funny or weather or not people enjoy them. There is just a generalized, like a generalized animosity disorder throughout the world. It is almost like people act persecuted like, ‘Why are you doing this to us? Why do you keep doing this?’ But it is just what it is. I feel like people are always asking, ‘What’s wrong with comedy? What’s wrong with comedy?’ It’s like just leave it alone have fun again. I catch a rerun of Will & Grace and it looks like they are having a ball. I catch a rerun of Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond and they are having fun. No one is thinking “what’s wrong with comedy?” they are just having a good time and that translates into good comedy. And that is what I am hoping we can maintain on this set. When I go home to the middle of the country no one gives a shit how many cameras are on a comedy. No one is talking that they would like that if they weren’t putting it on a stage. All anyone is talking about is Two and Half Men and it is shot multi-camera.
Well that’s the thing you got Mad Men on the cover of The New York Times, you got Gossip Girl on the cover of everything but they aren’t getting a big rating, and everybody’s watching Raymond and Two and Half Men.
Right when I go home they are talking about Two and Half Men and that is a multi-cam sitcom and they will be in my face saying ‘I don’t get Arrested Development. It’s not funny.’ And I will like, ‘It’s so funny’ cause we all love it and we all herald it and hold it up as the example we all want to live up to but then you go home and they go, ‘I don’t get it.’
Speaking of Arrested Development, Jason Bateman directed the pilot for Do Not Disturb. How did he get involved with that? Did you guys stay in touch?
Yes. We were friends and we would see each other once and awhile and say hello and enjoy each other’s company, and he told me my answer if anyone asks you how I got involved was just tell them it started at Château Marmont and we were alone. And that is part of the reason I love him because he would say something like that. But I did, I went to Château Marmont for lunch and he was there and I had gotten picked up the day before and he asked who was directing and congratulations and I said I don’t know, and he said how about me. I said, ‘You don’t want to do that’ and he said, ‘yes I do.’ And I was like really after running from multi-cam your whole life you want to go back? And he said, ‘Multi-cam has such a special place in my heart. I love it. Of course I would want to do it, just send me the script.’ And I sent him the script and called me back forty-five minutes later and said he wanted to do it.
You didn’t want to direct?
Not particularly right now. I barely want to write. No I’m kidding. I do love to write and that to me is the most fun part. That’s where the creation starts in your mind and on the page. I would certainly do it at some point if I could and that were possible cause you know when you are writing you have such a specific idea of how things are playing out in your mind and on the page and then you get up and look at something else. But I like to let people do what they do. I want my production designers handle the sets. I want my DP to handle the lights. I want my director to handle to the directing and I want my actors to handle the acting. There is too much to do. I don’t want to be the person who micromanages everything. I really don’t. It is too exhausting and at the end of the day it is a sitcom and I want to go home eat good food and have sex.
You’re in a long term relationship. Are you planning on getting married?
We don’t know yet, probably. Yeah. We are sort of dealing with it. It was one of those things where my partner was like “Gay marriage is legal!” and I was like, “I’m the busiest person I’ve ever been I don’t even have time to talk about that right now.” I mean it was one of those things where like it all happened at the same time as the show, it was just insanity, everything happening at the same time.
Well just like the show you can hire someone to handle that for you.
I know exactly. Are you married?
No, I’ve been in a relationship for a year and half. It’s funny cause I keep wanting to write this story on the pressure to get married now cause now everyone can ask that question now. My boyfriend thinks it’s kind of rude, I don’t neccessarly agree…
I feel the same way. You have to change your whole belief system. Gay or straight, I sort of view marriage as the end of fun part of your life, well not the fun part of your life, but the end of the fun part of your relationship. That was always my thinking, but also I didn’t have to face my own version of that, and now suddenly…And that is a story I want to write for Larry—him waiting for some court hearing in New York. If this becomes legal, what does that mean? How far down this road is he going?
I never thought I would have to deal with whether or not I would get married or have kids or any of those questions. Would I mix money with another person? All those things I have to figure out how I feel about this shit because I always just dismissed it as something I never really wanted. I’m not the person who entertained what his wedding would look like in his head. I just don’t care.