Did you know that Lucas Neff had only one TV credit to his name when he booked the lead role in FOX’s Raising Hope? He put himself on tape and sent it to series producer Greg Garcia. Garcia watched the audition from his computer and immediately knew that Neff was his guy.
Even though his life has changed, he says that he’s just happy to be able to afford to go out to dinner and buy new socks.
I talked with Lucas and Greg in a conference call where they talked about Lucas buying new socks, the process of him getting the role and how he’s grown as an actor.
Raising Hope airs on Mondays at 9:30/8:30c on FOX
For the full interview, click the audio link above or download from iTunes
Greg, I know you found Lucas in a huge, casting call. What was it about him that stood out from the tons of other actors you saw?
Greg Garcia: I watched Lucas on tape. He was in Chicago, so I watched on the computer. He just felt very real to me. A lot of auditions that you watch, and people are pushing it and trying to push real hard to get the comedy and stuff. He just felt very honest and real to me. I wanted this character to be somebody that people were rooting for and kind of the eyes of the audience into this crazier world, somebody that definitely feels very overwhelmed by this new responsibility thrown in his lap. I just got that from his performance. I got that from him as a person that he was a very—it just came through in his performance that he was very honest and likable guy. Then, I met him and realized he was just a really good actor.
This question’s actually for both of you. What’s your advice to actors?
Lucas Neff: I think being open. Certainly, my best work on this show has always been what I’ve embraced: the other people working on it. Listening to your directors and listening to the other actors. Just being as open as possible, trying to constantly recommit yourself to the more honest choice. I know, sometimes, it’s easy to get lost, especially in a comedy, and be like, “What’s the funniest thing? What’s the funniest thing?” Greg’s great about reminding me that the funny is there. It’s best just to be honest and simple. I think as actors, if you can just be honest, simple, and listen, you’re probably doing something right.
Greg Garcia: My advice to actors would be to try to get onto a hit TV show or a really big movie because that’s where most of the money is.
Lucas Neff: Now, this is just a …, but … babies like adults are—they’re very individual. So, I can’t really tell you what working with babies is like, but I can tell you what working with these babies is like. They’re great. They’re really, really personable. They’re really social. I think they’re in a really good community of people on set. Certainly, everybody in the crew and cast really adores these two little girls. We look out for them. They’re a lot of fun to work with. So, I only have good things to say.
Lucas, for you, since you’ve been playing this role for a little while now, are you starting to see similarities with your own personality and with Jimmy’s?
Lucas Neff: Yes. I also think that there’s a very symbiotic thing which happens on good TV shows and with great writers, which is that they start to embrace who the actors are and try to make the roles more specific to what they bring and they can do. I know we certainly try to incorporate the abilities and talents of all the actors on the set. There’s some goofy skills that Jimmy has that are certainly only there because they’re skills that I have.
Greg Garcia: Do you do animal calls, by the way, because I just noticed that in the script?
Lucas Neff: I think I talked to Bobby about me incorporating some animal calls.
Greg Garcia: Well, they’re in there, buddy.
Lucas Neff: See? Here’s what I’m talking about. There’s goofy things like that.
Lucas, I was wondering, you have great comedic timing. Is it something that you worked at, or are you naturally a funny individual?
Lucas Neff: I think sometimes I’m funny in the ways that I’m not planning on unfortunately. Like, I think there’s some people who are certainly graced with a certain ability to be—that people are happy to laugh at you, but I think in this situation, it’s more a case of I’m surrounded by really, really, funny people almost all the time: Garret, Martha, Shannon, Cloris, Greg, the whole staff of writers. I certainly am so— I try to be a sponge. I just embrace as much as I can from all of them. So, thank you for saying that I have good timing, but I really think it’s a tribute to how great the ensemble of funny people are in the room because I certainly benefit greatly from being around all these other funny people.
Lucas, what is it like going from a small role in The Beast to a starring role in Raising Hope?
Lucas Neff: I had an interesting day on set for sure working on The Beast. I spent most of my time just kicking rocks in the parking lot for like eight hours, but it’s a big change. I mean, it becomes—this is a time-consuming job in ways that I never understood, having not really experienced television or film before. So, you really do start to—it becomes your life in a lot of ways. I’m sure Greg knows even more than me. I think he works longer hours than anybody else, but you become a family with the crew and with the cast.
Then, at the same time, it’s very separate from the experience of the audience because, frequently, I don’t get to see the show on TV because we’re working. Then, I don’t have time to go out into the city or anything like that because we’re working and working, working, working. So, it’s like being in Narnia. You’re in this wonderful, fantasy, pretend world like 80 hours a week. Then, you go home and you just sort sleep. Then, you’re back in pretend land.
It’s great. I guess I don’t know how to have an answer for you. I’m still figuring it out. I’m still figuring out what it means. It’s nice to be able to afford to go out to dinner. It’s nice to be able to buy new socks. I just like to get to work with the people I get to work with. If it wasn’t TV, if it was all just us hanging out, putting a play together, I’d still want to work with the same people and do the same thing. So, I think that’s the best part of it is I’m so lucky that I really, really enjoy what I’m actually doing
Greg Garcia: If this turns into just a play, I’m out of here. I just want to say that.
Lucas Neff: I assume not one else would stick around. Everybody else needed to get paid way more, but I just really enjoy it. I don’t know. It hasn’t changed my life too much, other than that I am not desperately poor anymore. It remains to be seen. We have a whole other season to look forward to, so I’m excited to see what that will mean for my life as well.
With so many funny people on set, how much room in writing the show is there for improv?
Lucas Neff: Not a lot. We frequently end up cutting stuff from the scripts because we just don’t have time we have such an action-packed, 22 minutes. I know there’s like little moments, little flourishes that get added in. Like I know Garret and Martha and Cloris certainly have—there are little things that sometimes can get added in that are—I don’t know if they even call it an improvisation, but they’re like tiny little ad libs that make it into the show sometimes, but the writing is strong. I don’t think it needs it.
How are you enjoying the success of the show so far?
Lucas Neff: Are you kidding me? It’s way better to be in a successful show than on a cancelled one. I love it. I hope I get to do it for a long time. The scripts are still incredibly funny, which I couldn’t imagine having to write 22 episodes and hundreds upon hundreds of pages of jokes that these guys write. It’s just a blast. I’m having a great time.
Greg, how much has Lucas matured or developed as an actor since you cast him?
Greg Garcia: He seems to be going backwards. No, I don’t know. I mean, he’s a solid actor. He was a solid actor when he showed up here. He remains a solid actor. I think that as we all get more and more comfortable in the character, both in the writing and the performance of it, we’re finding different things. The character is always evolving and stuff, but perhaps Lucas could tell you how he’s perhaps changed, maybe by being around other people, just like I’ve written around different people. Then, you tend to pick up other people’s habits or learn things from different people, but from my perspective, he’s the same solid actor he was at the beginning.
Lucas Neff: Yes. I hope that’s a good thing.
Greg Garcia: Yes.
Lucas Neff: I don’t know. I mean, it’s hard to objectively quantify your own performance. It’s certainly something I would never want to do, but you certainly get more comfortable with people and with a job the longer you continue to do it. Yes, there’s a symbiotic evolution that happens. Hopefully, that is happening for me. I’d love to—I try to encourage myself that whatever job I’m doing, I’d like to be a little bit better every day that I come into the office because I don’t think there is such a thing as perfection. Wherever I am as an actor, I always think there’s room for improvement. So, I try to just come in with my head up and try to pick up as much as I can and be a little bit better every day. I’ve got a great group of people to help me towards that goal.