“Drama, everyone wants to feel, and everyone’s there, and they want to have a good scene with you, and no one’s trying to like one-up you, and it really feels good.” – Tyler Labine
On the NBC medical drama New Amsterdam, actor Tyler Labine portrays Dr. Iggy Frome, who heads the Psychology Department at the titular hospital. For those who have followed the actor’s career, the casting may have been a bit of a surprise because Labine is best known for his comedic work in films like Tucker & Dale vs Evil and the short-lived comedy series Sons of Tucson and Mad Love. But based on Labine’s recent interview with TV Fanatic, it’s likely that nobody was more surprised at the casting than he was himself.
Labine admits that before New Amsterdam, he had much more experience in comedic roles than dramatic ones. He explains, “I’ve played a lot of real funny characters, and I can definitely hang with a bunch of comedic actors, and I can ad-lib until the cows come home, and I know how to do that. I spent 30 years perfecting that, and then I did this show…” Because of that, he confesses that he didn’t feel completely comfortable with the series while shooting the first season. He continues, “The first half of [New Amsterdam Season 1], I was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing, now why did they hire me?’ Like I don’t… I guess this is what I should do; this is how you be Iggy or whatever. But I feel like something really funny happened within that.”
Even with that in mind, Labine thought about how the first season was an opportunity for him to develop the character. He recalls:
“In the beginning, I remember very actively being like, ‘I can do anything. I can, literally. Iggy can be anything.’ I don’t know. There’s no rules. I felt like the drama, sort of playing field is much more open than the comedic playing field. Does that make sense? You get to tell a story and you can, I sound like an idiot, but comedy is very constricted. It’s very restrictive. You have one rule, make people laugh. And often the story gets dropped by the wayside and it’s just like, do that thing. Drama, everyone wants to feel, and everyone’s there, and they want to have a good scene with you, and no one’s trying to like one-up you, and it really feels good.”
However, even with that realization, Labine still felt that his abilities as an actor weren’t up for the task. He says, “I was afraid that they were going to start writing me out of the show because I didn’t know what I was doing, and they kept giving me more, and I was like, ‘why in the world do you think I could do this?'”
Luckily for Labine, he understood that despite his extensive comedic background that the show wasn’t looking for the token comedic relief character when he auditioned for the part. He explains:
“It’s an interesting role. It’s like there’s a trope on these dramas and procedurals where it’s like, got to have the kind of the schlubby, funny dude who brings some levity to this otherwise very dramatic show.
And I was wary of that until I read the pilot, and I was like, ‘oh, I don’t think that’s what they want. I think there’s going to be a certain level of levity that I think is necessary for a show, but this isn’t going to be just another goofy character I play.’
And my hunch was right, and it just kept opening up and opening up and opening up. And I think, in that regard, the role of Iggy is very different from any of those Iggy-type roles on TV because those end up being very one dimensional, almost all are.
No offense to any of my friends who play a lot of those roles, but they know. They know they complain to me about it all the time. But the storylines, the depth of this character just kept opening up. So it’s been really rewarding and I think it’s really rare on TV.”