Amanda Peet and David Walton star in tonight’s premiere of NBC’s new romantic comedy, Bent.
Pete (Walton) is about a womanizing, surfer dude and contractor and his beautiful, no-nonsense, type-A client Alex (Peet), who work together to remodel each other’s lives as they renovate her Venice, California home.
Adding to the show is Alex’s wild younger sister, Screwsie (Margo Harshman) and Pete’s narcissistic, live-in father, Walt (Jeffrey Tambor), a perpetually unemployed actor who still yearns to get back in the game.
I joined Amanda, David and creator/executive producer Tad Quill on a conference call last week where they talked about the show, working on romantic comedies and their advice to actors.
What made you two want to be a part of this show?
David Walton: Simple for me. I heard Amanda Peet was in it. But go ahead, Amanda.
Amanda Peet: You know, I wasn’t really looking to be in T.V. because I have two kids and my husband’s doing Game of Thrones so it was definitely very stressful to fall in love with Tad’s script. But it’s – I just love the writing and I love the character and then when Tad introduced me to David Walton that was about it.
What did you find challenging about your role, Amanda?
Amanda Peet: You know, I think, you know, comedy’s hard because you’re supposed to kind of forget that it’s a comedy. So I always find that it’s like a little more difficult but I hopefully I was okay.
Tad Quill: Amanda’s a fantastic actress but the comedy was real great. The thing that I love so much about Amanda’s performance is that it comes from such a natural place.
It doesn’t feel like she’s pushing for the joke. It just comes from her character and it’s very real and it makes it all the more funny to me. And she also has the ability to play the emotional moments and that’s a real combination and pretty unique.
You’ve talked about how you all got involved with the show but how did the whole idea for the show come together?
Tad Quill: I had the idea – I had wanted to do a romantic comedy and I wanted to do something set in Los Angeles and I wanted to do something with people sort of at a crossroads in their life where they’re all starting over.
And I feel like hopefully the town of Venice in L.A. comes through as kind of a character in the show. I feel it’s like a place people go – a lot of people I know are at a crossroads and starting over either divorced, you know, or sort of searching for something.
I also wanted to do an ensemble in addition to the romantic comedy. So that’s sort of where the idea came from.
Amanda, your characters very uptight but she comes across as very likeable. How hard was that to make a character that could be unlikable despite the sense that she’s so high strung. Was that difficult for you?
Amanda Peet: I just try to leave it up to Tad and, you know, I think (most) were in the writing so some characters are written and are – they’re just sort of very strident and there’s no gaps there, there’s no vulnerability there and I don’t think that Tad knows how to write characters that are that flat. So you have nothing to worry about as long as you just go with the writing, you know?
You both have been on other T.V. series that were critically acclaimed and really liked by critics but didn’t have the success and didn’t last. Did those experiences change how you feel about approaching another show? Are you more cautiously optimistic?
David Walton: I mean, I try to be cautiously optimistic but I can’t help like, you know – frankly I’ll be devastated if this show doesn’t go but then, you know, you recover.
So I just like being all out optimistic and I think, you know, obviously we’re in a hyper-competitive industry and there’s no way of predicting anything. But what good does it do to be cautious? I can’t find any reason to be.
Amanda, talking about these romantic comedies, you’ve done probably more than anybody it seems. I mean, you worked opposite Ashton Kutcher, Matthew Perry, even Jack Nicholson. As you do these, is there a certain thing about them that makes them work the best?
Amanda Peet: Yes, I mean, if you – it’s all about your partner. So, you know, once we found David Walton it became very exciting and, you know, I think that it’s sort of an ineffable quality when you strike gold with a romantic comedy and I guess I attribute it to being partners with David Walton primarily.
And, you know, I think Tad’s a very smart and a very funny guy and, you know, I think while these two people are very very different they definitely have that kind of witty repartee that I always love seeing in a romantic comedy where you have a really formidable opponent who is equally saucy and who can really give you a run for your money.
I always find that to be really sexy so hopefully we achieve that. I don’t’ know how badly were focused on achieving that very thing but hopefully that’s the by-product.
Amanda, what do you prefer television over movies? Are they the same, different?
Amanda Peet: I like good writing so it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a play or a T.V. show or a movie. You know, there are plenty of movies that are really badly written and there are plenty of T.V. shows that are sublime.
So I just try to go and make a writer fall in love with me who’s a great writer. Not fall in love with me but, you know, make somebody want to write for me.
Are you finding on television now that the stories and the writing is getting better?
Amanda Peet: Yes. I think it’s pretty incredible what you can see now especially for women my age. Never thought I’d say that term. But, yes, I think that, you know, a lot of the roles in movies aren’t as fun because you’re not really part of the main plot or your playing the lovely wife or the girlfriend or something like that and it’s not very, you know, it’s always sort of an ancillary role where in T.V. I feel like we have – including with Bent – really exciting roles that are fun, complicated.
Is there usually something though that when you read the script that you’ll catch a passage or you’ll catch a scene and go this is what’s going to make this great or is it just the total package? What catches you?
Amanda Peet: I think it’s both. I mean, obviously probably like page 7 there were a couple of quotable lines from Tad’s script that I loved all of which he cut. But I – yes – and so yes usually I get attached to couple of lines and then I decide the writer’s a good writer and then, you know, casting is a lot of it. And you know, once David walked into the room I was besotted and so was Tad. So that was that.
They’re burning off episodes pretty quickly doing the whole back to back thing. How do you guys feel about that? Are you a bit worried a little bit that they’ve chosen to lay them out that way?
Tad Quill: No, I mean, it’s obviously it’s very competitive out there but the nature of the show it definitely has the serialized quality to a romantic comedy. The feedback that we’ve gotten so far is that once somebody watches the first one they want to watch the second one.
So that’s what’s being the thinking of putting them back to back like that to really hook people in and I think it actually plays well to the strength of the show.
Tad, how do you prep a show that’s so based on this relationship? Did you have an end game sort of in your head as to where it’s going to go or do you figure out what’s going to happen next with them organically?
Tad Quill: No, no we definitely have an end game but, you know, it’s always figuring out as you go. It’s just always a fine balance between keeping the audience engaged and feeling like things are progressing but also moving incrementally forward as little as possible with a relationship because, you know, obstacles are the key to romantic comedy.
So it’s always that balance but it’s between giving the audience enough so they’re hooked in and not frustrated by it but also not too much that you’re not enjoying the sort of dance that they’re doing.
What’s your advice to actors?
Amanda Peet: Don’t do it. I’m kidding I guess. David, what’s your advice?
David Walton: I mean, it depends what stage you’re at but, you know, if you’re just coming out of college and – or, you know, high school or whatever and just want to become an actor I would say you’ve got to really work at it. You’ve got to – what did you say?
Amanda Peet: I said don’t do it.
David Walton: Don’t do it. Don’t even think about it. No, I would say, you know, sleep with casting directors. That was always – learn how to bite the pillow.
Amanda Peet: Wear really tight clothing. It’s all about looks. That’s the thing.
David Walton: You know, persistence and pay attention. Make sure you’re getting feedback that you’re good.
Amanda Peet: Because this is much harder than it used to be. I’m really old so I feel like I’m not a good person to ask. When I started it was really a lot easier to get a job, you know?