Interview: Andre Braugher - Starring in 'Men of a Certain Age' Premiering Tonight
Multi-Emmy-award winner Andre Braugher is a cast member of multi-Emmy-award winner Ray Romano's new comedy on TNT, "Men of a Certain Age" which premieres tonight at 10pm. So how did one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of our generation get involved with a TV comedy? Perhaps because this isn't any ordinary comedy - this is Ray Romano unfettered by the 3-cameras-and-a-studio-audience format. This is also Ray Romano putting together realistic storylines without getting subjected to network-managed focus groups and who-knows-how-many layers of management. The result is an excellent show (we've seen 4 episodes), of what the LA Times is calling a dramedy, with honest-to-life characters, great dialogue, and situations that range from the very funny to the poignant. The critics who have already published their "Top Ten TV Shows of 2009" without including "Men of a Certain Age" have been more than premature.Last Thursday we had a chance to sit down and talk with Andre Braugher about what brought him to "Men of a Certain Age", his role of Owen, and some of the other roles in his incredible career on stage and screen.
LAist: Tell us how you got involved with "Men of a Certain Age"?
Andre Braugher: Ray Romano was the main draw. In spring of last year my manager asked me if I would be interested in having a meeting with Ray Romano and [executive producer] Mike Royce and I jumped at the opportunity because I'm a big fan of "Everybody Loves Raymond", Ray is so gifted at observational comedy, it's a show we Tivod and watched, it's a show that's so true to life. ["Everybody Loves Raymond" has] had Patricia Heaton who is so fantastic, Brad Garrett, and all these people, and I thought, "Why not me?" you know what I'm saying? And Ray and Mike were talking about doing a comedy, I have no idea what it is, but I figured that if you want to be good, you should learn from the best.
I was in rehearsals for Hamlet, so I had flown out for this meeting with them, and we talked about the material and I read the pilot script which was all very interesting to me. But they were hesitant about me, if I was the guy for the job, because in their minds it was a comedy and they thought I might be something other [than that]. But here's what Ray said after we were done shooting all nine episodes, "We didn't know if you were the right one and we mulled it over a long time but now I'm so glad that you were the one [we picked] for the show".
This was very heartening for me because in the [completed] episodes I had tried to do my very best to get to the heart of what these guys were trying to do. I was very pleased to be part of this thing, these guys took a chance on me and that's not common in this business because people typically go with known commodities. But I responded when he said this to me, it was such a gracious thing to say, because the fact of the matter is that he is a very good evaluator of talent - if you go back to "Everybody Loves Raymond", he didn't go with household names there either and he took a chance and within that show those actors proved they were great performers.
LAist: "Men of a Certain Age" isn't a punchline-driven show. Your character, Owen, seems to be an anchor of stability, a moral center in the show, and has a gravity to his presence but still manages to say some of the funniest lines. In comedy, whom have you admired and enjoyed past or present?
Andre Braugher: Oh the really old guys: Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Flip Wilson, those are the kind of guys that I like. I like the old clean comics - that's kind of my thing. I have an incredible appreciation for [contemporary] comics but I tend to be a really old-fashioned guy. I draw most of my role models from when I was a young man in the '70s and who I could see at that time - I go back to that time in my life for those kind of role models.