Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer
Having Fun with the Law
by Jay S. Jacobs
A few months ago, while I was talking with legendary actor Malcolm McDowell, he was excitedly telling me about Franklin and Bash – an upcoming TV series that he was co-starring in.
“That’s a terrific show,” McDowell said. “It’s about a law firm in LA and I’m the sort of a renaissance man who is the head of it – and rather an eccentric character who is lovely and hires these two thirty-somethings to come in and give the law firm a kind of thinking outside the box, because they are sort of ambulance chasers. It’s great.”
Those two thirty-somethings are Jared Franklin and Peter Bash – played by grown-up former child stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved by the Bell, NYPD Blue, Raising the Bar) and Breckin Meyer (Clueless, Road Trip, Garfield).
The series is a smart and funny mix of legal procedural and buddy comedy. Now, as the show is about to premiere on June 1, we were lucky enough to be one of a few websites to recently get to talk in conference calls to the two jocular stars about what to expect from the soon-to-air series.
I was wondering how you got involved with Franklin & Bash.
Breckin Meyer: I got this script by Jamie Tarses, who is a friend of mine and the producer of the show. I haven’t done a series, I think, in six years, and she sent it to me, with the subject line, “I think I found your next gig.” I always told her, “If I was going to do TV, it had to be something different than what I did last time.” I hadn’t done an hour long, and I definitely hadn’t done a legal drama, or dramedy, as we’ve been calling it. So, I sat down with Bill Chais and Kevin Falls, the creators of the show, and talked about where they see the characters going.
You two have a great chemistry and I’m wondering did that come instantly, was there something that you guys did to try and make that work…
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well, we tried dating and that was a bit awkward. We’ve known each other for a while. We never hung out, we weren’t friends, but we’ve known about each other. We’ve grown up in this industry together and I’ve always respected his work. I’ve always heard good things about Breckin. His work ethic and mine are very much alike. We both have families. Those are important to us. There’s a lot of mutual qualities that we have that are in synch.
Breckin Meyer: They said they had Mark-Paul Gosselaar, as Peter Bash, and I had met Mark-Paul for about ten minutes ten years ago in an airport, so I really didn’t know him. We did a screen test together for Sony and Turner and right from the get-go I just thought, “Oh, well, this guy and I seem to work well together. This’ll be fun.” We have similar backgrounds, similar work ethic, and take the work seriously, but not each other, as he can tell you, because of the numerous Saved by the Bell references I made on set. It seemed to go well. I like Jared. I mean, I think in the pilot they said it best: “F. Lee Bailey meets Barnum & Bailey,” which is really how I’ve been described my whole life.
Obviously, the series relies on the friendship between Jared and Peter, so how’s the chemistry off-screen?
Breckin Meyer: With the guy from that show with the bell?
Yes, that dude.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: One of the things that helped expand [our] relationship was when we filmed this pilot. The show takes place in Los Angeles, but we filmed in Atlanta, just for the pilot, and it was just him and I. We left our families at home and we were sort of forced to be with each other, you know, on the set and off the set for a good two and a half weeks. I think that really solidified this relationship with us and helped the product that you have in the pilot.
Breckin Meyer: We didn’t really know each other beforehand. And when we were shooting the pilot in Atlanta we were kind of locked in confinement and we would basically go to work, come home, eat dinner in one of our rooms, and work. We got to know each other real well and we felt really good when we finished the pilot, and we ended up taking a trip to Hawaii together, (laughs) solidifying more of the romantic getaway there. We get along real well and we both show up the same way, which is knowing our lines, ready to play, we take the job seriously but not each other, and it’s fun.
I just spoke with Malcolm McDowell a few months ago and he was raving about the series. I thought it was cool that in the pilot episode, you guys had a Clockwork Orange poster in your character’s office.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yes.
Is it fun to be able to play with little in-jokes like that?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yes, I think so. We try to get Malcolm to sing “Singing in the Rain” (a song he was notorious for singing in A Clockwork Orange while beating and raping a couple) in one episode too, and we didn’t know if that was pushing it a little too far. But, we’re all on the same page in terms of our humor and we’re just trying to have a good time, and that’s very apparent when you watch the show. You have a bunch of individuals who are like-minded that enjoy being on the set together, and you see it in the product. You see it in the finished product.
What’s it like to work with the great Malcolm McDowell?
Breckin Meyer: I think I was one of the only people who had never worked with Malcolm McDowell, because he’s done 400 movies, but I’d never worked with Malcolm and didn’t know what to expect. He is absolutely a living legend and if anyone has earned the right to be a diva, it’s Malcolm. I did not know what to expect and he came on the set and he was just unbelievable. I mean he was just awesome. He showed up knowing his lines and ready to play, which is really everything you want in an actor and a co-star.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well, Malcolm is a legend, so the minute he walked on the set… he demands that respect, but he is such a genuine guy who is open and approachable, and really a team player. He is a great actor to work opposite. He’s extremely funny. I think that’ll become very apparent when you watch our shows, he’s got great timing and he’s just a joy to watch and to be around.
Breckin Meyer: He was riffing with me. He was, pardon my French, he would fuck with me during takes, just to keep it fresh and to keep it exciting. He is such a renegade. He has been in this business so long and he’s seen every jackass thing you can see, and he stayed on top and he stayed busy and he stayed great.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I’m very happy that he’s a part of our show. I think he brings a great quality to the show, especially for the side that we’re [now on] We got to work for Infeld Daniels. We never wanted Franklin & Bash to become a firm like Infeld Daniels. We always wanted to represent the underdog. The people that can’t afford these high-powered, high priced attorneys. But also, we wanted to do cases that were fun and not your typical legal case. But, working for Infeld Daniels those were the things that Franklin and Bash wanted to stay true [to]. If we’re going to work for a white-shoe firm we still want to stay true to our roots, and I think they were able to do that.
Breckin Meyer: We’ve had such a good time playing with Malcolm. I cannot say enough good things about him. It sounds so hokey, but I’m legitimately proud to say he’s friend of mine. I don’t think he’d know my name if you put a gun to his head, but still I like him very much.
I’ve always been a really big fan of Reed Diamond’s work, ever since Homicide. Obviously, he plays the uptight enemy-type to your character, but what’s he like to work with and what’s he like in real life?
Breckin Meyer: Reed’s great. Reed has to take so much shit from Mark-Paul and I. (laughs) It is based on who is character is. I’d never met Reed Diamond before and everyone kept saying, “Well, you know, he was on24,” and I expected this very serious guy. And Reed is like this cool, suave hippie. He’s always got his guitar with him and he’s just cool and he’s all organic and doesn’t anything that casts a shadow. Things like that. But his character, when we’re on set, not that we’re in character, so to speak, all the time, but we do dance around a lot and we do mess around with messing with his character Karp. And a lot of things that we like to mess with is stuff off camera before we start filming. We’ll just be kind of shadowboxing with Reed, so he has to take a lot of crap from us, just in order to ramp up to what we do on camera. But, he’s a lovely individual.
What sets this show apart from other legal dramas that are on TV these days?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We haven’t seen comedy in the courtroom in a while. Boston Legal is probably the last one. Ally McBeal is another one. LA Law was a brilliant legal drama with elements of comedy, so I think that’s what sets it apart from what’s currently on television, as well as the relationship between the two guys. You go home with these characters at the end of the day, so I think that that’s a very important element that isn’t on television on your typical legal dramas at the moment.
Breckin Meyer: I don’t watch a ton of procedurals, but when I read this script, what I liked is that we went home with the characters. I don’t believe that happens all the time on other shows. What I hadn’t seen before was going home with these characters that first of all they live together, and really getting to know them. Half of their time is spent at home because that’s where their team is. That’s where Carmen and Pindar or where the guys who were doing things that you can’t necessarily get away with at the office. So, I liked that we followed them. I liked that we are two single street lawyers who have lives outside of the courtroom and have lives outside of their suits. I like that we get to see that.
Mark-Paul, you just came from Raising the Bar in which your character wasn’t too far off from Bash. Jerry was a little more seriously, obviously, but you could almost look at this as kind of a spin-off of sorts. What was it about Franklin & Bash that made you really want to continue in the courtroom?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well, I’ve got to disagree with you, I don’t think there’s any similarities between the two characters other than the fact that they may look alike, and even that is questionable with the hair. Peter Bash is an attorney who is confident, who is great in a courtroom. He’s an assassin in the courtroom. He knows how to be surgeon with the jury. Jerry was a public defender who wore his heart on his sleeve, was righteous and he needed to be that way because of the environment that he was up against. [In] the cases he was always the underdog, and in an environment where he thought the cards were stacked against him. I think Peter enjoys the process. He doesn’t see that the tables are uneven. He feels that because he is a defense attorney that he can find those loopholes and stick it to the man.
Breckin Meyer: The good thing is with Franklin and Bash; you get both Franklin and Bash. Jared’s a kid who grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father was and still is a high-powered litigator. He rebelled against that by not wanting to be a lawyer, but eventually had to accept that it was his calling. But if he’s going to do it he’s going to do it on his own terms. You’d definitely get lawyering like you hadn’t seen before.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: But, yes, one of things that right off the bat that differentiated this show from Raising the Bar was the element of humor. That stood out immediately reading this, as well as the relationship, the comedy – the bromance, if you will – of the two main characters, Jared and Peter. All those elements together made it easy for me to pull the trigger, knowing that this was not the same show that I had come from.
Franklin has some of the best lines in the show. A couple of my favorites from the pilot were about him loving the law and the lumberjack comments. So, can you talk about your favorite scene or lines from the pilot and what we can expect?
Breckin Meyer: Loving the law, I’m actually pretty proud of that one. I think we came up with that on the day. I really had a good time making the pilot. It really just felt like when it was done the first think Mark-Paul and I said to each other was we want to see what else these guys are going to do. We want to do more. Jared has a really nice freedom with his words and he doesn’t worry about what people are going to say. Maybe sometimes he should, but he doesn’t. I’ve been describing Mark-Paul’s character as very suave and you swim in his blue eyes and he’ll take the jury where he needs them to go. Jared’s more like a dog going after a tennis ball in a bush, which is he’ll go head first and deal with the thorns later. My favorite scenes are always the scenes with Mark-Paul. Anytime he and I get to duel and dance with each other, it’s fun.
Right, and plus it’s packed with these clever one-liners. There are so many of them in every episode.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: There are some clever one-liners, and I have to say that we have some great writers. A lot of those one-liners though come from Breckin and myself, you know, bantering and just having a good time with the material.
Breckin, when you talk about that you definitely bring this kind of jocular comedy to the role of Jared that makes it so enjoyable. I mean, how much of that role is ad-libbed? Were you at a 100% of your personality to it?
Breckin Meyer: No, it’s definitely not me. I mean Jared’s definitely got more… oh, I’ll just say, moxie… than I do. But, Kevin and Bill, the creators, have been very, very cool about letting me… whether you want to call it, adlibbing, riffing, improvising a little bit. Once they knew that Mark-Paul and I really got the characters and were looking to enhance anything, not change it, but just enhance it or find a more fun way of saying things, they’ve been really cool. They’ve also been great about reining me in when I get a little too wild, but I think it’s what makes it for a funny show is that you have that freedom to try anything and fail.
Mark-Paul, you sort of alluded to one of my questions a bit back, but all of the shows you’ve done in recent years, like Raising the Bar and NYPD Blue, have been a lot more dramatic. When did you decide it was sort of time to take on a lighter role again?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I don’t think there was a moment where I said, “I need to make a switch here.” I had done Raising the Bar, so I’ve basically done a drama for the past decade. In the end of ’09, I went to New York to do a play [The Understudy]. It was a comedy and I really enjoyed myself. It was a muscle that I hadn’t used in a while. Coming back at the beginning of 2010, I got a script from TNT and they asked me to take a look at it, and it was a comedy. I thought, “Well, this would be a good opportunity, but I’m not sure if I want to do something with the structure of a legal drama,” [but] this was different. The structure of a legal drama is still intact, and it has the elements of humor that I think that enlighten and embellish the show, and that was attractive to me. I would never say to my representation, “I don’t want to do drama, or I don’t want to do comedy.” If something is good and something looks like it’s going to be challenge and I believe in it, then I’ll do it.
I’ve got a friend, he’s a District Attorney and he’s got to prosecute some pretty heavy cases. Obviously, law in the real world is not something that’s usually associated with comedy of this nature, but you guys make it work with both the humor and the serious outcomes to the cases. Can you talk about having that balance that has to come in pulling off a show like this where it could just be just be out-of-control humor, but also has to have a little respect for the legal system?
Breckin Meyer: Yes, I mean it has to dance the line. Bill Chais, one of our co-creators of the show, was a public defender for many years, and we lean to Bill often when I say, “Look, I understand that this is fun, and this is good for the show and it moves the story along, but can this happen?” There’s a lot of, “Can this happen?” For example, in the pilot, the girl taking off her shirt and revealing her bra – I said, “Bill, can it happen,” and he says, “Yes, absolutely.” I said, “Well, what would happen to me,” and he goes, “Exactly what’s happening. You’d be thrown in jail.” So, as long there are consequences, repercussions to our actions, I’m happy to have us take the unorthodox approach to the legal system. I think that Mark-Paul’s character, Peter Bash, is fantastic with a jury. They love to swim in his baby blues and he’ll take them down whatever path he wants them to, and Jared tends to be a little more unorthodox and unleashed in the court.
Breckin. It’s nice talking with you again. I interviewed you when you were doing Blue State.
Breckin Meyer: Oh, really? I like that movie.
Yes, that was a good movie. Now, you touched on this before, but the show’s really funny, but some of your characters acts in court could clearly get you guys in trouble…
Breckin Meyer: Yes.
…how far do you guys think that you’ll be able to push that boundary?
Breckin Meyer: Getting disbarred, I think, would be too far. I think Jared and Peter’s philosophy is they will do anything possible to get their client off, and it means getting sent to jail, so be it. It’s also the good of the case. They used to say about the TV show M*A*S*H that everything’s funny but the war and with Jared and Peter, I think everything’s funny and fair game, except the case. Everything has a reason to it. It’s not just being silly in court because it’s fun. Everything has a reason behind it, everything leads to getting our client exonerated.
What are some of the upcoming cases that are some your favorites Franklin and Bash get to try?
Breckin Meyer: There are three that come to mind. One is that we represent a Madoff-like character (played by Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander), which is a challenge for Franklin and Bash, in the sense that they’re used to fighting for the little man, fighting for the underdog and here they are representing, the man, so speak. We represent two strippers, which I think was just a matter of time, and one of my favorites is an episode called “Franklin vs. Bash” where we actually have to go up against each other.
Wow didn’t take long to get to that in the first season.
Breckin Meyer: No, I think we had to get that out of the way real quick. It was a Ross and Rachel thing. We didn’t want to keep it going.
Breckin, your character’s been described as quick-witted and scrappy. Do you have anything to add to that description?
Breckin Meyer: Really kind of almost off the chart remarkably good looking. (laughs) That’s not me, that’s what I’ve heard.
Breckin Meyer: Yes, so that’s how I’d describe it.
The pilot is so strong, and you certainly steal the show with your performance of “I’m Not in Love” in your hot tub scenes, so can you talk about what it’s like filming those scenes and if we are going to see more musical numbers throughout the season?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I do carry the guitar with me throughout the whole season. I do carry my ass with me through the whole season as well, except I don’t expose either after the pilot episode. Thankfully they have not forced me to drop my pants more than once throughout the season. That was actually a very uncomfortable scene for me to shoot. I’ve done some things in the past, on NPYD Blue. I just recently had something on Weeds, but to be standing on a set in front of 100 extras in a hot tub naked is not something that I look forward to going to work to do. The musical aspect, I really enjoyed. I’m glad that Peter plays the guitar. I’m sort of a fiddler with a guitar as well and I think it’s a good character trait of Peter’s. But 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love” on the pilot episode was unfortunately the only sort of song that we could use. I think we blew through our budget actually, to be honest with you. That song probably cost us $40,000 just to do. So, if the show becomes more successful maybe we’ll do some more musical numbers, but we need success to pay for that 10cc song.
In what ways is Jared like you, in what ways is he more difficult for you to relate to?
Breckin Meyer: Jared is ballsier that I am. Jared has more moxie than I do, but I think we have similar sense of humors. He’s a little sillier than I am, just wanting to play and something to play with. I’ve known guys like Jared growing up.
I want to first follow-up on one of the first things you said earlier, what were the burning Saved by the Bell questions that you finally got answered after all these years?
Breckin Meyer: There were so many. Many of them revolved around Dustin Diamond. I think the one question I had was, “What really was in the jar of pep pills that Jessie was taking that made her miss the audition?” I recommend that episode. It’s a really good episode.
I know the episode, were you satisfied with the answer?
Breckin Meyer: Yes. I was definitely satisfied with the answer. I think what the answer was is Mark-Paul pushed me really hard.
You and Breckin have joined Twitter. What brought you to it and how has it affected you, as far as the promotion of the show?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Well, recently we went to a media boot-camp that TNT put us in. What they’ve told me is that this year they’re finally on board with media promoting, or online… what would it be called? Social media. They see the importance of it.
Breckin Meyer: I actually don’t think I’ve ever mentioned the show on Twitter, so it appears that I suck at it.
So much for the boot camp.
Breckin Meyer: Yes, so much for the boot camp. But, I learned a lot of things at the boot camp. I learned what a hash mark was, because I thought a hash mark was a totally different thing until then. I guess the publicity department could help you out better as far as why it’s important.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: One thing that Twitter gives us a chance to do is connect with the fans and the fans connect with people that they watch on television or on film, and I think that’s pretty cool. I’m online right now and I’m reading Tweets from people, and it’s just a nice vehicle to get in touch with the fans.
Breckin Meyer: I’m sure in the way it is now there’s so many different social media networks and websites and Twitter, and all these things that are just different avenues to reach out and tell people about something you’re proud of, and I’m absolutely proud of this show.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: We’ll see what the outcome is. This is the first time I’ve ever done this. We didn’t use this sort of campaign with Raising the Bar, but I’m interested to see how this works with Franklin & Bash. But, I think it’s nice to connect with the fans.
Breckin Meyer: I guess I’ve got to mention Franklin & Bash on that Twitter account, huh?
I guess you do, otherwise TNT will take it away from you.
Breckin Meyer: Well, it’s mine. They can’t. It’s my name. It’s not Jared Franklin. It’s Breckin Meyer.
What’s the biggest challenge for you developing a TV character like this – as opposed to working on a film and having a shorter window to really get the character out?
Breckin Meyer: The biggest challenge with me with Jared is to keep him real – to make it not just a wacky silly guy. Mark-Paul and I talked with the creators real early on about we didn’t want it just to be The Odd Couple. We didn’t want funny guy, straight guy. It’s very easy to fall into that rut of, “Okay, well, he’s a funny one, he’s a serious one. He gets the ladies, he’s always whining about not getting the ladies.” These guys are life-long friends, they have to get along. It’s not like they were just thrown together. These guys have to complement each other. They have to get along. They have to finish each other’s sentences. They have to be funny in their own right, but also funny together. For me, the challenge is to keep Jared fresh and keep him real so it’s not just űber-wacky.
I know that you’ve played lawyers in the past, but I wondered what, if anything, you did to prepare for this role.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: I got a tan. That’s basically it. I’d had my legal fill when I did Raising the Bar. Thankfully I was able to go with David Feige, who was the creator of that show, and my character was loosely based on him. I went with him and was an intern at the Bronx Defenders for about a week and got my legal insight during that week, and for the last two seasons. So, no, there wasn’t much that I had to question. If I did have a question, one of our head writers, Bill Chais, was defense attorney and a lot of the stories that we deal with on the show are from his background. So, if we ever have questions we have people that we can go to, and that’s always important. Obviously, it is television, you take some liberties, but I think we’re pretty true to staying true to the legal frame.
Do you have a dream scenario that you’d love to play out for Jared?
Breckin Meyer: I want them to branch out a little bit. I’m curious where it’s going to go from here in – knock on wood – the second season. I like when they get to stick it to authority. I enjoy that. Now that they’re at the highfalutin’ law firm, I think they’re going to get more chances to do that. I leave the stories to [writer and co-executive producer] Kevin [Falls] and Bill, but I would love to see them take on bigger and bigger corporate guys. I’d love to see them take on a whole corporation, whether it’s Enron or something like that. It would be fun. I like when they get to mess with the zombie culture, so to speak.
Would you want to see your characters kind of get in a serious relationship? Mark-Paul wants to keep the characters single, but what’s your thought?
Breckin Meyer: Yes, I think for right now I like keeping them single. His character is just out of a relationship and he’s still smarting from the ass whipping that his ex gave him. I would like Jared to stay single for a while just because I think it’s fun. I think it’s fun with him crossing the line with his clients or walking that fine line, because he’s a nut. I’d like to see him single for a while, and Hanna, Garcelle [Beauvais]’ character, I like that they’re having kind of on and off again thing.
Why will people want to tune in to watch?
Breckin Meyer: I think it’s good. It really is good. It’s exactly what I was hoping it would be. I grew up loving, you know, dramedies. My favorite actors were guys who did both, whether it’s [Richard] Dreyfuss or Michael Keaton and Tom Hanks. I like the guys who have always done drama and comedy. These are dramedies in a sense. It’s Broadcast News, it was Jerry Maquire, called romantic comedies. But I think it’s pretty fun. It should be fun, and I think the cases they get are interesting. They’re from the headline cases. Hopefully people will like it.
The promo for the show is brilliant. Who doesn’t enjoy the lawyer as on TV? You took them one step further. So, would you hire Franklin & Bash to represent you?
Breckin Meyer: Would I hire Franklin and Bash to represent me? It really depends on what I was arrested for, but I guess I absolutely would – probably mostly out of curiosity just to see how they’re going to get me off. And also, what I was arrested for, I’m curious too. But yeah sure. Why not? I’d hire them.
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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 29, 2011.