JAY HARRINGTON from Better Off Ted Exclusive Interview

Jay Harrington

Yesterday, I got a chance to speak with JAY HARRINGTON who plays Ted on Better Off Ted. If you have seen the show, then you know how funny it is.

Jay Harrington talked about what it feels like to be back for a second season, who his favorite character is on the show, his uncoming guest starring role on Burn Notice and more. So enjoy the interview!

Congratulations on getting a second season. Are you excited to be coming back?

Jay Harrington: I really am, yeah. Thank you. I can’t wait to get back to work and see those guys again.

Do you know anything about what might be coming up in season two?

Jay Harrington: Honestly, I don’t know. I know his affections for Linda are still there when we last left, but in terms of specific stories I’m not quite what they have. They brought in a couple of new writers and I’m just looking forward to seeing that first script.

Do you think he’ll break his “one office affair” rule?

Jay Harrington: I think that like anything, he has to learn to adjust and roll with it. I think that would be the one that he’d break first, but Ted is a pretty steadfast guy and he has rules that he likes to keep. Without it I think everything would go crazy.

How did you create the character of Ted? What was your preparation process like?

Jay Harrington: Honestly, this is something that when I first read it, it was such a different thing than other comedies that I’d either done or read. Ultimately, really trusting in Victor [Fresco] and the directors that come through, his brother Michael being the first one we worked with; they had a vision. What they write you really have to go with it and trust it. Talking to the camera is an interesting and strange thing to do. It’s worked before with some. It was something that I was concerned about or afraid of, it not working, but I think that you, as an audience member, are immediately pulled in from the beginning of the show when you’re being spoken…you’re not being spoken to or about, but you’re right there with us.

How is it different being on ‘Better off Ted’ compared to being on something like ‘Private Practice’ as an actor?

Jay Harrington: As an actor the pacing is much, much different. You’re doing a lot of stuff in a shorter amount of time and the material is a lot quicker, just on the page. There are quicker scenes. But the pace that you really have to find, a lot of times that pace you can find in the editing room. They can decide if something needs to be slowed down or whatever, but with comedy you have to come in hot. So that would be the biggest difference.

Do you guys get to improvise a lot, for instance, when you’re talking to the camera or is it pretty scripted?

Jay Harrington: It’s pretty scripted. Any time something just doesn’t really work you talk to the writers about it, but there’s really not that much that for me hasn’t clicked. It’s just my sort of anxiety about giving it the respect that I think it deserves when I first read it. Improvising works, I think, in certain worlds. I know in the feature world it does work a little bit more, when you have more time. But when there are so many people who have contributed on a story, from Victor to the writing staff to the 20th Century Fox and ABC you don’t want to be out there just winging it and doing your own thing [laughs]. You may not be welcome back the next day.

Who’s your favorite character on the show apart from yours?

Jay Harrington: I have to go with – I hope none of them read it – the combination of Phil and Lem. That’s not to say that they’re not individuals, but that relationship is something that I always look forward to because when they’re doing their stuff in the lab that I’m not involved in, aside from reading it at the table read I’m not really sure what they’re going to do. So when I get to see the episode and see what they’ve done, it really makes me laugh.

What originally drew you into acting?

Jay Harrington: Growing up my folks had a summer house on Cap Cod that was about a mile and a half from a children’s theater. A lot of rainy days during the summer can happen and so there’s no beach and there’s no baseball or things to do, there was this theater that offered classes and did shows. I just kind of had a lot of fun doing it. The teachers that came there, the directors were all professional actors coming from Boston and Rhode Island and New York and even L.A. So at a very young age I was getting some great training and I just kept with it throughout high school and college and ever since.

What would be a dream role for you?

Jay Harrington: Well, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve got going here. I think that anything along these lines of being the straight man in the comedy world is a lot of fun. I look at the guys who do it really well like Paul Rudd, Jason Bateman, and then going back if you’ve ever watched Cary Grant in ‘His Girl Friday’; that was actually just on Turner Classic Movies the other night and it’s such a fast paced and funny movie. He was just this very strong and silent type guy and here he was just being hysterical. So being the straight man and the foil to the other characters is something that I really respond to.

Is there an actor that you’d love to work with that you haven’t had a chance to yet?

Jay Harrington: You know, this is the ‘if you could have lunch with a president, alive or dead’ question. I would say that I would love the show to have the opportunity that other shows [have had]. If you look at ‘Scrubs’ who’s had the opportunity over the years to have those guest stars. I mean, someone that I watched growing up no matter what he did was Michael J. Fox and including now on ‘Rescue Me’. But all those guys that have done comedy and make me want to do it.

If you could guest star right now on any other show which one would it be?

Jay Harrington: It would be a toss up. It’d be fun to be a bad guy on guest stars. I don’t know if you watch ‘Rescue Me’, but that’s just a great show. I would love to do that. I would say anything that FX does. How about that?

Do you have any other upcoming projects apart from ‘Better Off Ted’?

Jay Harrington: I did an episode of ‘Burn Notice’ which will be airing. I got the opportunity to do that and that’ll be on in July.

What does your character do in ‘Burn Notice’?

Jay Harrington: Yeah. I’m the brother of a sort of mob type guy. I’m the face of his dirty money laundering. I’m the guy who can hangout at the country club and around society while he does all the bad things. I’m an abusive ex-husband and she comes to Jeffrey Donovan’s character for help and him and his crew decide that instead of getting me killed or anything they’ll slowly drive me mad. It’s pretty fun stuff.

You’ve done a lot of guest star work. How is that experience different from being a series regular on a show?

Jay Harrington: Well, a lot of the recurring stuff that I’ve done have been situations that we’re going to be a couple and then turn into a few more. That’s sort of the nature of stories, but when you do just one I find it most challenging because you’re in a well oiled machine. You’re kind of coming in and you have to just pick right up and get with the program. So it’s a fun challenge. It’s something that I look forward to, getting in there and doing a good job. But I would say that those are a little harder than stuff where you know you’re going to be there for a little bit.

What’s your process as an actor when you get a new project, for example, on a guest starring role? How do you prepare for that?

Jay Harrington: Well, in the TV world, certainly the first thing and the most important thing to begin with is memorization and getting those words down that they’ve put down. I like to do the lines in my head or out loud or on paper so many times. You might blank here or there, but I just don’t want to forget because I want to then be able to know how the character would emote those words. With ‘Burn Notice’ the guy was being driven mad because the crew, Bruce Campbell and Gabrielle [Anwar] and Jeffrey, were making me see things or do things that were making me unravel. Once I knew the words then I could just go crazy and go cuckoo.