'Crazy Ones' Guest Brad Garrett on Finally Working With Robin Williams, Getting Old and Writing a Book
The actor tells THR about the humbling inspiration for his collection of essays and recalls seeing his new co-star performing live, 30 years ago: "I’d want to go home and put my head in the oven because there’s just no one like him."
Brad Garrett kicks off a rare stint on somebody else’s TV show this Thursday in the first of five appearances on freshman CBS sitcom The Crazy Ones.
It’s a role the Emmy winner, who most notably starred in Everybody Loves Raymond, ‘Til Death and ABC's short-lived How to Live With Your Parents, jumped at the offer with only the promise of working with Robin Williams.
“I didn’t even care what the part was,” Garrett tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I remember sitting in the back of the Improv, watching him work when I was in my early twenties. I’d want to go home and put my head in the oven because there’s just no one like him.”
The part is Gordon Lewis, the previously unseen partner in Simon (Williams) and Sydney’s (Sarah Michelle Gellar) ad agency. He’s a penny-pincher, gay and, like Garrett, disarmingly tall – especially next to Williams.
"You wonder what the craftsman is going to be like,” says Garrett, this being the first time he’s ever worked with his longtime influence. “You can’t help but be better around him. You can’t help but bump it up. You either get on the bus or you’re going to get left behind. This guy hasn’t been on a regular series in 30 years, and I think everyone on the cast just feels really grateful to take this ride with him.”
A TV fixture for the past 20 years, Garrett is spending the bulk of his time writing at the moment. He recently optioned a collection of essays to Simon & Schuster. The collection is more of an extension of his latest standup topics than any kind of memoir, he says, and notes that inspiration arrived in a rather unexpected venue.
“It’s a bunch of comedic, semi-autobiographical essays about midlife called When the Balls Drop,” he tells THR, sounding somewhat cautious as he gives context to the title. “A few weeks after my 53rd birthday, I got up to take my third whiz of the night and decided to sit down. I hit the toilet brine. It changed my life forever … pardon my being graphic.
“I’ve never been a glass-half-full guy,” he adds. “You can’t be half full. You’re half empty. I’m 53. I’m halfway to death, not halfway to birth.”
Garrett’s take on baby boomer frustrations already have garnered attention outside publishing. The Crazy Ones producer 20th Century Fox TV recently optioned the book as a potential starring vehicle for Garrett, and it's currently in development at ABC. He’s also writing the pilot script alongside How I Met Your Mother's Chuck Tatham.
“There is nothing more difficult than writing,” says Garrett. “My standup has always been very improvised and in the moment. To sit down and know you need 200 pages by a certain date, while you’re on the 14th draft of a pilot, it’s very different for me.”
Should the project move forward, Garrett notes that it would be a first for him: “I’ve never played anything close to myself on TV before.”
That departure even extends to his voice. Garrett’s best known character, Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond, left many viewers thinking that he always speaks in a nasally baritone.
“His voice really came in the audition. It really wasn’t deliberate until we started to rehearse the pilot. I just wanted him to sound beaten up, this guy who’d succumbed to the fact that he would never be the favorite,” he says, in a far less exaggerated tone. “My voice kind of goes in and out. It’s funny because it’s also getting higher with age.”
Garrett’s first episode of The Crazy Ones airs Nov. 14, at 9 p.m., on CBS.