TCA Summer Press Tour Day 13 Quotes: Mark-Paul Gosselaar's Beard and Taraji P. Henson's Bananas

Plus, Tim Curry endorses Fox's 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'  and 'Zorn' team talks cartoon sex.
Frank Micelotta/FOX
Fox's 'Pitch' TCA Panel.

Not all of Fox's shows this season are about quirky investigators working with civilian consultants to fight crime, but it sure feels like all of Fox's properties are based on other familiar properties, from Lethal Weapon to The Exorcist to a new filmed Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Fox brought those offerings, plus the heavily hyped new baseball drama Pitch to the Television Critics Association press tour on Monday (August 8), as well as a survival pack reading "13 Days Down and 3 To Go..." including Purell, Visine, gum and 5-hour Energy.

The end is in sight, but here are a few of Monday's highlight quotes:

*** Clayne Crawford is stepping into Mel Gibson's rather large shoes playing Riggs on Fox's Lethal Weapon reboot, but he's playing a less aggressively manic version of the character, at least on the surface.

"I think in the films he was also doing cocaine, which kind of jacked things up just a little bit. This is Fox and family hour. No cocaine," Crawford explained. "So I was playing more of just the sadness, and if I lost my children, I don’t know how I would get up and pay the bills. I don’t know how I would kind of continue with life. So I approached it from that way, but yet having that urge, that desire to kind of catch bad guys, I guess. So I try to just ground Riggs in an honest place, because I felt like, from an audience standpoint, what Mel Gibson did was so incredible in ’87 with that role, but I think that we, as an audience, kind of want things a little more grounded today in a little bit more truth. For me, I had to find the heart of the piece. I had to come from that place and not go so big with it."

The Lethal Weapon producers admitted that casting Riggs was a challenge and that they found Crawford "on an independent movie he made," with none giving any indication they'd watched his critically acclaimed drama Rectify, airing its final season on SundanceTV this fall. I suggested during the panel that the producers might want to check Rectify out. Crawford clapped for said suggestion.

*** Several critics have noted that they watched the Pitch pilot without realizing that all-star catcher Mike Lawson was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar with a very, very bushy beard. It turns out that was intentional.

"We just met. And Mark-Paul, I thought that you’d been on he’s been on TV and in our lives for an awful long time and forever. And it felt like there would be a cool physical transformation that wasn’t just a gimmick, but also he looks like a major league ballplayer right now. When you see him on the field you put on how much muscle?"

Gosselaar replied, "I put on some weight. I won’t give you a number."

Apparently the cast works out two or three times per week, taking batting practice and whatnot. Mo McRae, outfielder Blip Sanders on the show, was quick to credit himself as the cast's best in the batting cage, though Gosselaar noted that Mark Consuelos has a good swing and is a switch-hitter.

After a long conversation about how geeky the cast has become about modifying their batting stances and their on-field prowess, pilot director Paris Barclay interjected with the clarification, "The thing I’ll say, though, if the show were just all about baseball, I wouldn’t be here, basically. I mean, I really wouldn’t. It’s not because I don’t love baseball. But my last team was the ’86 Mets, and that’s largely because of the crack."

So remember: Pitch is entirely about baseball, but not just about baseball.

*** The plot of Fox's Son of Zorn involves an animated character in the He-Man vein (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) attempting to reconnect with his live-action son (Johnny Pemberton) and ex (Cheryl Hines). Not surprisingly, this prompted a number of questions involving human-cartoon sex, including discussion of which animated character the castmembers would want to sleep with.

Hines cheated by saying Zorn.

Tim Meadows replied, "I’ve thought about this question since I was 13" and wavered between Betty and Veronica, before choosing Veronica.

Pemberton didn't hesitate and answered, "Cheetara from ThunderCats. That’s easy, though. I mean, really. She’s definitely the sexiest cartoon character of all time. She’s a cat."

Artemis Pebdani offered, "I think I would like to share kisses with Optimus Prime, probably," but added that she'd also like to dirty up Fred from Scooby Doo.

Journalism, kids. Journalism.

*** The best part of Fox's The Exorcist pilot comes toward the end when Mike Oldfield's iconic "Tubular Bells" finally kicks in. But don't get too excited. But don't get too excited.

"I don’t think you’ll be hearing it too many times in the future because it costs a fair chunk of change every time it shows up," series creator Jeremy Slater said.

Pilot director Rupert Wyatt, in fact, insisted that they never wanted to use "Tubular Bells" at all, but they stuck it at the end of the pilot and they were struck by how well it played. The plot of the original horror classic is nodded to in a briefly spotted newspaper headline, but that was mostly to acknowledge that beloved movie and make it clear that this wasn't a remake.

"[A]s a horror fan, nothing infuriates me faster than a remake that comes along and says, 'The movie that you love no longer exists. The story that you were invested in is getting wiped out of history.' It was important to let everyone know that this is a continuation of an existing story. So that was our little nod to say, 'Don’t worry. The events of the movie, the events of the book still took place. We’re just telling a brand new story with new characters 40 years later,' hopefully in the same tone, hopefully in the same spirit, hopefully doing justice to the legacy of The Exorcist. But we didn’t want audiences to sit there on the edge of their seat waiting for Father Merrin to show up or Father Karras. We didn’t want them to think that we were telling the same story in an oblique way."

*** Having Tim Curry appear in its new filmed version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was big for Fox and having the original Dr. Frank-N-Furter present at the TCA panel was also important, especially to answer, "I do, indeed" when a reporter asked if he gave the project his unconditional endorsement.

Curry had a stroke in 2012 and he still uses a wheelchair, but his wit and comic timing remain impeccable.

He reflected, "I remember quite a lot of the original film as it was my first movie, and I didn’t miss much. It was fun, though, to do it again. I actually offered myself as Dr. Scott because I was already in a wheelchair. They thought the narrator was a better fit, and I enjoyed it a lot."

*** Empire has made Taraji P. Henson into a Golden Globe winner and one of TV's most beloved stars, but it has also come with some negatives, particularly when it comes to her supermarket time.

"People forgot that I have a beautiful Swahili name. My father worked really hard. He looked through pages and pages of African names to come up with Taraji, and yet they only see Cookie, so yeah. Yeah. I mean, fame, that thing that I wish I could just go to work and come home, but, then, there’s that thing called fame," Henson laughed. "But I just wish I could buy my own bag of bananas without 'Cookie. Oh, my God, girl!' get hit and grabbed and yanked at like a rag doll like I’m not a human. But you’ve got to take the good with the bad... Looking into my own private jet!"

That's bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. 

[More from that Empire panel.]