Garcia's a regular (or diet) guy


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The odds are overwhelming that no other Hollywood writer or producer busied themselves during the WGA strike in quite the same fashion as did "My Name Is Earl" creator/executive producer Greg Garcia.

He looked at the involuntary hiatus as an opportunity to "get back in touch" with the TV viewers of America, hanging for a while on the other side of the fence, as it were.

Garcia spent the month of January working at an occupation in a world perhaps better suited to his lead character, Earl Hickey (Jason Lee): as a cashier and janitor in a fast-food restaurant that Garcia prefers to keep anonymous. And anonymous also happened to be what he remained throughout his 30-day gig, taking the job without revealing his identity until he was about to turn in his uniform.

A natural question immediately arises: Huh?

"This stemmed from an idea I got while I was working on 'Yes, Dear,' " Garcia says. "I've wanted to do a book about taking different jobs and what it was like to do them. This was the first. It may be a while before I do the second. But it's just about the fact that we live behind gates and work behind gates, and as a writer you start to lose touch with the audience. You start running out of life experience."

It likewise was perhaps an opportunity for Garcia to mine story ideas for his NBC comedy series, though he downplays that idea. What he's enthusiastic to promote is how fulfilling his adventures in minimum wage turned out to be.

"This wound up a really positive thing," Garcia said. "It didn't turn me off from fast food. In fact, it was really the opposite. The place was unbelievably clean. The people whom I worked with were great. And the work itself was fun. Really. I worked hard -- cashiering, cleaning the bathrooms. A few days in, they liked me so much they asked me to join their management team."

And on his way out the door, besides coming clean, Garcia gifted one co-worker whom he had befriended with a cashier's check for $10,000, which left the employee "confused, then excited. It was just something I felt I wanted to do."

But how did the people in charge of the restaurant react when they got wind of who Garcia really was?

"They were concerned at first because they were worried I might be doing some sort of expose," he said. "After we spoke, they felt good about the whole thing. And so did I."