Over his acting career, Ted Danson learned somewhere along the line to “make sure you find the most creative people in the room and then ask nicely if you can be part of what they’re doing.”
In joining NBC’s “Mr. Mayor,” that room included Tina Fey.
As part of NBCUniversal’s Virtual FYC House, Fey interviewed Danson about their “Mr. Mayor” collaboration, his work on “Cheers” and making comedy in this day and age, which included Fey inquiring about why he wanted to do NBC’s newest sitcom.
“You are my boss and I am a sycophant at heart, but that is also the truth,” Danson said, “I wanted to know what it was like to be in you and Robert [Carlock’s] brain. I wanted to know what your comedy felt like to do.”
“You know, the kid in me that grew up watching ‘Cheers,’ that you just said, ‘I’m your boss,’ is preposterous,” Fey added.
Fey even incorporated a major lesson she learned from her “‘Cheers’ upbringing.” Even in a show about modern era big city government, it was essential to create an ensemble of characters that people want to spend time with.
“I just want to make a group of people, that you want to see those people be together in this space,” she said.
Danson put to use his own expertise from “Cheers.” On the ’80s NBC sitcom, he learned that “if you’re playing the tall guy, your job is to love everybody around you.”
“You’re the way that the audience can safely go into this insane world through your eyes,” he explained.
On “Mr. Mayor,” this has translated to Danson’s Neil Bremer loving Bobby Moynihan’s Jayden Kwapis, the notoriously incompetent communications director. Looking ahead to Season 2, Danson suggested to Fey to have a scene that explains why Neil tolerates Jayden’s silliness. However, he typically doesn’t like to put in such requests. He learned early on from the creators of “Cheers” to not make suggestions until running the scene.
“I really love my little job over here, which is so subjective and personal and so it’s hard for me to think big picture,” Danson said.
Watch the full conversation here.