IR Print Interview: Jon Cryer For “Two & A Half Men” [CBS TCA]

Revolving in notions of what is said and not said has never been more truthful in the drama of “Two & A Half Men” over the past year. Jon Cryer, long the unsung hero of the show as Alan because of his ability to sacrifice dignity at times for the sake of a joke, spoke to The Inside Reel’s Tim Wassberg on the texture that makes the show more than it might seem.

Tim Wassberg: Can you talk about the story progression on the show after the loss of Charlie?

Jon Cryer: First of all, it was very strange to have the plots hang on Alan which happened a few times last season but was unusual still for me. What’s been nice about the last few episodes we’ve been shooting is that it has mostly been hanging on Walden [Ashton’s character] (sighs) just like old good times. I think the hardest episode for me to do is when Alan lost it and started thinking he was Charlie…because to find a tone that worked was difficult. The writing came through so strongly on that episode that it did alot of the work for me. I’d love to take credit (chuckling) but it was mostly the writing.

TW: But you had to angle the comedy differently though to make that angle work.

 JC: Yes. Because we didn’t want to do an impression. We thought that would be inappropriate but we had to sort of embody who he was and who Charlie Harper was…and not obviously what Charlie Sheen was. I don’t know. It felt like very risky territory but I feel like we got away with it. And we had to deal with it in some respect. When you lose a sibling, it’s a devastating experience and obviously dealing with it in any way comedically is hard. But I think the writers have jumped through some really amazing hoops on this.

TW: Do you feel that Alan is a more confident character now?

He gets full of himself because he’s actually on the board [of Walden’s company] and has an actual job. But I don’t know how long that’s going to last.

TW: Is this different perspective of who Alan thinks he is manifested differently for you through both the physical and emotional comedy?

JC: Part of what’s always been fun is that Alan is “Job” [from the Bible]. He gets humiliated, dresses in women’s clothing and has no dignity whatsoever. And that’s great. I’m happy to continue that. But what I am doing hasn’t really changed. It’s just a small change in the dynamic of the scenes in a general sense.

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Natural Legacy & Prevalent Viewpoints: Returning Television – Fall 2011 – Part II

The nature of legacy shows resounds in their ability to highlight and enhance without losing what they were in earlier incarnations. “Two & A Half Men” has been the most prevalent viewpoint in the last year with the departure of Charlie Sheen and eventual replacement by Ashton Kutcher but approaching characters like Batman and the vastness of the Star Wars universe holds its perils as well.

Batman: Brave & The Bold Interacting with the lore and mythology of other characters within the guise of Batman allows the creators to show and gauge the interest of fans (or the writers themselves) of how interesting certain backstories run. Highlighting lesser known vintage characters like The Atom or exploring the essence of sequel prowess with Green Lantern’s handling of Star Sapphire shows the possibility of them  against those backdrops without having to worry about logic. However, something like traveling through time to save different incarnations of Batman so he can exist in the current timeline is straining belief but the creative team knows that this is a chance to go off the rails before the next series inevitably return to darkness.

The Clone Wars Making the mythology more vast and intrinsic without overcoming the basic nature of the universe it has a created is a daunting task especially when you are writing the backstories of several of the species in later films. What this show tends to do, in short order, with adequate results, is create a depth of structure where the features just laid the ground work. Two story progressions this season so far show this both with the “Water War” progression with the Gungans and the Mon Calamari which dictate certain emotional responses in terms of war structure. By contrast, the episodes with General Krell where he displays a lack of empathy and regard to the clones results in a mutiny of sorts that creates a microcosm of battle command in its simplest form wrestling the idea away from being purely Jedi=centric.

The Big Bang Theory The indiosyncrasies of the core bunch continue to grow but what Chuck Lorre has learned to do is spin moons within the planetary configuration of the core five specifically with Howard’s fiance and Amy, Sheldon’s would-be girlfriend. The show has always been about social inadequacy and how technology and simple awkwardness make the possibility of these people connecting even more so. By changing the dynamic, especially with Penny, the idea becomes more of a wingman persona with all these people moving out in different directions on their own while still remaining a core group with varying circumstances and results.

Two & A Half Men In resurrecting the show after the unfortunate inevitable departure of Charlie Sheen, one would have thought it would be disastrous without him. The way however the writers have maintained shows a distinct undeniable truth that the writing, if done in a very specific way without negating or denying Sheen’s influence and still having a snarky but not mean edge towards its former star, shows an effective overhaul. You realize how key the bumbling mannerisms of Jon Cryer truly anchor the show and magnifies the everyman quality of it. Ashton Kutcher’s character is not a Charlie Harper but takes on a more cool quality from creator Chuck Lorre’s other show “The Big Bang Theory” in that certain qualities can be good and bad. An especially good two episode arch involves Alan (Cryer) and his worst day as well as a psychotic break where he reverts and tries to emulate his brother. It is neat because it addresses the good and bad sides of Charlie Harper while showing empathy. It might not be the Charlie show anymore but it does show that it can survive with dignity and darkness without him.

Models, Scandal & Detours: The 2009 CW TCA Summer Press Tour – Feature

The CW, in its predilection, tries to be sexy and cutting edge while pushing the envelope. Now while the essence of USA continues to create a competitor, the CW’s motivation in terms of new series is much different while still being diverse.

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The Beautiful Life This new dramatic series, exec produced by Ashton Kutcher, takes his form of thought in the aspect of the modeling industry and exposes the rollercoaster for what it is. Adding integrity and angle is the inclusion of Elle McPherson on the creative team. Of course one of the major scandals of the production this far has been the inclusion of Mischa Barton who has had her own real world troubles, balancing her professional career into the role she is playing. Kutcher says she is on set today working which creates fodder in return.

Ashton says that the truth of the story is young adults learning to become young adults. He agrees that, unlike other parts of the business, the fashion industry is all about the next young hot thing and that does not change.

The casting of the show [referring to Barton] will not change but the show itself will constantly change and mold in his mind. The lead story will not always be who is skinny enough to fit in a dress but body image will definitely be an issue for a lot of people on the show. For someone like [series co-star] Corbin Bleu, it is about height [because he is short]. The essence is that this is a new show with young people out there leading. The example of Mischa fuels the aspect that her navigation through the show for the rest of the cast is essential.

Elle McPherson agrees that it is the right time to take a perspective. She says that though she has been working as a model for the past 25 years, for the past 15 she has been really focusing on business. Also, being on the show [where she plays the head of a modeling agency] is, in her mind, a fabulous job. She seeks to discount the perspective that the fashion industry is “fly by night” which she says is not fair. She wants to make sure that the relationships in the show are indicative of the industry.

Corbin Bleu also reflects on his iteration into the industry. He has been working since he was 2 years old but most people only know him because of his last 3 years doing “High School Musical”. His point is as you become older as a model it becomes all about libido. It is not so much about boy or girl but about the power behind it.

Kutcher speaks about his initial foray into modeling and the appeal of that life at the inset. He says that he was going to the University Of Iowa School Of Engineering. He was 19 and managed to get into a bar. A woman came up to him and asked how old he was. It seemed like the answer to some of his problems. At college, his roommate was having sex with his girlfriend in the bunk above. Ashton was getting sick of it [since it possibly wasn’t happening for him]. Kutcher says he grabbed his stuff and began walking to the airport. It was a good distance away. He got tired so his mom came and picked him up and took him back to college. As soon as he had enough money, he got in a vehicle and got out of there.

When he finally started getting on the runway, one of the main things he remembers is Mario Tessimo being in the crowd and asking him why he seemed so angry. He took that as a turn because it was a moment that “popped things off”.

Kutcher also addresses the element of the internet’s dominance versus TV especially when he is literally the most followed Tweeter on the planet. He says that TV and the Internet will eventually merge. It is not one or the other but both, in his mind. He talks about a web show that he produced called “Cattle HQ” which got over 9 million views on the web. He believes that there is a certain point where the revenue element will catch up and the ad dollars will gradually shift into that medium. The business needs to be right and then the unions will get involved.

Melrose Place The return to the address, like 90210, is meant to show a restructure. The art for the series is unequivocably sexual in nature but nothing plays such a series as indiscretion.

Laura Leighton, who played Sidney on the original series, says that she found they reincorporated her character in a unique way. This character had always been doomed to be at the center of controversy as much as she had been destined to be in the penthouse (as Laura puts it). It is playing with that paradox and the destruction which happens that makes the character. She believes that the new series is hitting the right points and says that stepping onto the set is like stepping into a new world despite how perfectly similar the building has been recreated. She agrees that the original evolved into a different flavor as they went. This one however reeks with sex and scandal, which she says made the original at times so delicious.

The original engineers of the first show with Spelling are back with a new mode but still one that harks back with what made the original pop. In that, exec producer Todd Slavkin believes that intrigue will definitely be an integral part to the show while partner-in-crime Darren Swimmer sees an element of film noir and “Sunset Boulevard”. Of all the characters, he seems to looks forward to Katie Cassidy’s character Ella the most whom he calls “tri-sexual” because she will try anything.

Katie comes back saying that her character is definitely exploring her sexuality. She was too young to watch the original but wants to get to the character organically because she has a good idea where is going. The key is to be uncomfortable in your own skin but to keep the persona itself onscreen.

Life Unexpected Unlike TBL or Melrose, this series takes more of a “Gossip Girl” angle using real structure instead of purely entertained heightened situations. The premise involves a teenager who leaves foster care to find her real parents who had her when they were too young. When they come back together, a judge literally forces them to be a legal guardian since the aspects of her adoption are of questionable stature anyway.

Liz Tigellar, the show runner, acknowledges that “Life” is more in the vein of the old WB but thinks that it is a testament to the CW to branch out a little bit to give a home to this type of show. The aspect of the show that excites her is how flawed the characters are.

Britt Roberston, who plays Lux, the teenager in question [and is also the original name of the show], interjects that her character is “the perfect flaw” and Kristoffer [Polaha] and Shiri [Appleby] are just flawed parents despite themselves. Britt wanted to come across as a true foster kid. She needs to have fun but also up her protection when difficult situations arise. Britt says she looks naturally young so they dolled her up a bit.

Tigellar continues that they only made the pilot so the dichotomy of the characters are still coming together as they create their writers’ team. The scope of the series is the aim to reveal the layers. The more Lux exposes her emotions, the more her parents will reveal themselves. In her mind, it becomes something more important than biology. They originally were going to shoot in Portland where the story is based but moved to Vancouver for obvious production benefits. She reveals that originally the show was called “Light Years” but that had too much of a sci fi spin (and considering that Shiri last starred on “Roswell”, that is probably a good choice). As mentioned before, the show was originally called “Lux” which means light. Eventually the eventual title still retains her name hidden within.

In terms of the adult roles, Shiri was talking to Liz and Gary Fleder at the beginning of the casting process. After she did “Roswell”, she wanted to take a break and figure out who she was, which is something of which the character is going through which appealed to her.

Kristoffer Polaha, who plays the unlikely father to Lux with Shiri, says that the show creates a slice of life that not a lot of people talk about which is the aspect of when you hit 30 and your twenties lie behind you. This creates an alternate universe since he has two kids, age 3 and 5, at home. If he didn’t get married and have kids, he might be more like this guy who isn’t likable at times despite the fact that he has a good heart. He says that it is nice to put the perspective of real world experience to use since a lot of times in the business most people are trying to hide it. He points to the fact that his character’s dad leaves him a building and he builds a bar in the basement and lives above. He is not a slacker but he has his own idea of what happiness is.

Within the structure of these shows, the CW hits both its intensity of drama in the seductive sense with “TBL” and “Melrose Place” but is seeking to venture out in the future with “Life Unexpected” which turns the corner. Ratings tell the story but divrsity in this sense is always the hallmark of a strengthening network looking to show its metal.