Interview with Brad Garrett from ‘Til Death

Recently I had the chance to talk to one of my favorite comedy guys ever, Brad Garrett, star of ‘Til Death on FOX. He dished about the show, his standup comedy and his faith.

When asked to compare his ‘Til Death character Eddie to Robert from Everybody Loves Raymond, Brad said they were quite different.

I think they’re just about as different as can be, and that’s what attracted me to the role originally. Also, Eddie is, and this is something I may not want to reveal but I will anyway, Eddie is closer to anyone that I’ve ever played as far as to myself. And I thought it would be fun to play someone that is as close to me as I can, because it’s just a great opportunity for an actor or a comedian to do that. He’s very, very different than Robert. I couldn’t imagine them being more different. And mainly, he’s very outspoken; he’s really the alpha dog. He’s—it’s pretty much his way in his life, or he thinks it’s his way, where Robert knows that nothing is his way and he has succumbed to that. Eddie, I believe is more of a fighter, whether he believes it or not deep down.

Comparing Eddie to himself, Brad went on to say,

We’re both very candid people. We probably talk before we run things through our brain. We’re emotional, but we’re sardonic at the same time. I have a sarcastic twisted view on most things, but a very realistic view, I think, or at least what is really realistic to me. It’s like I always say, if you’re going to be honest with your wife you might as well pack up half your stuff while you’re doing it. So that’s why I’m presently living in a van. But I would say those are the main similarities.

Brad was asked what his dreams and expectations were when he signed onto the show and whether or not he had met or surpassed those expectations and dreams. He talked a bit about how it is to be an artist and how he handled the character of Eddie.

Well, I don’t know if you ever meet the expectations. I think as any artist you always want to grow; you always want to get better. I think that most recently, especially right before the strike, I think the show just really started to kind of hit its own groove. We started to see the characters kind of develop in the direction we wanted. And to be honest, it took me a little over a season to find the guy who I really thought Eddie was. But as an actor you have to constantly reinvent yourself and you have to constantly try to raise the bar and do the best show you can every week. And I think we’re going to get there. I think the writing is bumped up. I think the cast is starting to get more of a cohesive feel to it. So I have good expectations for the future.

Along that same line, Brad was asked if there was a lot of pressure on him when he was deciding what the next project he would take on after [Everybody Loves Raymond], even it was all self-imposed, and he answered quite honestly.

I’m the type of guy that feels pressure when I have to order dinner at a busy—I’m just that type of guy but that’s my fuel. I work well with pressure. And I looked at coming off [Everybody Loves Raymond] as an amazing gift. I knew what I was working on was a chance of a lifetime and I also knew that I wanted to work as an actor there. It’s like whether you’re in a huge movie or you’ve just recorded an incredible album you’ve got to do the next thing, and that’s part of being an artist. So I feel grateful to have an opportunity, and this is really also the first time I get to be a lead in a show and that was very exciting.

Some actors prefer to stay completely out of the process of determining what their character is going to be like and where the storylines will go. Brad is not one of those people. He has definitely ideas about Eddie and the show and explained,

Well, I have quite a bit of input, more and more as time goes on. I think we’re all starting to trust each other more, and I think that’s a normal track for a sitcom as it evolves. I trust the writers more, they hopefully trust me more. I just want to keep my guy interesting. I want to keep him more dimensional. I’ve tried to move him in the direction of more introspective in a bullheaded way, as opposed to just really a bitter guy. I mean you’re always tweaking your character. I just want to keep him interesting but I want to keep him real. I want to do all I can to facilitate the ability that this is really a real 20-year marriage, and that’s—I’m just coming from the school of “can this really happen?” every time I read a script and, “is this something married people would do?” I’d love to see him start dancing. No, really nothing. I mean, to me it’s just to me the show lives in the world of compatibility or the lack of it. There’s really, I mean, as far as what I want to see the character do, no, no, not really.

Fans might notice a menorah (a multi-branched candelabrum which is a symbol of the Jewish faith and used for Hanukkah) on the set. Brad was asked if that was intentional and if he was religious in real life, as well as if there were any plans to bring up any religious storylines at all coming up on the show.

It was intentional. I’m Jewish in the show, as I am in my real life. I’m really not religious. I’m hoping I’m spiritual, I mean, I think I am. I don’t do a lot of temple, actually. I pray with my children. I believe in God. I don’t mind saying that, I’m proud to say it. But I do have problems with man’s religion, and I try to kind of just go with the spirituality. If I could raise my kids about a higher power and doing the right thing, then that’s really pretty much my religion. It’s just too secular, religion for me, no matter what end you’re into, it’s only about this is the only way, and for some reason other people get held out of it, and it’s not my thing. But I love being Jewish.

Absolutely, [there are plans to bring it up sometime in the show]. And Joely’s character, she’s Catholic Italian, and we will be getting into that, just the same way the episode that [aired recently dealt] with racism. And the new character who has been added to the show, J.B. Smoove, who everybody fell in love with from Curb Your Enthusiasm, is now a regular on the show. And we literally delve into racism and what is racism and what isn’t, and how it’s seen in a white guy’s eyes and how it’s seen in a black guy’s eyes. And the writers came up with a brilliantly funny way, and a realistic way, to address that.

So I do want to address things that are mainly not addressed in most sitcoms. So I think the religious thing, I always like my ex-wife was Catholic and we’re great friends today and we raise our kids like mom is Catholic, dad is Jewish. And I used to say on the holidays, we didn’t know which way to go, so I used to build a Jewish nativity scene. And it was nine attorneys overlooking a small auto accident. So there’s a way to mix it up and keep it real and fun. And at the end of the day, there’s going to be one woman to answer to up there. That’s how I look at it.

Brad talked a bit about guest stars that are coming up in the show this season and if anyone from Everybody Loves Raymond would be back.

Well, Ray did a tiny, tiny, tiny cameo last year. Actually, he had one line in a restaurant at the end of a show. And really, to be honest with you, that’s probably going to be it. As far as guest stars coming up, there is an episode we recently filmed where we met my parents that were played by Jerry Adler [from The Sopranos], and Valerie Harper plays my mom. And they were both just amazing, and we’ll probably see that episode before the end of the year.

Brad also took some time to talk about himself and his personal life. First up was a question about learning he could turn being funny into a career.

I know it sounds cheesy to say, but it’s something I just always knew. I mean, I made—it’s funny, when I was young I would make adults laugh, and that’s something that’s rare when you’re nine or ten. When I was really in high school, and I was working some of the open mike nights while I was in high school because I looked 21, I had sideburns when I was 11, so I think I knew then that—I was never sure if I could make a living, but I knew I would have to do it.

When comparing his work in both movies and TV, he said tv was definitely his favorite.

I have to tell you I love television. I think I’m better wired for television. I love variety as far as a project. I’m easily bored and the schedule of a television show, it just keeps you going. I mean there’s not a lot of waiting around. It’s different every week. I love theater and I think doing a sitcom in front of a live audience is the closest you can get to theater. And it’s really the best mix of like standup and theater, is really a sitcom. And I started as a standup and I still continue to do that as well. So I think I’m just a TV guy and happy for it. I think my movie career is kind of like my social life, I’m picky and not in demand. So it perhaps is working out.

Besides his work on ‘Til Death, Brad is also still doing standup comedy.

I’m doing a standup tour this summer, and I still continue to do that and that’s really my first love, and it also keeps it very real. I still think it’s the only thing you can do in this industry where you truly solo. I mean, you’re your own writer, director, audience at times. I mean, it’s really—it’s just—it’s something that’s never the same twice no matter how many years you work in it, and it’s something you never perfect. Because when you think you have it down all of a sudden you have a very tough night in Tulsa. It’s something that I just love doing.

People that don’t know anything about his standup act expect him to be Eddie or Robert on stage. Brad had a good laugh about that.

I even joke about [the fact that they think I’m going to be Eddie or Robert on stage] in the act. Ray and I just finished a nine-city tour, we just finished Sunday night. And we pick about nine, ten dates a year that we do together, just really for fun and we’re old buddies, obviously. But we’re very different on stage and we think that’s why the show kind of works. But when they see Ray, I mean, he’s a wonderful standup and his humor is very homogeneous and very family-oriented. And then when I come out they expect kind of a version of that, but it’s really it’s very ethnic humor, it’s very improv-oriented, I bring in the audience a lot to it.

And it’s edgy, I mean, there’s no question that it’s edgy. And I just have to do what I do and that’s something I’ve always done and I did it way before I played Robert. But people are surprised, and most people dig it because I think when they come to see you in a live show they want to see something that’s different than what they’ve watched for nine years, hopefully.

Speaking of his standup, during the strike, Brad didn’t just laze around the house.

I did quite a bit of standup on the road and did a bunch of casino dates, and hung out with the kids a lot. I have an eight and nine and a half year old boy and girl, and that’s really kind of when I’m at my best. I love being a dad, and it gave us a great opportunity for some quality time. And there were a couple writers that I followed with my headlights off at night, but that was really it. I played a lot of poker, too. I love it. I’m going to be in the World Series next year. I mean, I have no right to be there. But it’s something that I love, I love cards and I’ve played poker a long time, way before it was cool. I’m not that good at it, it’s like golf, I’m so bad at both of these things that it takes me away from the things I should be thinking about, if that makes any sense.

Confirming that he is a regular guy, Brad mentioned what shows on TV he enjoys.

I was a huge fan [of The Sopranos]. I didn’t miss an episode in all those years. I just thought it was really possibly the best television as far as drama. I love [Curb Your Enthusiasm]; I was a big Larry Sanders fan; Seinfeld. I don’t have much time. Between the show and being a dad of two little ones it keeps me going, but I don’t do a lot of TV.

‘Til Death airs on Wednesdays at 9/8c. To read more about this week’s episode, click here: When Joy and Eddie have a pregnancy scare, Joy convinces Eddie to get a vasectomy. Nervous about the procedure, Eddie takes advice from Kenny and pretends that he wants more children in order to avoid the trip to Dr. Park (Ken Jeong).

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