Exclusive Interview: Fred Willard talks PUSHING DAISIES

Fred Willard and Chi McBride

Fred Willard and Chi McBride

There are favorite shows and there are favorite actors and when they come together, it’s always a treat!  Fred Willard has been on my list of “faves” since before I can remember, so when I heard he was guesting on my favorite series PUSHING DAISIES, it was natural that I’d want to chat with him about the part!  As luck would have it, I had the great chance earlier this week to talk about his role on the show, how great the people he got to work with are, and why people aren’t watching quality TV anymore!

Amrie: You’re one of my favorite people ever!
Fred:  Oh how nice!

Jumping right in, tell me about “Oh Oh Oh, It’s Magic” and your character, the Great Herrmann.
I play a Houdini like character.  I’m a magician and escape artist.  I’m very flamboyant, very over the top.  I call them in to investigate the fact that someone is killing my pets in the act.  My monkey, my doves.  I ask them in to investigate.  My big trick is that I put myself in a box, and my assistant covers the box with cement and sand.  As these things turn out on television, one time it goes wrong and that’s where the plot comes in.  It was a lot of fun.  They put me through anything.  Teaching me magic tricks, and dressing me up, and putting on makeup, throwing me in a box and putting cement on me.  I would love to do one like this again.  It was not a role that you get a chance to do too often.

How did this role come to be?
I have no idea.  They sent me the script and I read it over, and I said, Boy this is a great role, with a lot of lines, and I’m in it through the whole thing, so I said “Sure, I’ll do this.”

As soon as I heard you were doing a guest spot on the show, I was so excited because it just seems like the kind of humor that I’ve seen you play.
It was perfect.  The role, as I said, it was something youdo in a sketch, but it’s not the kind of role that I get to do.   I shot it very big, and it’s very dramatic when I talk.  When I went in, the director said, “Fred, you’ll notice the shoot is a little bigger than life” And I said, well you watch me.  If I get a little too big, stop me.  If I’m not big enough stop me, and they never stopped me so I think I hit the right note.

Do you happen to know about 2.5 million more people to make sure we see more episodes?
They don’t really give shows much of a chance.  It was the writer’s strike.  Last year, PUSHING DAISIES just came out of the shoot just gangbusters, and the writer’s stirke, and I think they were one of the shows that they felt it wasn’t worth to come back for a few episodes and they geared it up for this year.  So everyone’s watching DANCING WITH THE STARS or whatever, and they kind of forget, oh let’s get back to PUSHING DAISIES.

I was on that series BACK TO YOU and luckily when we came back, they did 7 or 8 episodes.  Unluckily, they didn’t pick us up for the next season.  The show they replaced it with, DO NOT DISTURB, ran two shows and it was out.

It’s like people can’t find quality TV these days.  It’s almost like they’re aiming for the reality shows that don’t need to focus as much attention on.
I know, I kind of like them myself.  I think the scripted show is still the heart of television. It’s still what you watch television for.

I’m lucky that I have 4 DVRs, because I watch everything – I watch DANCING WITH THE STARS and other shows, because I can.  Other people don’t have that luxury.
With TIVO, you can run through like SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE in 15 minutes.  I’m a big fan of the show, but through the commercials and a sketch, you go “Okay I know where this is going, let’s go to the next one” and you get to the next one and then you might watch the next one. so that’s the way with a lot of the shows.  You don’t realize how great that is until you have to watch regular TV.  It’s a nightmare, you go “Oh Jeez.”

I know!  I do the same thing – I hate watching commercials!
It’s like they sandwich the show between an hour of commercials!

Had you worked with Kerri Kenney (RENO 911) before [She plays The Great Herrmann’s assistant]?
She was perfect.  She’s very good.  I think we were mutual friends with Martin Mull because we had a nice conversation there.

What do you watch when you get a chance?
My wife and I have different tastes, but we both watch 30 ROCK.  She really loves MONK so I’ve gotten into that.  It’s almost like watching a kids show, when you think about the plot, and it’s like, wait a minute, where did this come from?  But he’s so likeable!  THE SOUP with Joel McHale on Friday nights.  I started watching THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR, the Hugh Hefner thing.  All the stuff in the mansion, Hugh Hefner.  The whole lifestyle.  When they travel, they go on the private jet, and they pack for him.  It’s an amazing life.  And I also love the shows like WACKED OUT SPORTS and WORLD’S MOST AMAZING VIDEOS.  I very briefly got into Ultimate Fighting Championships.  I’ll watch sports events.  I’ll watch Jay Leno when he does Headlines on Monday nights.  I flip to Letterman when he does his Top Ten.  I like the Conan O’Brien monologue.  To me, the most interesting guests are the ones who come out second.  You know, the ones who aren’t promoting movies, so you fast forward to the comic.  That’s it for me in television.  I can’t get sucked into long detective shows.

Although this new LIFE ON MARS is very interesting.  The time, going back in time to New York City, and to see how much the world has changed.  It almost seems like you’re watching something from the 30s.  Everything seems so different.  I was around then, and boy, those styles and everything.  It seems like a lot longer than back then.

What else do you have coming up that we can look forward to?
I did WORST WEEK, a couple of them are coming up.  I play [Sam’s] dad when they have the wedding.  I’m on LARRY THE CABLE GUY’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL which is somewhere just before Thanksgiving, which is strange.  That was a lot of fun.  We went to Nashville and I love country music.  It was great.  It was one of those things where you rehearse for one day and then shoot it. 

I’m also in a movie called YOUTH IN REVOLT. It stars Michael Cera, and Steve Buscemi, and Jean Smart.  I can’t tell if it’s going to be a big hit or a medium sized hit or an arthouse movie.  It’s from a book, a youth book that the young people are really interested in.  It’s pretty graphic.  I read it, and I thought wow, we can’t do this in the movies.  It’s a very innocent movie, and it’s very sharp and very funny.

It was great to talk to you today.
Yes, it was great.  If you don’t watch PUSHING DAISIES, it’s okay, you can fast forward to the parts where you can see where I get submerged.  But it’s a good show.  It’s a lot of fun, and the cast are so nice.  I think, the funny thing, my character is so flamboyant and they’re so laid back.  Well, Chi McBride is sarcastic, but Lee Pace is so quiet, so it was a big juxtaposition between them and my character.

They are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met!
Oh they are just terrific.  All of them. 


You heard the man – tune in to PUSHING DAISIES if for nothing else than to see him submerged in cement and sand!  “Oh Oh Oh It’s Magic” airs Wednesday night at 8PM on ABC.