Fred Willard talks CASTLE and MODERN FAMILY

If you know me, you know that one of my favorite people is Fred Willard.  I say that every time I get a chance to talk to him, no matter what it’s for – a now-defunct FOX comedy, a sadly now-defunct ABC magical fantasy comedy drama, or for two fantastic shows on ABC.  He is one of the most down to earth and naturally hilarious people I’ve had the chance to know.

Fred and I chatted again late last week about his role on tonight’s CASTLE where he plays the sidekick to Tom Bergeron’s talk show host, and an upcoming MODERN FAMILY where, surprise, he’s actually getting screen time away from the computer!  Read on to hear about our great new idea for a talk show, and how tonight’s CASTLE was different than what he’s done before!

The episode of Castle, tell me all about it.  Tell me everything.
It’s a whodunit every week.  This is what kind of appealed to me because it is set at a late night talk show and I kind of enjoy the show biz aspect of it.  Tom Bergeron is the host of a show and I am his side kick and we have been friends for years and we filmed a lot of it on the set of the talk show.  They built a set.  They brought in an audience and I thought boy we could go ahead and just do a talk show here as kind of a spin off.

I would watch that talk show! I think that would be fun.
I think it would be fun.  Tom made a great talk show host.  I watched behind that desk he had kind of a Johnny Carson, kinda of a nice attitude there and um a creative talk show and the fact that he gets murdered, maybe we could do the whole thing in flash back. You know a prequel.

Oh that’s funny!
That would be a good idea.  Get a lot of guests in from years past who may not be doing anything now, whatever happened to them, and we’d show their first talk show.

I think you are on to something, I think you should pitch this to some one.
Yeah I’ll put something together and get it over…

I’ll take an executive producer credit.. That will be fine.
Oh that would be okay.

How is this character different than a lot of the roles we’ve seen you play lately?
Well there is a little bit of humor on the onscreen part on the talk show and then towards the character, I’ve never done a role like that and I have never been cross examined by detectives on a show and when I watch a detective show when they bring in several you know there is always like ten little Indians, everyone serves as a suspect, as you watch the show and think oh I bet he’s guilty.  I bet this one is guilty, so how to play the interrogation scene was very tricky to me.  A lot of times, people will try to act too innocent and I was told not to tip whether I was innocent or guilty.  So whatever the ending is should be a surprise.  So that to me I took as an acting challenge that I found I was depending an awful lot upon the director’s input there.  I went in there playing it one way and a lot of it was good and near the end he said, “Fred I want to see more pain than anger.”  I said boy that’s a good direction so that changed my whole reading of it.  Now whether I’m going to like that myself when I see it or not.. But I liked the director and I think it is going to be a fun show because there are references to, well there’s a Tiger Woods joke.  There are references to the whole late night, Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien muck up there and people are going to be thinking, Oh Yeah, I bet they’re taking a shot at Jay or at David Letterman.  They’ll be trying to figure that out and it just looked fun.

It looks there are a lot of great guest stars in this episode too.  I was reading through who else is in it with you and I recognized every single name.
Yes! French Stewart is on I almost forgot because I don’t do a thing with him but Bill Bellamy, the stand up comic, I was on Last Comic Standing, he hosted that.   I was very impressed they had Joe Torre on one of the earlier episodes.

Yes I saw that one.
Dodger’s Manager and I said boy that’s great, it’s funny how in this business  you know an actor could be on and I’d say  yeah he did the show but when I saw that Joe Torre was on.  I went into Kraft Services trailer, there’s a big Dodgers poster and Joe Torre had signed it and the caterer said yeah Joe let me where his World Series ring. It’s from the two worlds, every actor wants to be an athlete and every athlete wants to be an actor.

Oh yeah exactly.  Well you’re kind of becoming the go-to guest star these days.  You get to come back to MODERN FAMILY, which I am so excited for.
That’s an awfully funny show and I hope they think of another way to bring me back.  I did my second one.

You’re away from the computer this time right?  You’re actually going to be on screen?
Yes I arrive in person and there were a lot of people who contacted them and said poor Fred was only on a minute, we wanted to see more. So I said to Ty Burrell, my friend on the show,  I said well this time they are going to get a bunch full of me.  There is plenty of me on the second one.

Excellent, I think it sounds great!
Hopefully it wasn’t too much.

No I can’t wait.
Maybe it will call for me to come back another time.

Absolutely.  As soon as I heard you were cast it was very exciting.  I feel like you fit in with the comedy that is in that show so well.
I loved the comedy and I loved all the characters.  Ed O’Neill is a great guy and the two guys, the two husbands, are really funny and the two little kids are so precocious.  It’s like talking to two little 40 year old men and I loved the cast similarly at CASTLE.  Nathan was just a very nice guy.  The first day he said come on Fred I’ll take you to lunch which doesn’t often happen on a show and I was a little nervous.  What am I the star of the show?  Really fun and good feeling on the set.  I think it is a very powerful episode.  Everybody will be able to relate to it because everybody watches these talk shows and everyone has just gotten over where Jay Leno is now and what’s happened to Conan and it is very good timing.