BRAD GARRETT, ELIZABETH PERKINSIn tonight’s episode of HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE), an episode that series star Brad Garrett calls “an episode about guilt,” Elaine pushes Max to confront his dying aunt, while Natalie convinces everyone that she’s getting picked on by an imaginary bully, as a way of dealing with her parents’ divorce.

With each week, I enjoy the show more, and to celebrate what sounds like a somber yet hilarious episode, I spent time chatting with Brad Garrett about why he loves Max, why he loves the show, and what’s coming up next!

I find myself falling a bit more for these characters each episode.  As you’re playing the role of Max, are you falling a little bit more for the character as you get each script, and you understand him more?
That’s a great way of putting it.  That’s kind of what happens in a new show, or you hope it happens.  You hope you fall in love with the characters, and that the audience does too.  I really went for this role; they didn’t have me in mind to play Max, and when I read it, I just loved how this guy was in a 25 year marriage, and very much still into his wife.  Happy in his own skin; content with his things, and his businesses even though he holds a torch for wanting to be an actor, and he never gave that up, even though he’s not a great actor.  I just loved all of the different dynamics of the relationship.  What I really loved is that they weren’t great parents. They weren’t carrying a ton of guilt about it. They did the best they could; they admittedly came first.  I love that they love their empty nest.  It’s like, sure, we want to help you, Polly, but how long do you think you’ll be?  And I loved that take on it!

SARAH CHALKE, BRAD GARRETTHave you been able to get feedback from viewers?  Has there been a great response from people you’ve talked to?
It’s amazing – I’ve been out and about doing a lot of press back east and in LA.  People really come up, and they relate to it.  I don’t know if it’s the age we’re living in, or the economy.  So many people came up and said my daughter is 28, she’s moving back home.  We have a granddaughter.  It seems to be something that’s very timely.  Also what people say is that we love to see the married couple that has their differences but don’t bicker, and don’t fight.  We’re kind of kooky.  We’re eccentric.  We’re believable crazy – we’re not like, boy someone would never do that.  I just love that it’s grounded in a different reality.  Takes that family dynamic and turns it on its head a little bit.  We always have to the parents who are always welcoming and so happy to have their children back because they have no life, but these are people that have a life.

I love that you bring up the point that they have been in this marriage for so long – they clearly still love each other.  It’s showing a healthy long-term relationship.
Absolutely! I don’t know many people like that.  At the end of the day, I kind of say in my act – people who are going to make it 20, 30, 40 years, they just have to look at each other, and realize they’re just going to give up simultaneously [laughs].  That’s what it is – they look at each other and say we’re amazing friends, hell, I’m not going anywhere, where would you go?  Let’s hang out and let’s get a yogurt.  At the end of the day, it all gets old.  Can you stay great friends, still grow in the right direction, still support each other?  Max wants to be an actor, and Elaine knows she’s a better actor than he is but she doesn’t rub his nose in it.  She still supports his crazy dream, and she’s the last person who should be a life coach, but he supports that.

ELIZABETH PERKINS, RACHEL EGGLESTON, BRAD GARRETT, SARAH CHALKEWhat can you tease for us about what we’ll see coming up in the next few weeks?
Well Wednesday, I really love this episode that was written by Greg (), that’s coming up on Wednesday.  It has me finally confronting my relationship with my Aunt who is on her deathbed.  She was kind of like a crazy Jewish mother role for me, and she was very degrading towards me when I was growing up, and she was kind of sarcastic and flippant.  Being raised with the Jewish guilt, I’m torn – I know she’s on her deathbed, but there really wasn’t a lot there for me.  Elizabeth’s character Elaine is like, you have to come to grips with this, it’s about closure and saying goodbye.  I put it off, and we go back and forth – I end up seeing her, but at the last minute, so I have to have my say at the morgue.  She passes without me expressing myself, so now we gotta find her at the morgue, and that’s a hysterical thing.  It ends up that Elaine is not doing as well at the morgue or the final adios as she thought she would, and now I’m having to pretty much emotionally carrying her.  And then the B-story is Natalie dealing with the new divorce – there used to be an annual camping trip that Polly and Julian used to take with Natalie.  It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year.  What she does is she creates this fictional bully character, and gets extra sympathy from her parents that end up doing the camping trip anyway, to keep the ritual in line.  She guilts them into doing it.  It’s an episode about guilt.

BRAD GARRETT, ELIZABETH PERKINS, RACHEL EGGLESTONWhen people ask about the show – are you able to compare it to other shows?
I really don’t know if there’s anything that’s really totally new.  I think the only thing that becomes unique is the choices an actor makes for a character, where they’re gonna go.  Some of the best shows happened 20 years ago, or 10 years ago.  I think MODERN FAMILY is one of the best shows to come along in recent memory, that’s my take – it’s just the slant you take.  There is nothing more underrated than chemistry.  MODERN FAMILY had it happen out the gate on all cylinders.  You can’t write chemistry.  It’s something that happens; it’s the luck of the draw.  I really think we have that. Do we believe these characters?  More importantly, do we care about these characters?  We live in a society where there’s so much crazy shit is happening, excuse me for saying it, so much stuff where all of a sudden, here we are as Americans really, really not safe anymore, and it came at such a great time.  Oh I love these characters, I love that they care about each other, and they’re not condescending.  I love that they’re able to accept each other, though very different.  Not try to conform so they’re accepted.  There’s a loving family that feels like it’s coming at the right time.  If everything else is going to fall into place, who knows.  You know, they put you together, you’re a family, and action [laughs].  There is so much you have to make believable with really zero time.  I’m kind of surprised how many people are coming up.  We have an amazing timeslot, but I never pictured in three episodes that so many people would be reaching out!  It’s really nice!

For more information about HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE), head over to ABC’s site, and be sure to check out all new episodes at 9:30/8:30c on ABC!