Following a successful (and well-received) interview with Life UneXpected creator Liz Tigelaar, "My Life, Made Possible By Pop Culture" had the opportunity to follow up with the show's two male leads, Kerr Smith and Kristoffer Polaha. Though LUX has been called the new Gilmore Girls, Tigelaar believes the demographic for her show will be broader and will include the male audience, as well. In great part this is due to her male leads. Find out what these guys' guys had to say about each other, what it's like to play parent to a teenager in their thirties, and why they think their show will be around for awhile even after getting a late start.
Of course, though, I had to start the interviews by asking what it's like to shoot up in "The Couve!" I am determined to get up there yet!
How has it been shooting up in Canada?
Kerr Smith: Cold. Wet. And dark. [Laughs] Yeah, a lot of cloud cover. No, actually we've been having a great time; we've been getting a lot done-- a lot of good stuff done. I think we just hit the half-way mark for the first season here last week, so everything's been going great. I think we're pumping out a really nice little show that you're really going to enjoy.
Kristoffer Polaha: Yeah, no, it's freezing. It kind of burns the nostrils, but from what I understand, it's either this-- it's super cold but you get sunlight-- or it's moderately cold and it's rainy. I'd take the sun and the cold over the rain any day!
Take me back a little bit to when you first got the pilot script. What was it about the show-- and specifically your role-- that first attracted you to it?
K.S.: Well, you know, when I read it, it just had a lot of heart, and it just felt to me like old school WB and the kind of show that actually put that network on the map. And having been a kind of part of that before, it just felt the same way, and I thought: "Wow this thing could do really well," so I wanted to jump on board.
K.P.: Well, right off the bat I was given the [pilot] script to read for interest, and it was an amazing script. You kind of get a nose for things, you know? As actors, I think we get to see-- it used to be a hundred scripts every pilots season, and I don't know the numbers anymore, but you get an idea of what's good, what's not good. And from the stuff that's good, you get an idea of what's going to get picked up and what's not going to get picked up. I remember reading this and being like, "Wow, this is a really great script" and still not knowing what network it was for, but knowing that it was big league stuff.
Kris, you're no stranger to television. We've seen you in various shows-- some which maybe shouldn't have gotten canceled as early as they did-- for the last few years. Baze is similar to some of your other recent roles, as a pretty laid back and casual "go with the flow" guy, but what specifically made you want to play him?
Baze is just such a fantastic character; he's a lot of fun in the sense that you get this guy who's like a leading man-- he's basically like every Matthew McConaughey character or every Hugh Grant character, you know? He's sort of bumbling, ne'er do well, Peter Pan syndrome, man-child who doesn't want to grow up or take responsibility for his life. And at the point where we're catching him, it's...where the guy has to say "You know what? I do have to stand up and be a man." We're catching Baze at this moment in his life where he's like "I do have to man up here."
Kerr, I know you worked with Liz in the past, and when I spoke with her a few weeks ago, she told me she actually adapted the role once she saw you in it, so how has it been working with her again? Is it nostalgic at all-- just like old times?
Well to be honest, when Liz and I worked together the first time, we didn't know each other very well; we had only met each other a couple of times. She was just starting out on Dawson's Creek-- I believe-- and you know, we were in Wilmington (North Carolina), and the writers were in Los Angeles, so we never saw each other. She obviously picked up on that problem because on our show she has a writer coming up here every week-- every episode-- which is fantastic. That bridges gaps, which is a really smart way to play it.
But yeah, I read that article last week, and the things she said were really very nice...She's been coming up here a lot now; she's probably been up here about two or three times now, which is awesome. It's really fun.
And Kerr, I actually talked with you a little bit back in January for My Bloody Valentine, which was obviously a very different role and project. And in that film you were the guy who was kind of juggling two women-- the wife and the young girlfriend-- but in Life UneXpected, you kind of are the "other man," so to speak, since Cate has all the history with Baze. What are you drawing from in order to play that?
You know, it's the classic triangle...Ryan's the kind of guy that's capable of putting up with a lot of crap before he tries to run. [Laughs] He's a truthful guy; he's an honest guy; and he's a committed guy, and I think you kind of have to be that to be in a relationship with Cate Cassidy. [Laughs]
Or any relationship, really!
K.S.: Ryan's who she should be with. He's the "smart choice." He's the guy who's got it together with the career, and you know, he's the family man. And then she's got Baze on the other hand who's her high school friend and possible soul mate and things like that. It's very much the classic triangle, but this one's just all kinds of screwed up! It's not a right triangle-- actually, what's the one with the equal sides?
Oh, uh, testing my magnet high school upbringing, huh?
K.S.: It's an isosceles, if you will, with all sides screwed up-- all three of them! [Laughs]
K.P.: I think Kerr does such a great job with the character that he brought such a structure-- just a really great, grounded level of acting. You kind of root for them; I love the fact that Ryan is someone that you want to root for because it makes it so much more compelling television. If Ryan was just some kind of disposable foil, then the audience kind of knows in a couple of episodes this guy's going away, you know what I mean? And that's all Kerr. As it's written, there's that option, but a lot of actors would have just chosen to play him as kind of a douchebag...but Kerr made some really smart choices to play him sensitive and play him smart and really just in love with Cate. It makes a really compelling story.
In saying that, I just have to ask then, who do you think-- and who do you hope-- the audience will want Cate to, in essence, "pick" to be with?
K.P.: What you'll see in the course of the season is sort of the ebb and flow of these two men in Cate's life. In one episode, you'll be like "Go Ryan!" and in the next, you will say "Go Baze!"...Ryan's the good guy, and Baze is the fixer-upper, so women are going to get their camps, I think. There will be the Baze camp, and there will be the Ryan camp, and that's what makes interesting television.
Has it been a big adjustment for you guys to taking on a "parenting role" in your career?
K.S.: That's been a tough adjustment, oh yeah! I mean, come on, I've been playing a kid forever, and now all of a sudden I'm starting to get adult roles. I'm just like "Oh my God, I'm starting to get old!"
K.P.: I think the biggest adjustment for me is...I'm not Baze at all!
So I've heard!
K.P.: Yeah, I'm up early in the mornings; I let my wife [actress Julianne Morris] sleep in; I take the kids; I make breakfast. We live in L.A., and in the summertime, I'd have them out of the house so she could sleep in because, you know, as babies they're up all night and keeping her up. So my days are early. But then, you know, daddy has to bring home the bacon! There's a mortgage, and there's food I have to put on the table, so that's my life. But the real kick-- and the real challenge-- is thinking what would my life be without all that? And without my inherent sort of sense of responsibility and my work ethic.
I think, like, watching my dad and my grandfather, we have a real strong sense-- it's almost like an immigrant-nose-to-the-stone work ethic, so take all that away and who would I be? It's Baze. It's not that he's spoiled, but life has spoiled him, you know?
He was popular in high school; girls used to flock to him in high—everyone used to flock to him in high school. He comes from money, so he’s never really had to worry about that. His dad bought him his building and basically told him to do what he loves in it, so he owns a bar and lives above it. There’s no real effort.
What are they doing to make you seem like you're a little bit more paternal? Are they aging you at all?
K.S.: Oh no, they're not doing anything, which is kind of the point. I mean, the whole point of the show is how to do these two-- let's just keep it to Baze and Cate-- adults, in quotation marks, raise this child? But it's really almost the other way around where the child is raising them. You know, even though they are both in their thirties, everyone in the cast looks kind of young, so it just adds to the "What is going on here?"
Are you drawing from any real life dad stories-- either from your childhood or, Kris, from your own children?
K.P.: I absolutely do...whenever I have a scene with Lux...the paternal stuff kicks in with me. I mean, I think I'm just a paternal person-- being a father in real life-- but also just wanting to do the right thing as a father. To do right by and take care of this kid. I made that decision, like, instead of just playing it as "I don't want you; get out of here," I look at her, and I think "Oh, you're little and the worlds are cold and I can help you."
K.S.: I'm just kind of going with it actually because you know, it's new for Ryan, too, so I just wanted to dive in headfirst with all of the scenes with Lux and give it my best shot with no preconceived notions. I've never been a dad, so I don't know what it's like, which is actually perfect for the role.
It's a good way to start, you know, with a sixteen year-old!
K.S.: With a fake sixteen year-old. It's a perfect start for me because it's not real so I get to practice a little bit.
Kris, are you suddenly glad you have boys?
Yes! Oh...yes. I mean, I'd love to have a little girl, don't get me wrong, but oh my-- man! If I had a daughter, I'd be, like, shotgun in hand! Like, "What are you lookin' at, dude??"
Has the atmosphere changed at all now that you know you definitely have an air date?
K.P.: It used to feel like we were in a vacuum at first. Shiri used to make jokes that "we're not acting for anybody." It was that feeling of who's going to see this and when are they going to see it, and now that we have an air date, it's starting to land, and it's starting to feel a little more real.
K.S.: You know [for me] it's hasn't. Every time you shoot on location, it feels like camp. It's like you're outside of the Hollywood thing so you don't really pay attention to it; it's not in your face all of the time-- punching you in your face with a baseball bat. [Laughs] So you don't really think about it: you just do your lines and then go home and somewhere in there a TV show gets popped out. And you know, we get an air date, and suddenly "Holy crap; we're going to be on TV," and you know, you just do your job, and [the rest] just kind of happens. It's kind of cool actually.
K.P.: I'm excited!...You know, to get to the heart of your article, I think that it's better than we're airing in January. We don't have to fight with all of the rif-raff and glitz of the fall. For example, Vampire Diaries is about vampires; Melrose Place is a name brand, so you've got this easy sort of marketing...All of a sudden January rolls around, and it's sort of open...But it's one of those things that I think makes it feel a little more special. And it feels like a winter show!
Well, sure, being set in Portland and shot in Canada. Cold, cold, cold!
K.P.: Yeah, it makes you feel like you want to snuggle up and watch it!
And I have a question from a fan. Your show hasn't even premiered yet, but already fan sites are cropping up on the internet, and one submitted a question for you guys...What were your first impressions about the other members of the Life UneXpected cast? You pretty much all come from WB or CW backgrounds; had you watched any of their work or was it a fresh meeting?
K.S.: I had seen a few episodes of Kris' show-- the one in Hawaii [North Shore]. For some reason I love TV shows that are about hotels. I don't know why; maybe I secretly want to be a hotel manager. It's weird. [Laughs] And then of course Brooke Burns isn't bad to look at.
Shiri, I had never seen Roswell or ER or anything she's done, but ironically enough I think I've worked with every single person from Roswell now. She was the last one. I don't watch a lot of TV to be honest with you, but I knew of them both and was excited to work with them both. And it turns out I was right; it's great, and we're all getting along so well. And I think it shows in the episodes. We have a good time. It's so important to me to have a cast that gets along well...especially off set, which sometimes is really unusual, but we're becoming a little family up here. It's great.
I even said "I think we're all going to have a job for awhile, guys." It's a good one, so I'm really happy with everything that's going on.
Well, I've been saying for a long while (ever since I saw the teaser over the summer) that I think this show really tugs at the heart, even if you've never been in a situation that these characters find themselves in. They're very relatable, and they are very well-developed, which is something many new shows lack, especially right out the gate. "My Life, Made Possible By Pop Culture" thinks you'll have jobs for a while, too!
"My Life, Made Possible By Pop Culture" would like to take a minute to thank Liz, Kerr, and Kris for taking time out of their busy schedules to chat with me about their new show, Life UneXpected. And a very special thank you to Lauren and Melissa at the CW for helping coordinate the interviews! Be sure to tune into the CW on January 18 when LUX premieres, and if you're interested in a viewing party, "My Life, Made Possible By Pop Culture" might be hosting one. Stay tuned!