When I was growing up, my dad had a job building things. Not little things, but HUGE things. Things like the boilers inside New York City powerhouses, and the brewery tanks at Budweiser. He worked on the UniSphere at the 1964 World's Fair, and a nuclear reactor plant on the banks of the Hudson.
Probably the biggest thing my dad worked on was the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn with Staten Island in New York City. At the time, the bridge was the longest suspension structure ever made.
As the two sides got closer to being finished, there were days when construction would pause, because of problems on a literally cellular level. The bridge was made up of hundreds of overlapping little metal plates, called cells, that were affected by things like temperature and humidity. The cells would only fit into place at certain times of day and certain temperatures. And it was unpredictable when the weather would cooperate, so there were quite a few days where workers found the bolts not fitting in the cell slots.
The problems my dad faced putting this bridge together were not unlike the problems facing the producers of The WB's new show Popular. Although the pilot episode (filmed last spring) paved the way for a series run this fall, there were still a few pegs that didn't seem to fit right.
Scott Bryce sure must have felt like a peg out of a socket. First, The WB announced he was in the cast. Next, he was out of the lineup, and the WB said they were recasting the role. This week, I got a call from Erika, the show's publicist, saying that Scott was back in, and yes, I could interview him.
I had no idea where this interview would take place. I figured the set would be jam-packed with camera crews and set construction, as the days before the series premiere were dwindling down. Erika said there was no need to meet Scott on the set, as he had the week off from shooting. She told me Scott had suggested the L.A. Farmers Market would be the place to meet. So we set up a meeting time on Friday. Wow - that simple!
I had never been to the Farmers Market before. James Dean supposedly had eaten his last breakfast here before hopping into his Porsche on the way to the Pearly Gates. At one of these same tables in the primeval Food Court, Walt Disney used to sit and pencil his plans for the theme park he was concocting out in Anaheim. The Farmers Market was definitely the place to meet people -- it's public and yet not crowded, with an assortment of foods and fluids to mollify any hunger.
Eleven a.m. - I found the Starbucks we were supposed to meet at in a corner of the market. I had an idea of what Mr. Bryce looked like from seeing him in Up Close and Personal, but I had no idea if he -
There he was - a tall blonde guy in wraparound shades and a haircut that would work in a convertible. I saw him head for the other entrance to Starbucks, so I cut across the inside of the store.
"Jim?" he asked, with a voice that Simon & Schuster would pay good money for narrating an audiobook.
"Scott!" I said, relieved that he was easy enough to pick out in a crowd. This guy actually looked like a movie star. I was trying to figure out what to ask first - should I get into the meat of it and ask about the WB playing volleyball with his career? Was his biggest claim to fame being Corky Sherwood's husband on Murphy Brown? What was it like being a guest star on that other TV Single Dad show, Who's the Boss?
Scott got the first question in, though. "How about some coffee?" he asked.
We got some drinks and parked it out in the atrium. I started scrambling through my bag and got out the minidisc gear. I got an acceptable level, and we were doing...
These are pretty easy questions, but they're kind of -- involved -
Scott - Easy questions, hard answers, is that what you're trying to say? [laughs]--
Let's see - I'm going to start off with - it's not a hard one, but it's kind of - the question: with Popular, there were casting decisions after the pilot was made. It was shot, and they looked at re-casting things, and for a while you were -you were off the list - and then you were back on.
Criminy. The minidisc jammed. And my backup was in my suitcase in the trunk of my car a quarter-mile away. I ejected the disc and jammed it back in. It started okay and so
There we are, sorry. When you're working in a situation - I mean, I know, when they go through casting, they do pilots and focus groups and all this other stuff - um - is it difficult, when you're off the list, and then going back on - and continuing to work? After they've - evaluated you like that?
Scott - Well, look, everybody's - - this business is ABOUT evaluation, continuously. That's what I do. I'm going to have to go in and be evaluated all the time. The part originally was put out as a contract role, and by the time it came to me to audition, it was already - it was a guest star. And it was like a heavy RECURRING guest star, is what it became. And when the show was picked up, I certainly had a lot of support from [creator/executive producer]Ryan Murphy and [producers]Gina Matthews and Greer Shephard at Disney and - always felt welcome and part of the team - - and then, they got pretty hardball about - about whether or not there's going to be a series regular or not, and made it clear it was not going to be. It was going to be a heavy recurring, at best. And I was gone for three weeks - had to do some family stuff on the East Coast. I came back, and by Friday, things had changed. So, why things changed? I'm clueless - I have no idea how that happened, what went on behind closed doors. I am very happy to be part of it. I was proud to be in the pilot, even prouder to be a full member of the company.
It is a pretty large cast. I mean, the regulars seem to be - as most casts go - it seems to have a large crew.
Scott - Yeah, I think there's twelve of us, as a matter of fact now. Twelve series regulars, which is a lot. Um, this show - part of it is the design of the show. I mean, first of all, I've gotta tell you I'm - I am RARELY excited by television, and I am REALLY excited by this. I knew it was good when I read it, and when I went to the screening, I was blown away, and it was great. It takes a lot of risks. It's doing new stuff. Somebody remembered that television can be magic, and they're playing with that. It moves seamlessly in and out of fantasy and reality. It makes a lot of social commentary that's very relevant today. I mean, the Columbine stuff happened between the pilot and the screening. And you see the world - a real inside look at the social structure of that world, of teenagers, and all it encompasses. It's fascinating, and it's - I think - really exciting.
This year, there's very few single dads on television. One of the single dads that's on television is Bill Campbell's role in Once and Again, which, in many ways bears a lot of similarities to your show. I mean, you have two couples getting married, and your kids trying to cope with the idea that they could wind up being step-siblings. Um, is it - do you get an "over-the-shoulder" look at - are you looking at the competition? Is it - do you worry about "is it different enough?", is it something that can separate you from that - ABC's audience?
Scott - Well, I can only reiterate - I mean, I can't - I don't think you can look at what other people are doing. What other people are doing are what they're doing. And that's great, and some of it's going to be good, and some of it's not so good. In terms of whether it's different or stand-out, that's the most amazing thing about the show. I mean, I left the screening, having not seen anything like it on televsion before. And so, yes, it stands out. It's got such a style and sensibility and a look, and a charm, and a speed and - the palette is beautiful, the editing is amazing - the sound, the music - this is something that really doesn't look like anything else I've ever seen. And that's sorta what makes me the most excited about it.
Do you know where it sits on The WB schedule? I mean, what's your lead-in?
Scott - Right now, I think, the current plan is that when Dawson's Creek premieres its new season, we'll be right after that. That'll be our lead-in for one night, and then we'll move to our regularly-scheduled slot, which, I believe, will be Thursdays at nine o'clock, the following night.
So you'll become like, the anchor for Thursday, then?
Scott - Yeah.
That's a good spot.
Okay, got through the toughy questions. I really was feeling bad about asking Scott about getting these bad performance reviews, but I guess he was thinking about that stuff all the time, and it sounded like he put a lot of thought into those answers.
Winding up with the role - what was there, a casting call?
Scott - Yeah, Eric Dawson, of Allrich-Dawson Casting, they're pretty big fans of mine. I've worked with that office a lot, and they brought me in for the role. When I read the role, it's one of those things like - a bell went off. I don't know how to explain it, but I knew how to play it, sort of instantly. And the audition went extremely well, and it was a very - definitive moment - like, in the room where it was, okay I thought, "this went well," and I knew I had done very well, and I booked that. And then, I got to work with Leslie Bibb, who plays my daughter, who is just really terrific. Carly Pope's terrific, I mean - the cast is -- really extraordinary.
Do you know the circumstances of how your character became a single dad? Is that mentioned in -
Scott - It is. I can't go into too much detail without revealing story, because that would be telling, but, yeah. I was married before - Leslie's our only child, and my wife - abandoned us. And I can't get into the whys. She left a note, for Brooke, my daughter, and was gone. And so like, he's been struggling to try to be Mister Mom and maintain normalcy and to try to figure out, "how do I raise this girl?" This incredibly beautiful, thoroughbred, you know, Miss Homecoming Queen, remarkably bright and intelligent. And has her own problems and has got her own issues and so does he. And they're trying to muddle through and make it work.
What's his - what's his occupation? Do you know?
Scott - Yeah, I'm an investment portfolios manager. I basically deal with very, very wealthy clients, and their investments.
Talking about single dads - my website is absorbed with the characters of single dads on television. You're in the middle of this new series, but you're joining the ranks of, like, Fred MacMurray, and Lorne Greene, and all these others. Andy Griffith, people like that. Just from an historical point, have you ever thought about - what is the appeal of a single dad on television? I mean, there seems to be - I've counted over one hundred and thirty single dads on TV. Is that plot structure - do you find anything in it that - what do you think draws an audience to a single dad character?
Scott - Well, I think it's sympathetic, isn't it? It's kind of *immediately* sympathetic. I think that there's a lot of single parents out there, in America, struggling to get by. We have far too high a divorce rate, in this nation. So I think there's something - heroic - about a single parent, whether that be a dad or a mother who's struggling to do their career, maintain their house, and raise their family. That's an awful lot. I think that's an immediate kind of identification you can have with a character, and there's something that's sympathetic that helps you - - like them.
Um, the show's name is Popular, and I know it's kind of early in the game here, but have you seen a -- worse use of the title in a news article about the series?
Scott - Not yet. Actually, when I read the title I chuckled. I thought, "well, that's VERY clever, isn't it?" and, you know, it's sorta like "Three Picture Deal" is the name of the movie. [grins] But once I got into the show and really understood what the show was about, it's SO much about what that word IS. And what that word is in our society, and what that word is in our world. What that word is in the high school world, the social structure of it, and it's ABOUT that. Who's in - who's out? Who's popular, who's not? Who's got the power, who doesn't?
It's a comedy, but it has elements of drama? Or is it a drama that has elements of comedy?
Scott - Gosh - it's both, depending on your points of view. I think that there's a - I think it's more of a drama with a tremendous comedic element, and - it's rich. It's life, it's a tapestry, I mean, it's a weave. It's really so cleverly put together. I mean, really, just extraordinary writing.
Hmm - we were talking earlier [before the interview] about the OTHER 'TV Dad' - Can we talk a little bit about 'TV Dad' - how did that come about?
Scott - I was working with two very good friends of mine, who wound up co-producing the movie - and co-authored it. One night in, 198? - I think it was 84, and I was complaining I was working on a soap opera at the time and talking about my hours, and I had just broken up with my girlfriend, and I thought, my God, I'll never have a family and - Sara [Sackner] was at that point, I think, eight and a half months pregnant and she said, "Oh relax, Scotty, it's not like you have a biological clock. You're a guy. You can have babies later." And then [Andrew] Behar said, "Yeah, I mean, God, you could have babies - there's so much videotape on you in your youth. I mean, you could probably have babies when you're dead!" And the three of us looked at each other, and then, we went DING! And we ran to the computer and we wrote the - the outline for the script that night. We wrote the script within seven days, and we started principal photography fifteen days later. And we made a short film - Annabelle Gurwitch came on board - of [TBS's] "Dinner & A Movie," - you know Annabelle? - and she played the mother. And it's a story about a guy, who knew he was going to die - and he didn't have any children - and so he left videotapes behind. Just hours and hours of - reams of the most - unimaginable - some of it inane - "Why is the sky blue?" - "How to put together an airplane" - "I'm having a fight with mommy" - "It's time to scold you" - "Here's a story book" - sex tapes - anything imaginable, and about their relationship that they have. And she actually has a baby. So, she actually becomes a mother with this "TV Dad."
So, you just pop in a tape -
Scott - and she pops in the tape when she needs him.
Great! This new series will be putting you in - where people will be going, "You're Leslie Bibb's dad on Popular! - -
Scott - Yeah, "You're Brooke's dad!"
So, um - when you get recognized, in public, are you mostly recognized as, like, Corky's husband [from Murphy Brown] or are you recognized -
Scott - Well, it's funny, because there's like three different responses. If I'm - I've done not many but I've done like three feature films, and if somebody recognizes me from a feature, they keep their distance. They point at you from very far away. If somebody recognizes you from primetime, they get much closer to you, but they're a little more respectful. If somebody recognizes from daytime television, then it's like you're Cousin Louie - you know, you were at Uncle Ed's party! And you have to - because I think it's- you're in their living room every day and it's a very - it's a much more intimate experience. So, there's like three different levels of fans. And so it depends on what name they call out - I know what they know me from, you know?
If you, um, that's a good first clue - "oh, now I know where you know me from."
Scott - Yeah, "now I know" - is this "Murphy Brown?" Is this "Facts of Life?" - what WEDDING is this? [laughs]
Jim - What - "everybody likes to work" - On a day-to-day basis, in just getting your life underway - is it easier to do primetime, or doing a movie, or doing daytime?
Scott - I really think the hardest job out there is daytime. I mean, it's sort of like - you're doing an hour show a DAY, you have to do the script every DAY. Because the scripts are done every day, the writers can't even do the job that they need to do, and so much of it is about just maintenance and getting it done within the hours and the timeframe. And if you can get some good work out of it, that's great, but it's almost - secondary to FINISHING. So, it's kind of a brutal schedule. Feature films are the antithesis of that. I mean, the METICULOUSNESS in which we can work on a scene that's -- you know, in Up Close and Personal, Michelle Pfeiffer and I had a three minute fight scene that took FOUR DAYS to shoot. You know - we just went FOREVER shooting it. And primetime TV is somewhere in the middle, where you've got the luxury of a LITTLE bit more time, and yet, somehow, it's impossible to get - to get what we get done in eight days.
What is your schedule like for the show? You do a table read first, I guess?
Scott - Yeah, I mean, it depends on the show. Sitcoms and dramas are done so differently. Dramas are more film-like. I mean, it's more scheduled. You arrive - we know what we're going to be shooting that day, and you rehearse it, block it, and shoot it. It's much more - kinda of a little faster-paced. And in sitcom, you've got all week to rehearse. And you shoot in front of a live audience on Friday nights. So it's just a very different - sitcoms are more like - like doing a play and I think primetime is more like doing a movie.
So this is more like film - are you going to be doing a lot of locations?
Scott - We're going to be doing - I think, a mixed bag. We're going to be doing - the pilot was almost, all location. And now, I think we're going to be moving back and forth between studio and location.
And that, my friends, was that. Scott cut a great, resonant ID for the site. Click here for the sounds of Scott and the Farmers Market background.
By the way, my dad's bridge turned out okay.
Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer followed, and lo, Popular survived the bloodletting of the WB network. Scott's character became the Rosebud of the season finale, as Mike McQueen turned out to be not *quite* unmarried dad he thought he was. So, Scott moved from teetering peripheral character to mainstream plot-mover.
We had to talk. I wanted to see how this rare event, the renewal of a WB series, affected the cast and crew. I got in touch with the show's publicist, who hooked me up with Scott for a phone interview.
Scott - Hello?
Scott - Jim!
Hi, how are you doing?
Scott - Good, man - how are you?
Great! Hey - thanks for taking my call.
Scott - Oh, absolutely - sure.
First of all, congratulations on surviving the first year at the WB - -
Scott - Thank you - -
That's a rare quality, especially this past year, when so many fell by the wayside.
Scott - Yes, especially the teen shows. I think we're the last standing! [laughs] Perhaps, I don't know...
Well, it's definitely a good start, and once again, Scott Bryce in a tuxedo...
Scott - Yes! Marriage Number - - what was that, SIX? I think. [laughs]
It must be, by now.
Scott - Yeah, but I didn't actually marry her, so I don't think that counts.
No - well, fortunately you're still a Single Dad, I think - - well, we'll tune in and find out next week...
Scott - [laughs]
It sounds like - I would imagine that the mood down on-set would be great. How far along did you find out that the WB was renewing?
Scott - In terms of the show, where were we at?
Right, I mean, first you did the -
Scott - Well, the first time we found out was that we were coming back for the spring. We had done 13 - - and then we found out that we were picked up, and after that, we came back in and we were - the unofficial rumor mill was floating VERY early on that we were going to be a pick-up; probably as early as February.
Great - -
Scott - And it was pretty official by the time we all left work. I mean, we all were told we were coming back. So, even though the network didn't officially announce until May, which is still - you don't really relax until then because things change, but, yeah it seemed very good. We were doing very well, our audience kept building - um - we did pretty well on our premiere this Friday night - - we held our audience from the year before, which is pretty good, considering we're competing with the Olympics, etc.
Scott - So I think that's going to be - - I love the Friday night lineup, too. I think it's just a terrific *family* lineup, which I think the WB is the only network that really has a family lineup.
I was wondering about that - - how you felt about the Friday night lineup, since I would imagine the teen audience is out doing stuff on Friday nights. Did that give you any kind of trepidation when you first heard that you were going to be on Fridays?
Scott - Uh, no, because I think that's a mixed bag about teens going out. I mean, I think that Saturday night is actually the bigger night for teens to be out. I don't think that they would have moved Sabrina into the Friday slot, which they acquired from ABC, without doing some pretty good demographic work on that.
Yeah, it looks like it leads from a younger audience to an older audience, as they move toward the 9 o'clock hour for you, so...
Scott - Yeah, well I think it also frees up our show a bit. I mean, the sort-of paradox of our show is that while it's almost *clothed* in this teen show, there's an awful lot of adult satire in it, and I think that we found out that we had an older audience than we thought, as well. It's an odd demographic: it's sort of a scattered thing of who loves the show. And we found that the adult stories were working very well, as well as in-balance with the kids. The Delta Burke stuff, for instance, was very successful, and we had some wonderful actors on the show.
Well yeah, and you're now teamed up with Peggy Lipton, on a couple of these shows.
Scott - Yep. Peggy, as Brooke's mom, brought in the mayhem. What great casting! They look exactly alike, don't they?
Yeah, it's astounding.
Scott - It's uncanny.
And you've been given some - from being the "Heavily Recurring" character, you're now the crux - I mean, you're the Maltese Falcon of this show for "what happens next" - so that must be a pretty good feeling.
Scott - Oh, yeah, it's been fun. Well, first of all, I'm working with such great people. I mean, I love the producers, I love everybody there. I love the cast. I particularly love working with Lisa Darr - - I just can't - I mean, I jump for joy just thinking about it. She's so great. It's so much fun - the girls are so much fun to work with - - I think that there's a more relaxed energy about it this year too, because we - - we're back for a full order, and also I think we're *finding* ourselves. I mean, I think the show is finding its sense of balance about what - about how we deal from the deck of the heart, and how do we deal from comedy as well.
Right, it seems to be a lot more - - it seems to be more of a balance - I mean, it did have a rough quality that was endearing at the beginning, but it seems to be more - honed - on the newer episodes.
Scott - Yeah, I think that's part of also gaining - - caring - - for the characters. Gaining a love for the characters, even the characters you love to hate.
Scott - Even if it's Nicole, who's just - I mean, Tammy Lynn is just fantastic. I mean she's just so brilliantly *funny* - - and you just *love* hating her.
Yeah, and this being her very first show, that's just astonishing that she - she's an "old pro" in the series.
Scott - Yes. I agree - a very "old soul" in the show.
I've been getting mail from people who've read the previous interview with you - -
Scott - Mm-hmm.
-- and you do have quite a diverse fan club out there. I get a lot of mail from people who watched you back in the As The World Turns days, who were asking how they could write you and contact you and saying "why isn't he on the show more?" - - I've told them "Write the WB - I don't have anything to do with it!" But you do seem to have - when you're on the episodes, I get feedback from it. Have you been hearing back from viewers?
Scott - No, I don't check - I can't - it's too bizarre! [laughs] I mean, I have to go and do my work, you know what I mean? I mean, it's better for me that way.
Do you watch the episodes when they're on?
Scott - Oh absolutely, yeah! I'm also a fan of the show. And I love to watch what everyone else is doing on the show that I don't get to see. I mean, I only get to see the work of, you know, the people I'm working with - so it's - - the episode's often a surprise for me, because I'm not there when they did the stuff in the cafeteria, or whatever.
Where were you for the premiere?
Scott - I was at home, just at home.
You've seen yourself on a number of series and things like that - do you have a ritual that you go through? Do you watch it in any particular situation? I've talked with some actors and they won't watch it until after the first commercial - I don't know if you do anything like that...
Scott - No, I mean, I figure the show's already out there - I mean, it's already aired in New York by the time we see it here. Oftentimes, I get the tape before - - I get a copy from production before the show actually airs. So a lot of times I've seen it even before its premiere. So, I know what the show looks like, but I always watch the show anyway - - every week.
Well, apparently you're joining many other people out there...
Scott - Yeah, it's really growing - and it's really fun - and it's really fun to get the feedback from the audience who have hooked into and *get* what we are really trying to do - - that, underneath that mean and caustic, snide stuff - we're really sending messages about people and about love and about what's important - - about commitment, about growth, and about family, and about shallowness and - - really being able to look at it. I think it's a great venue to do that.
How much longer are you filming for this season - I mean the next "bunch?"
Scott - We're in production through April.
April, wow. you're on a 10-day schedule?
Scott - Eight-day schedule Eight production day schedule. So, if we start on a Monday, we would finish that episode Wednesday night, probably about, well actually about three o'clock Thursday morning! [laughs] And start the next one again.
So, you've --
Scott - We're actually on episode.... six? Six.
So, I guess it's not a grind? You're in the swing of things when you're back in production, I suppose.
Scott - It's not a grind for the actors. It is a *profound* grind for the producers, writers, and crew. I really have to say that I think the actors have the easiest role on the show, particularly like this, when it is an ensemble. I think Leslie and Carly work their butts off and are in almost every scene, almost every day. So, you're talking about - those two are really heavy - - and the crew is in *every* scene that's shot. And so when there's a 14, 15, 16-hour day and there are people that have been standing there for fifteen or sixteen hours, and they come back the next day with smiles on their faces and great attitudes and doing incredible work - - it's just amazing to see. So, no, it's not a grind for me - - it's a *lovely* job for me.
I know looking ahead into the plot would be telling but have you been seeing things in your character's future that are stretches, or are things that you're happy to see? I mean, are you seeing new -
Scott - Well, I think there's some *really* fun stuff coming up, yeah. I mean, by episode...... three, I think, we know - - we get some very important information that leads to a really great thing in the February sweeps. We're sort of building towards that.
Good, so that's coming up shortly.
Scott - Yeah, it's fun.
Are you getting any time to do any other work? I know you worked on the Silk Road show with Farrah Fawcett. Are you doing anything in-between - -
Scott - I just finished cutting a documentary that I had produced and directed from an hour down to a half-hour for the Coalition for the Homeless in New York, and I'm also finishing up two scripts that I'm writing. And - - I just moved! So, I've been redecorating my new house.
Oh great! So that's been -
Scott - and that's been overwhelming, but it's actually nearing completion. I didn't have a living room for a long time. My friends called it "the Yoga Center" - - all I had was a rug. Actually, it's kinda great - - I miss it but, oh well! [laughs]
So, you're situated well, and you're comfortable with the way you're - -
Scott - Oh yeah. Things are - I mean, I'm very happy with the show. I think the show's going to be really fun, it's going to be a year of reversals - - I mean, that's sort of the theme for the year, is that everybody who was popular is going to be unpopular, and everybody who was unpopular is going to be - - - on top. And it's going to be a very interesting political shakeup on both ends of the school, and in the family, and really fun. I mean, it's filled with a lot of fun stuff.
And it sounds like you're going to be - I mean, last year you were in a few key scenes, but this year it sounds like you're going to be getting more screen time, just based on - at looking at how the plots have to develop, you're going to be spending a lot of time on the screen.
Scott - Yeah, and again, I think that's something that the writers wanted to do, in terms of balance. And I think that they've found that the comedy's fantastic and that it's brilliant and wonderful - - but we also have to deal from the heart - - - and from something of - how do I put this? I'm trying to figure out - - a little more, just something that has more centralized, family depth to it. So that, from there, the comedy can really grow, and I think that they just want to seek a greater balance on us, which I think will result in more screen time for the adults, yes.
It sounds like a lot more complicated plot patterns will emerge shortly.
Scott - Yes. Absolutely.
I'm not sure how you're aimed toward the November sweeps, but I guess there will be some severe complications early on.
Scott - Yeah. Complications, and reunions, and breakthroughs and surprises.
Any surprise guests at all?
Scott - Not that *I* know of yet, but that's subject to change at any second. We've got a couple of great characters coming in. We've got, like, - - we have a fantastic Siamese twin character coming on.
Scott - [laughs] So *believe* me: it's STILL Popular! It's "wacky with a heart" - it's true.
Well, it's great having you still in the running as a TV Single Dad again this year.
Scott - We'll see how long it lasts.
Ratings had been as cruel as Tabasco-soaked band-aids to the TV Single Dad Class of 1999. At least Scott managed to survive into another season. Maybe there's hope for this year's crop of TV Single Dads, too.