Beau Bridges in THE MILLERS - Season 1 - "You're In Trouble" | ©2014 CBS/Sonja Flemming

Beau Bridges in THE MILLERS - Season 1 - "You're In Trouble" | ©2014 CBS/Sonja Flemming

In CBS’ half-hour comedy THE MILLERS, Thursdays at 8:30 PM and renewed for a second season, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale star as, respectively, Tom and Carol Miller, a long-married couple whose visit to their adult children inspires them to separate. Carol moves in with son Nathan (Will Arnett), while Tom takes up residence with daughter Debbie (Jayma Mays), her husband Adam (Nelson Franklin) and their offspring Mikayla (Eve Moon). Both senior Millers face a brave new world as newly-single people.

Bridges has been acting since he was a little boy – he appeared in his first feature film, 1948’s NO MINOR VICES, when he was seven years old. He subsequently worked with his father Lloyd Bridges in the iconic TV series SEA HUNT and THE LLOYD BRIDGES SHOW. He has worked steadily ever since, with feature film credits that include THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS opposite his brother Jeff Bridges, NORMA RAE and THE DESCENDANTS. On television, Bridges has starred in HARTS OF THE WEST, MAXIMUM BOB, UNITED STATES and THE AGENCY, to name a few gigs, as well as guest-starring on MY NAME IS EARL, produced and created by MILLERS creator Greg Garcia. Bridges will also return to his role on Showtime’s MASTERS OF SEX, playing a Fifties-era college dean who is struggling to keep his marriage together after his wife (portrayed by Allison Janney, who is starring on another successful new CBS comedy, MOM) learns that he’s gay.

CBS invites the Television Critics Association to sit in on a read-through of an episode of THE MILLERS, then lets reporters talk to the cast. Bridges is cordial as he discusses playing Tom, as well as some previous roles.

ASSIGNMENT X: How is it coming back to work with Greg Garcia full-time?

BEAU BRIDGES: Well, I’ve worked with Greg Garcia before – we did MY NAME IS EARL together. He’s a great show runner, I think one of the best. I played Earl’s dad on that one, so I’m used to the way he works, and he’s a very low-key, humble guy that’s so talented like that, and then [director] Jimmy Burrows, best in the business at this. I just do what he tells me to do.

AX: Do you feel like Tom is very well-rounded in the writing?

BRIDGES: Oh, yeah. And because Greg writes about his own parents, that’s really so true, and I got an opportunity to meet them. For the pilot, they came out and they were watching the shoot a little bit. I didn’t have a real long time with them, but I saw them – and I was surprised, they seemed like such nice people [laughs]. I told Greg, I said, “Jeez, leave them alone – your dad seems like a really cool, relaxed guy. He’s not a nutcase like I am in the show” [laughs]. But Greg writes with a heart. Everybody has got a good person, a good soul, inside them, even if they’re a little dysfunctional. So I think that’s what makes him enjoyable, ultimately.

AX: Do you like getting to play somebody who is somewhat defined by his romantic life?

BRIDGES: It’s interesting, you use that term “romantic.” Hopefully, I am going to be able to get a little romantic, because I’m a single guy, and she’s going a little wild. Margo, she’s a single woman, and I think Greg is going to have fun with that, and I’m hoping I get to go to JB Smoove’s character and have him hook me up with some of his friends, maybe go out clubbing one night with him or something [laughs].

AX: In real life, you’ve been married for a long time …

BRIDGES: Yes, coming up on thirty years. I’m fortunate. I have a wonderful wife, Wendy. [The secret is] just having fun. But these people [Tom and Carol Miller] – I think down deep, we love each other. It’s obvious that we love each other.

AX: How would you feel if, like Tom, you actually had to move in with one of your kids?

BRIDGES: Well, I’ve told them all that I expect them to take care of me and send me the checks [laughs]. I’m kidding. I think I’d kind of enjoy that. I haven’t done it yet – I haven’t spent the night, even, at one of their houses. But they do come back. My kids come back and perch for awhile, which is always nice. I like that. I love my family. I spend a lot of time with them. We’re new empty-nesters, my wife and I. We sent our little baby off to college, he’s a sophomore. We’re kind of enjoying it, to tell you the truth. It’s a lot of fun. We drove our daughter cross-country toMinneapolis, and that was a little difficult, but it’s fun to be on your own, without all those responsibilities. My kids are doing great, they’re all independent souls and making a living and contributing well to the community, so I feel relaxed about all that, and now it’s my time to just hang out a little bit.

AX: Do you, or any of your fellow cast members, tend to have a tough time not laughing when the other actors are funny?

BRIDGES: Margo and I had a hard time with that scene [in the pilot] where we’re talking about all that stuff. It’s challenging sometimes, it really is.

AX: You’ve been in the film and television business your whole life. Do you ever think back to when you started?

BRIDGES: Oh, yeah. I think we have most of the SEA HUNT episodes, which I show to my kids. Through the years, there have been a number of attempts to do that show again. They come to my brother and I with ideas. But we haven’t so far read one that really got our attention, because if we’re going to do it – it’s such an iconic character. But we’re still talking about it.

AX: Do the two of you ever talk about working together again?

BRIDGES: My brother is so busy. He’s a rock ‘n’ roll star now. He’s touring with his band, the Abiders. He’s going to start another movie pretty soon. He’s such a busy guy, but we always talk about wanting to work together. I don’t know if he’d do this show, but somewhere along the line …

AX: How different is it going through the process of launching a series as one of the leads, compared to the last time you did this?

BRIDGES: Well, of course, every time I do one of these, it’s a different experience. I’ve always likened the actor’s life to a bunch of little births and deaths. You start a job, and you’re excited at meeting new people and then when it’s over, it’s kind of melancholy and you’re saying goodbye, and then here comes another one. And it’s always so different, and what goes along with that, especially a series, that’s challenging is, what happens after you do the work, and how it’s received, how it’s marketed and all that kind of stuff. And I have absolutely no control over that, so I’m trying in my life to get more and more into that space where you do your best work, you give it your best shot, and what happens, happens. Because you can’t fret about the future and you can’t worry about the past. You live in the now, especially as an actor, and do the work. And I would be upset if it didn’t go, because I think it’s quite remarkable. I saw the pilot. I don’t say that very often about my own stuff, but I’ve been there before. I thought a series I did a long time ago called MAXIMUM BOB was going to go through the roof, and it didn’t.

AX: You played Major General Hank Landry on STARGATE: SG-1 and appeared in the spinoff series STARGATE: ATLANTIS and STARGATE: UNIVERSE. Do you have any memories of that?

BRIDGES: Oh, yeah, that was like jumping on a moving train, that show. Because I joined it in the ninth year. They were vastly successful – Richard Dean Anderson, he was the general before me. But they were all very accommodating, very welcoming to me, and I had two or three years on it. It was fun. I didn’t like the plane trips so much [laughs], going from Vancouver to L.A. all the time, to get home, but other than that, it was great fun. I miss those folks. I haven’t seen them for awhile.

AX: Was that a challenging role in terms of the dialogue referring to the alien languages and so on?

BRIDGES: There was a little bit of that, but you know what I did on that – my character was not created, really. They didn’t even have a name for me. The creators of the show just said, “Would you come in and play the general for us?” So I said, “Well, who is he?” They said, “We don’t really know, we haven’t written him yet.” So what I did was, I did research on all the great American generals throughout history, starting with George Washington, Eisenhower, all the different guys, MacArthur, and I started just laying down quotes that they’d said, because I wanted to get into the essence of who this guy would be, and it was fascinating. I didn’t realize how much fun I was going to have until I got in there and did that. And when I shared that with the creators, I said, “Look, I want you and the writers to have this stuff. I mean, I don’t have to be all these guys, but that’s where my heart and soul is.” And they liked the idea that my guy’s hobby was that he was interested in that kind of stuff, so they had me quoting these generals [laughs], so it kind of paid off.

AX: How are you balancing your schedule between THE MILLERS and MASTERS OF SEX?

BRIDGES: Well, fortunately, MASTERS OF SEX is a different [production] time frame, so hopefully, I’ll get to do both, because Showtime and CBS are simpatico, they’re under the same umbrella. And what a different ride that is. They couldn’t be more different.

AX: Well, there are some similarities – both are men with marriage problems …

BRIDGES: Yes, that’s true. Different set of problems [laughs]. I was really lucky to get into two shows that are led by such fantastic, creative minds – Michelle Ashford who [created MASTERS OF SEX], she’s the main writer, she has a bunch of other gifted writers. I think it always starts with the play itself, the story you’re telling, based on a really interesting part of our history, Masters and Johnson with all their sexual experiments back in the Fifties, which I can recall. They revolutionized the way we all look at sex, especially for women. You guys were just sort of along for the ride, so they said, but then we found out that you’re actually driving the bus a lot and we’d better take notice. And to play a gay man at that time is a real responsibility, because it was a hell of a time to be gay and in a position of power where you’re afraid to be true to who you are – there was a lot of blatant ignorance in the land at that time. There still is, unfortunately. But to get to represent that in a well-told story is quite a responsibility, so I’m glad to have that opportunity.

AX: How is it playing opposite Margo Martindale and Allison Janney as the spouses of your characters?

BRIDGES: Both of those ladies are great actresses. In fact, Margo was in MASTERS OF SEX. She had just one scene that she was in, because she’s a friend of the producer. Both those ladies are exceptional, they’re just great. And Margo can do the dramatic stuff, too.

AX: We’re seeing Carol mellow out a little as THE MILLERS proceeds. Do you think that Tom might start going in the other direction and become a little more tense?

BRIDGES: You know, I never know what they have planned for these two. I think the one thing that’s quite obvious is that down deep, we really love each other, even though we’re separated, and we keep coming together like magnets. So I think that’s true. But what’s going to happen with us, who knows? I mean, Greg has a crazy mind. He’s going to come up with some pretty crazy stuff.

AX: THE MILLERS has been renewed for a second season. Do you have theories as to its success?

BRIDGES: I don’t know. Probably the humor. I think there’s a lot of serious stuff going on these days, and we’re kind of silly, and I think people like to laugh [laughs] and Greg Garcia is a laugh master, and Jimmy, our director, is wonderful at delivering the jokes. He has a great sense of timing, Jimmy Burrows. I think [the writing is] true inside [Garcia’s] experience, so I think that always helps it be more relatable. And we do really enjoy each other as people, apart from our characters. We have a great time coming to work. It’s a lot of fun. There is always tension of performance, wanting to do your best, but it’s a real light experience, being here at work. And there’s a lot of confidence all around with all the people. They know how to do their jobs, so it’s nothing but good times.

AX: How do you feel about shooting in front of a live audience?

BRIDGES: It is kind of old school, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. It’s like a new show every night. I never quite feel totally prepared. We’re always all worried about how we’re going to do. Somehow it comes off. We’ll make mistakes during our performance, but the audience seems to enjoy that more than when we get it right.

AX: Now, if you didn’t have a studio full of TV reporters, what would happen after the read-through?

BRIDGES: We’d go home.

AX: You don’t get notes?

BRIDGES: Not after the read-through, no. We get notes – the next day, we’ll run it in front of Greg and then we’ll talk it through.

AX: Do you have a favorite scene or episode that we’ve seen so far?

BRIDGES: I’ve kind of enjoyed them all. There was one, I forget what it was called, where all my doofusness was coming out. I was bumping into things and Tom is a bit of a startled fawn sometimes, caught in the headlights. I liked that one, but I can’t remember what it was called. But I haven’t experienced a bad one yet.

AX: Are you enjoying getting to let your doofus flag fly?

BRIDGES: Yeah. Absolutely. I think I inherited it a little bit from my dad, God bless him. He was a wonderful father, and when he was in college, his nickname was “Unkie,” for “unconscious.” So he had a little bit of that gene in himself.

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Article: Exclusive Interview: Beau Bridges talks THE MILLERS – Season 1

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