TV Addict Interview: BACK TO YOU Star Fred Willard

fred willard back to you
The TV Addict with legendary funny-man Fred Willard

Not only is actor Fred Willard one of the funniest men on both the big and small screens. At age 69, he has more energy than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

For almost five hours in Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, this TV Addict marveled as Willard effortlessly hopped from reporter, to radio station, to blogger, tirelessly promoting his current hit FOX show BACK TO YOU. And when it was finally my turn, Willard not only remembered our previous interview six months prior, but managed to be as kind, classy and funny as ever.

I have to tell you, honestly, this never gets old. Thanks to my web site I’ve had the phenomenal opportunity to interview a lot of actors. But your work in all of the Christopher Guest films is hilarious. So if I’m a little nervous… I hope you’ll understand.
Fred Willard:
If you ask the wrong questions, I’ll go off like a firecracker!

How different is working on a movie like FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION versus a sitcom like BACK TO YOU?
For Christopher’s [Guest] movies, all he gives you is an outline of a scene, a fun premise and a great co-star like Eugene Levy or Catherine O’Hara. There’s very little dialogue.

A sitcom like BACK TO YOU is very tightly scripted. People always ask if we’re allowed to improvise and so far we haven’t been able to. But you didn’t miss it because the scripts are great. Of course if we start getting weak scripts by the end of the season I’ll totally lose it!

But at this point, I’m really trying my best to get every line perfect because I’d feel so bad if the writers came up to me and said, “Fred, you’re missing the joke here.”

What was the inspiration for your character in FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION (the clueless Entertainment Tonight style host)?
I’m so fascinated with the guys who cover the Britneys and Jessicas. They’re these older men who get so into. “What’s Britney up to?! Who’s Jessica Dating? How’s Paris?” Why are these guys are so wrapped up in what sixteen year old girls are into.

Due to its improvisational nature, and assuming the WGA strike drags on [TV Addict Note: this interview was conducted in January, prior to the resolution of the WGA strike], could you still film a Christopher Guest movie?
That’s a good question. I think we could, but I don’t know the ramifications. Also, knowing him [Christopher] he wouldn’t do it.

Any talk of another movie?
I’ve heard nothing. But Eugene Levy was out here [LA] a few months ago, so I’m hopeful there’s another movie in the works. Unfortunately, FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION didn’t do so well at the box office. I think it was a little too ‘inside Hollywood.’ Same reason 30 ROCK isn’t a huge hit, STUDIO 60 I didn’t really care for, but 30 ROCK makes me laugh and I love every line of it. Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey are so great.

I understand you’re working with Pixar on their next big movie WALL•E?
It’s wonderful, I’m the only live person in the movie. It’s animated but I appear on a television screen. My character works for a large conglomerate that frankly owns the world. I don’t know how much more of the plot they want me to give away [TV Addict Note: Give away.. give away!] But I appear five or six times.

Interesting…. so you’re an genuine live-action person? Not animated. I would think that’s a Pixar first?
Yup, you’ll recognize me and actually see me on screen. Pixar treated us very nicely. They invited me and my wife to San Francisco for two days of recording and the first night I mentioned that it was my Wedding Anniversary. Pixar got us reservations for a great restaurant on the Wharf and when the meal was over, the waiter said Pixar was taking care of the dinner. The next day, they said, “We don’t pay much, but we treat our people very well.” And it’s true. I wasn’t paid much, but you know there’s talk of money on the back-end…. a few hundred dollars I think!

Back to BACK TO YOU, you play a sportscaster. What’s the reaction been like from real life sportscasters?
It’s been great. FOX takes me to everything to promote the show. The SuperBowl, The last game of the world series.

So what you’re saying is you’ve got a tough job?
Yeah, it’s tough…

But somebody’s got to do it!

You can catch Fred Willard along with hilarious co-stars Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton in an all new episode of BACK TO YOU following AMERICAN IDOL tonight. (9:30PM FOX, Global TV in Canada)

  • Amrie

    He’s one of my favorites. So funny.

  • Common Sense

    Still love him from “America 2Night” with Martin Mull. Some of the funniest schtick ever. And he’s a Cleveland native! Rock on, Fred.