To those who say hard work and perseverance don’t pay off. We say, have you met Kyle Bornheimer? After spending the better part of 5 years toiling away in such pivotal roles as “waiter” and “uniform cop” in the likes of MEDIUM and MONK respectively, Bornheimer can currently be seen in ABC’s newest comedy ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED (Mondays at 9:30PM on ABC). Which is why he was kind enough to take some time to chat about the show and his harrowing tale of Hollywood survival.
Looking over your imdb resume, one can’t help but notice that after years of bit parts, you quietly evolved from serial guest star into leading man. What happened?
Kyle Bornheimer: It was a very slow slow burn, I was out in LA for 10 years before anyone paid me anything that I was wanting to do. After doing a lot of commercials, and a lot small stuff on television, you basically begin to build reputations with casting directors who believe in you, start casting you in small stuff and then start getting you into the bigger rooms for bigger parts. You look at that resume in the beginning — MONK and THE OC were the first things on it — I had one line and every three roles or so I got more and more lines.
Curiously, you played subsequent “waiters” in both MEDIUM and WILL & GRACE.W as that part of some top-secret crossover that we missed?
[Laughs] That was the motivation I gave myself in real life, it was the same character! I was actually an awful waiter so I was probably doing things wrong in both scenes.
What kept you motivated in the early part of your career?
I think at first it’s fool’s courage, then it’s too late to turn back and eventually you start to see that you kind of, maybe, can do it just by the virtue of the time you’ve been smart enough to sort of go, “Oh I’m going to be here for a while, I might as well get good at this so when somebody does come calling I’m ready.” That, and in my case I had absolutely nothing to fall back on! I’m from South Bend Indiana and I moved out here when I was 19 after about five minutes of college. When you come to LA you have to be aggressive, ambitious and driven, but you also have to be patient in terms of letting yourself develop correctly so that when you are ready, you’re ready. Everybody’s story is different. You have people like Billy Bob Thorton, who was in his late 30’s before Sling Blade. Everybody comes out and pursues it at a different time of their lives. It’s very cool.
One would imagine that having found success only after years of hard work means your work ethic and appreciation are to the point that we’re not going to find you partying on the front page of TMZ?
I don’t think I would change anything about the way things work out. You gain a lot of perspective. It’s exciting, but it can be fleeting. Your work ethic can never fail because things change in this business very quickly. It’s a wonderful job to have but the job security is the thing that sucks in this business. We’re in a recession, I have a family now, so you always appreciate what you’re doing. Especially if you’ve kind of toiled for a while you’re very aware at how quickly everything can be taken away.
On that note, how painful was it to have WORST WEEK, your short-lived CBS sitcom yanked off the air after less than a season?
I was heartbroken when it went away but I had such a good time doing it. We were able to do what we wanted to do which was kind of the benefit a very unique show that the network was taking a chance on. CBS really believed in me and I really appreciated that belief and we were able to do what I thought was a very good farce and physical comedy that nobody was really doing. To their credit, they gave us a chance, they gave us 18 episodes to do it but in the end I don’t know if it worked with their brand or preformed what they needed it to do. To be honest with you, I don’t know how we would have sustained it anyways. It was difficult concept, those writers had the toughest job in the business to come up with stuff to get me in to. I loved getting those scripts and seeing what would happen next. I’ll always cherish that experience, it was really sad to see it go.
And finally, in an effort to end this interview on the most awkward note possible I have to ask you about LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER, the new CBS comedy pilot co-created by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. How do you reconcile the fact that you starring in the next project from the creators of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER will only happen should ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED fail?
We’re in a time in television where they’re shooting television a lot like feature films where you can go and do another one and the schedule is so different in TV now that it’s become an entirely different landscape in terms of opportunity where you can do other projects. The pilot is still coming together, we’re working that one out and talking about it. But ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED premiered last week, did pretty well and we have another hilarious episode coming up that I think is going to surprise a lot of people. Ricky Blitt who created the show has a great sensibility and was one of the main writers of FAMILY GUY, he’s a very irreverent writer and why a lot of us signed up for the project. Jim Burrows [director] pretty much invented the modern sitcom having worked on TAXI, CHEERS and WILL & GRACE. And I get to work with Alyssa Milano, Josh Lawson and Kelly Stables, an amazing cast and we’re having the time of our lives doing it. ROMANTICALLY CHALLENGED is an amazing experience and I think the show is going to surprise a lot of people who maybe haven’t’ watched sitcoms in a while or are watching sitcoms and want something a little more fresh.