Good News: BROTHERS & SISTERS star Luke Macfarlane is coming back to television tonight! Bad News: Only those fortunate enough to live north of the 49th parallel [Translation: Canada] will be able to see him. Starring in a new single-camera comedy called SATISFACTION, Macfarlane plays Jason Howell, a twenty-something, who alongside girlfriend Maggie (Leah Renee) and roommate Mark (Ryan Belleville) struggle with the usual things twenty-somethings struggle with. Which is precisely why we were afforded the opportunity to catch up with Marcfarlane on the set of his Toronto shot show early last week to talk about his newest comedic departure and reflect on life during/after BROTHERS & SISTERS. See for yourself, after the jump.
Before we get to your new project SATISFACTION, this TV Addict can’t resist delving into the project that turned you into a household name! Did you ever imagine a one-off guest spot on BROTHERS & SISTERS would turn into five years?
Luke Macfarlane: No, it was the kind of great story that you hope for. The creator of the show had known me from another series, so I had met them very early on in the process and originally auditioned for the part of Justin. But since ABC was really in love with another actor [Dave Annable] for that role, they did me a total solid and invited me to come on for this little part that ended up being Scotty. So I came on, did it and it just turned into more and more and more. It was a dream, it really was and I was so very grateful for not just the role, but to the fans. Because I think they had a lot to do with it, responding to my character that led to the Producers bringing me back.
When you’re in the midst of shooting a series like BROTHERS & SISTERS, is there time for you and co-star Matthew Rhys to grasp the importance of such a relationship on primetime television?
I don’t know if you can ever really feel it, but the writer’s took it very seriously and Matthew Rhys and I took the acting of it very seriously. It’s always really moving to be stopped on the street. Even two weeks ago at the gym, a guy came up to me, one who you might not think would be a fan of the show and said, “I used to watch that show with my roommates in college and because of that show I was able to come out to them.” I remember thinking… Oh wow… that was not where I was expecting interaction to go!
Well it must happen a lot, because between QUEER AS FOLK and WILL & GRACE, I think BROTHERS & SISTERS did an awful lot in terms of changing people’s perceptions about the LGBTQ community.
That’s so nice of you say. Nowadays there are so many gay voices on network television now and I like to think Kevin and Scotty’s relationship was one of the most authentic and real.
Of course, Hollywood loves to pigeonhole actors. Was proving you could do something different one of the things that attracted you to this latest project?
It’s so easy to do one thing, do it well and keep doing it until that one thing dries up. But if you want to stay in this business for an extended period of time you have to do everything. And that was a big part of me wanting to do this project. To see if I could do comedy, which seems to be very popular these days. Also, to play a straight character as well.
Has it been a challenge post-BROTHERS & SISTERS to get casting directors, writers and producers to see you as a straight leading man?
They know they can’t say that, but I always felt that. I always felt that it was something I had to fight against and overcome. That said, it’s also funny because while BROTHERS & SISTERS was a successful show, it wasn’t WILL & GRACE, so I have been able to get by. It was also not a hugely popular show in Hollywood, where people only watch four shows [Editor’s Note: Most likely BREAKING BAD, MAD MEN, GAME OF THRONES and HOMELAND!]. I think it will be harder for actors on more popular shows, like those kids from GLEE for instance.
Yourself alongside co-stars Ryan Belleville and Leah Renee are the three faces of this show. Is there pressure that comes with your face on the poster?
It’s really terrifying and totally scary but also exactly what I was saying about trying different things. You hope that you can do them successfully and that people will accept you for it. But I don’t know, I really have no idea. I know I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked on any other show. That being said, I feel relieved, from what I’ve seen, I think the show is funny, so we’ll see.
Having presumably started out your career as a struggling actor with roommates, is it safe to assume that you could relate to a show that saw you live with two other people in a cramped apartment?
Totally. Like my character I’m a bit of a nerd! In fact, I love driving and when I was driving across the country to start filming here I spent some time talking to the show’s creator Tim McAuliffe where I was telling him that I got a National Park Passport to visit all these National Parks along the way. And Tim was like, “Okay, we’re working that into the scripts because that is so corny!.”
BROTHERS & SISTERS had a seemingly endless stream of, well, brothers and sisters, while SATISFACTION features three cast members. What was it like working with Ryan and Leah?
I hated them immediately! [Laughs]. I got along with everyone. It really couldn’t have been a better combination. Ryan is stand-up comedian and is really comfortable being the ham, where as Leah and myself play more of the grounded characters. But I feel blessed, because in the past it’s not always been the case where you show up on set.
The show has attracted some very high profile guest stars, including MAD MEN’s Jessica Paré. What’s that been like?
She was lovely and knew Tim [Creator Tim McAuliffe] from back in the day. Jerry O’Connell who was also on our show and was a really hard worker and hilarious. I’m grateful to [Network] CTV because someone has to pay for this and they obviously see value in the show to spend that kind of money on guest stars.
The show’s title, SATISFACTION, is somewhat ambiguous. What does it mean to you?
I like that about the show. It feels more like a throwback to those classic comedies where the premise was pretty loose. Think THREE’S COMPANY. Nowadays so many shows have these complex premises like HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER or THE CLASS!
I love that you threw out such a random reference to THE CLASS. A comedy cancelled far before its time!
Well, I loved it and one of my best friends was on that show, but you know pitches, like 100 QUESTIONS, which was a show that didn’t last very long is another example of a very specific pitch. And what I love about this show is that it’s about these people and what happens to them. SATISFACTION is a title that touches on lots of different themes: Relationships, life, money, food, sex. I think it’s broad, but I like that we don’t feel trapped down to any concept that often gets in the way of shows.
You seem to be a real fan of television which is nice because it’s always disappointing when one interviews actors who don’t actually watch!
I love television. As an actor I think it’s the medium you want to be in. In a movie some guy may write a beautiful script where you have to somehow find your way into it. With TV shows, the actor gets to really take charge of the character and who he becomes and what his life develops into it. It sort of unfolds in a much more organic way. TV, when it’s a good job, see actors working with a family and evolving together.
SATISFACTION is a Canadian shot series. Is there a difference between working in TV North versus South of the border?
The fast answer is no because the technique is the same, but I do have a story from my time spent on Canadian sets which may illuminate a point. I had to come into a costume fitting and I forgot a suit I was supposed to bring and when I came in, the look on the costume department’s face was that I completely let them down, like it was a huge f*ck up! Where as in the United States, they would have sent me nine messages, sent someone to pick it up, with the assumption being that the actors are kind of useless. In Canada, they give you more responsibility as an actor and treat you more like a capable human being. There’s far less coddling. I might get knocked for saying that but actors in the United States become divas for a reason!
And finally, I can’t wrap this interview up without one reference to your brief stint on SMASH! Did you know before signing on the the role that the show wouldn’t see a third season?
It would have been nice. but I think I knew the show wasn’t coming back. There was always a possibility but it was a nice thing. I’ve known the Producers for a long time, and the episode director Michael Morris was one of the directors on BROTHERS & SISTERS, so it was really nice to touch base with all those people. I had so much fun working with those people and just to be part, in a tiny way, of what was such a fantastically huge failure was really fun. I loved it.
SATISFACTION airs Mondays at 8PM on CTV in Canada.