NBC unveiled its new three-hour Thursday night comedy block last month, which marked the return of Parks and Recreation and the debut of the new series Perfect Couples, which airs on Thursday nights at 8:30 PM ET. Two of the show's stars, Kyle Bornheimer and Hayes MacArthur, recently held a conference call to discuss the first season. Here's what they had to say below.
Can each of you sort of just describe your characters and tell us how similar or different you are to your characters?
Kyle Bornheimer: I couldn't be more similar. I think I - I don't know where my life ends at this and one begins. I mean when I met with the guys about it, Scott Silveri and Jon Pollack, and we started swapping stories about coupledom and kind of graduating from your 20s into your 30s and then all of a sudden you're hit with kind of about adulthood. And a lot of this builds with that transition and, you know, under the brighter lights of being in a couple too which it was exasperating. There's no manual for it although some of the couples in Perfect Couples actually do use a manual. You know, we kind of went from the place that there's - everyday it's a new (unintelligible) five years and very loving happy relationship that I think will last forever. But everyday something new comes along. But it's fun that way. You know, it's constantly putting our show into our life and our life into our show.
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. I think speaking to that transition from the 20s to the 30s is something that all the characters go through on our show like being single and then now being in relationships and dealing with all the things that come along with it. And, you know, Rex is this reformed party guy and an ex-jock who now is really excited about being in a relationship. And I think normally you would see a character like that, an art type like that who is like an ex-party guy who's in a relationship and he feels confined and constrained by it. But one of the things I love so much about what they - what the writers created in Rex is that he's really being into the relationship and he's taken all this competitive energy and he's put it into his own life in making his marriage work which is great. And I think one of the things when I look at each of the couples, I see little nuances of, you know, my relationship. You see I love even in the pilot episode the way that Dave and Julia discover that, you know, there may be - they play games just like they think all the other couples play games. I think it's kind of like you always think everyone else is the crazy one and then you look at yourself and you see your own stuff.
I'm just wondering beyond the number of cameras, what is the difference that you see in the way those two shows are put together, a single camera show versus a three-camera show. And do you have any sort of preference for one or the other?
Kyle Bornheimer: You know, I think - well first of all the schedule is much different. Amazingly there's a start difference in the schedule. And the multi camera, the live audience is - you feel guilty about it. It's barely working. It's like you - whereas single camera the way the Perfect Couples is, it's not rare to have a 17-hour day. Our show ran actually amazingly smoothly. So we were out 13 or 14-hour day. But the schedule is different but I like both. You know, I'm a part of that generation who's embraced single camera quite a bit. And when I did a multi cam last year, I didn't know what to expect actually. And I quite liked it. I didn't feel confined by the format or anything. I felt I could do what I needed to do, you know. But I like both formats but if I had a preference right now it might be single cam. But, you know, I think we might head it into an era where both are starting to get quite good. And we're certainly in an era of great single cam comedies and just wanted to be in that era. And there's a lot of good ones out there.
Hayes MacArthur: We're having like a lot of fun with the single camera device in the show too the way that we pop back in time and do flashbacks. I think even just performing that, you know, doing a scene and knowing that you're going to pop in and get a joke like they do on 30 Rock in the middle of a scene. It's something that's fund to think of. It's just - it has a clip, a different taste to it.
Kyle Bornheimer: And it's neat because Andy Ackerman who directed most of these comes from mainly multi cam. He directed most of the Seinfeld's and then The New Adventures of Old Christine and he started out as an editor before he became a director and so we kind of get that sensibility of both on this show. He knows the best of the sitcom world and the best of the single cam world.
Hayes, I believe this is you first weekly series. Can you just tell us how its been for you to acclimate yourself to a weekly schedule?
Hayes MacArthur: I love being on the show because of the people that are involved. So to go in on a weekly schedule it's really a lot of fun. It's great. I mean even getting the script and going into the table reads is fun and then all the way through the shooting; the shooting where you get just a great group of people to be around. And, you know, as Kyle was saying earlier, all the things, the stories we tell, the bits and the jokes we do all end up finding their way into the show in one way or another. So just to be working in that environment is great.
Kyle Bornheimer: I haven't even actually felt like it was work. I mean literally I would come to work to try to see if I could crack up Hayes or crack up Marilu the bits. You know, Hayes is hard to crack up. Hayes doesn't break easily. Walton - David Walton is easy to make laugh. And Christine Woods I get. Olivia Munn is incredibly easy to make laugh on set.
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. Being on a weekly series you see these people so much and you have these genuine interactions with them where if you're away doing a film, it's a little different because there's - these definite end dates to everything. And it's like when camp is over, it's over because it's more like being in school with people.
Kyle Bornheimer: You get to see them more than like any job - you see them more than you see your family really. And we got some quite in love with the six people scene. Anything that the six of us were in we started calling them sixers and would get really good and call each other and we had a sixer today. And sometimes we would drink a sixer before doing a sixer.
Can you guys tell me a little bit what to expect from Perfect Couples and what is your idea of a perfect couple?
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. Well this episode coming up tomorrow night we have, you know, each episode deals with different thematic elements of relationships. And so jealousy is something that we explore tomorrow night. So I think what to look forward to in the future are just these - of seeing as we get to know the characters how they each deal differently with things that happen in their lives and how they kind of all medal in each other's business is really where we get a lot of the fun.
Kyle Bornheimer: What we discovered it wasn't just the dynamic that two people have within the relationship, it's actually how couples end up relating to each other too. Because once you get into a couple, you find that you're hanging out with other couples and there's a whole new geometry that you have to learn and like what matches with what. Maybe you like your best friend's girlfriend, maybe you don't. Maybe you got to spend a weekend that you didn't plan on spending with four other people. And so what we found is that three's - all these other dynamics that play with these couples. And we do kind of singular episodes that, you know, are kind of standalone but there's a nice fun thread playing throughout the episodes with one of the couples that I won't give you too much away about that continues throughout the season as well as these - how these relationship evolve with each other. The writers are excellent at zigging when most shows would zag. They keep throwing stereotypes about couples and men and women and men in their 30s and women in their 30s (unattached). I love the way they would kind of play with the stereotypes of what you usually get. You know, our mantra often was, we're not a beer commercial they way that those kind of cliche stereotypes are often portrayed in beer commercials. We wanted to kind of...
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. It's not like a bunch of guys repenting their partners and girls and trying to get away from them. It's actually like the couples are partners in the show and they're best friends. And when they all medal in each other's business, it's all coming from good intentions.
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah, you're right. It's a very positive show. What I love about it, it's not cynical or bitter. I mean it's not - it's dark edges and it's certainly has an edge to it. But it comes from a much more positive place than I think people are, you know, often get.
Hayes MacArthur: I think they say you see all those pressures of like big characters that you're dealing with in you life, medalling in your life is like family like usually get in a lot of family comedies. And they say well, you can't choose your family. Well in some ways like you can't choose your friends either. You know, like if your sister is married to a guy like you have to deal with that guy. And if your best friend is married to a girl, you're with that girl all the time. So it's like contents under pressure create - you know, that's where we get a lot of comedy from.
Kyle Bornheimer: And it's sometimes harder with friends because family you can kind of take for granted and tell them to screw off or, you know, and you know that they're going to come back. There's a little higher stakes with friends.
Since Valentine's Day is right around the corner and we're on the topic of couples and relationships, what is the perfect Valentine's Day for both of you?
Hayes MacArthur: We both have newborns at home.
Kyle Bornheimer: That's a good excuse. Yeah, we're going to - that's a good question and I think you do get a pass when you have a newborn at home. I'm writing it down right now. When is Valentine's Day? Monday.
Hayes MacArthur: We got to plan this stuff.
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah, I don't know. You know, some years I lean into it. Some years, you know, I mean I think, you know, at least we think we're a progressive enough couple that we can, you know, either celebrate it and not feel cheesy and not celebrate and not feel like we missed it. But I don't know. This year I have to say that I have haven't thought about it much.
Hayes MacArthur: We just know that three's an inflated price of flowers. Like roses are really 30 bucks the rest of the year; a dozen roses now are become $80. It's gouging, price gouging.
Hayes your character meets his wife at his I guess soon to be brother-in-law's wedding. And it's love at first sight. Do you believe in that?
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. Rex and Leigh, he proposes the night he meets Leigh because he feels that he needed her in her life. And we come to realize in the episode there was actually at Dave and Julia's wedding. So it's a game we play where they're timing is always one to interfere with the moments that are planned. Do I believe in love at first sight? I think like anything, you fall in love and you see how things progress.
Kyle Bornheimer: So that's a yes?
Hayes MacArthur: It would be love at first sight followed by a probationary period of figuring everything out. How's that?
Kyle Bornheimer: That is the most romantic thing I've ever heard.
Well you all mentioned making each other laugh on the show. Can you tell us some of your funny memorable moments?
Hayes MacArthur: I'll tell you, just Kyle and I have worked together before on other projects. And one of the things that I love is we were in Pittsburgh shooting She's Out of My League which was a DreamWorks movie a couple of years ago. And Kyle made the decision at a family dinner scene -- we were both in the scene -- to serve himself meatloaf with his hand. And it ended up - because there were so many people in the scene, it took a long time to shoot and Kyle had - literally had his hand in this meatloaf for 12 hours one day.
Kyle Bornheimer: I had meatloaf in my stomach for days as well and never got the line out right. I was my own worst enemy too which also led to this idea that I eat a lot on set, which is true. I would eat the prop food even if it was inedible or not. So there's a lot of talk about - they turned my name into a verb, which is don't Bornheimer the set meaning don't eat the set.
Hayes MacArthur: So every time if we're doing a scene and Kyle takes, you know, some chips and salsa, he's got to carry it in his hand. I know that he made that choice and will have to do it for multiple takes and every time he does it, it makes me laugh.
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah. No. I don't make good choices. I'm not a professional actor. I don't know what I'm doing out there. But - and like I said, like there's, you know, I'm also unprofessional and I do kind of like making the other (counselor). I mean not like - not that I'm funny but just out of sheer unprofessionalism. When I discovered that Olivia gets the giggle quite frequently, I use that to my advantage. So I'm glad there's a lot of that and you know, like I said, when the six of us are on stage, it's a bunch of hammy actors trying to crack each other up.
Hayes MacArthur: Yeah. And the think that makes us all laugh the most is like how genuine we're all being with this - with the given situation. You know, just like when we're looking at the other actors and we're saying maybe something that would be ludicrous to anyone else but makes so much sense to the character, that's what I think makes .me laugh the most.
Since this next episode is about jealousy, I just wanted to know was there anything in the episode that reminded you guys of any jealous situations in your own life?
Hayes MacArthur: It skates the line of like boundaries, right. Doesn't the episode like your character gets jealous over Julia (laughing) at another guy?
Kyle Bornheimer: You know, you know, what's funny is we talked a lot about how you rationalize flirting. Like that was a big topic, you know, that we just would often rap about and on set and just - I know that it worked its way into the episode because there's a lot of discussion where in this episode about guys flirting with girls and to what degree is flirting kind of just healthy for everyone involved and when does it cross the line and, you know, that really starts off the discussion in the episode. And my character's often kind of rationalizing flirting as like being healthy and there's nothing wrong with it. And but when it turns the other way, when he finds out that some guy is flirting with his wife and his wife, you know, might be flirting back who, you know, or something, then he becomes insanely jealous. And the way that - there's a great line that David Walton's character that how he rationalized flirting as even more bazaar in the episode. So we take - what I love about this episode is it's one that we took a very simple concept and we build all these different, you know, three different couples' perspective on it. But I've certainly had a lot of discussions about being in a committed relationship like are strip clubs okay, is flirting okay?
Hayes MacArthur: Hey. Got to lay down the boundaries of everything.
What's been your favorite scene so far for each of you?
Hayes MacArthur: Favorite scene. I think every time we have a scene with the six of us all interacting with each other is - those have been amongst my favorite. Not to give anything away but I think in the - towards the later episodes there's a party scene that takes place and some very fun stuff goes down that really made us all laugh.
Kyle Bornheimer: And I think early on for early episodes when we first discovered how fun that was that were special to me like last - or like two weeks ago there's an episode where the six of us try to save the - Amy and Vance's relationship. We all rush to this cabin that they're at. And everyone's talents is on display in that scene. I just had a big smile on my face remembering shooting it and just seeing all, you know, and just remember shooting it and seeing how good everyone was and how this was coming together was that it was a time I realized all we have something special here. There's a line coming up where - yeah, I mean I don't want to ruin anything but it's fun, yeah.
Hayes MacArthur: Even from last week's episode, Kyle does a table jump where he gets - he jumps from the floor from a standing position. He jumps up on the table and we didn't know that the other actor - we saw it in the script that it was a table jump. But I thought that they were going to do some stunt work and have some cables. I mean how they were going to pull off Kyle jumping from the floor to a table I had no idea. So they didn't tell us. And we were all together shooting the - one of the group scenes in the man cave. And Kyle came on set and he - you know, we did a rehearsal. He didn't do the jump. Then when the cameras were rolling, he did a table jump. And it just blew us all away. We laughed so hard. And come to realize that I guess Kyle you've always wanted to do a table jump.
Kyle Bornheimer: My only talent. I try to work it into any events. You know, I worked it into my wedding. It's something I like to display because I literally have no other - nothing else I can do well. But the show, what's funny about that is the show has now become just like us clamoring to the writers to display talents that we have or them coming to us and asking what we can do. There was some amazing gymnastics and dancing by Hayes and Mary Elizabeth last week. Hayes just is - his accuracy throwing a dead animal with a shovel in a few episodes. That sounds more gruesome than it is but it's road kill. And as well as I think is your quarterback arm on display at all in this.
Hayes MacArthur: I love how the writers actually has (Ro) hanging out. They listen to different things and they - like Mary Elizabeth was trained in gymnastics for ten years. So they write that. It just becomes part of the show - becomes part of the life of the character and I think that's what makes - really starts filling out the characters and makes them unique.
Kyle Bornheimer: And Christine Woods' amazing vocal abilities too they worked in maybe three or four times. We might be the new Glee because Christine is an amazing singer. And so she's gotten to sing a few times. And Mary Elizabeth has a great voice too. David Walton's an amazing golfer. His golf comes up. Yeah. So it's basically just - it's like battle of the network stars where we're just trying to show how athletic we are.
What makes your show stand out amongst the other NBC must see TV lineup? What makes it, you know, really unique, something new?
Kyle Bornheimer: I think we're taller and I think we have some good hair on the show. Yeah, I don't know what - you know, I think what they put us on was fun - any was just fund to be on Thursday night on NBC. So I think we are all just sort of it's just that kind of an amazing night to be on. I mean when I was growing up, Thursday nights on NBC were special, so. But as far as what stands out, I think that's the night to be on for comedy. NBC's had a lot of confidence, you know, in us in putting us on that night. And I think we have a flavor all our own and a great tone like I was talking about earlier. The sort of non-cynical approach but with an edge and with some sharp writers. I mean Jon Pollack won Emmys on 30 Rock as a writer and Scott Silveri ran Friends and Andy Ackerman directed all the Seinfeld episodes. So we have this kind of mix of fresh sensibilities.
Hayes MacArthur: They're all repeat-watching shows. All those shows the jokes happen so quickly and sometimes you're picking up on - maybe you're laughing and one in every third joke and it's enjoyable. And then when I re-watch those Thursday night shows, I find different nuances in other jokes. And I kind of feel that way about our show too. Like there's things that happen, you know, it's not like we're doing presentational comedy where we're presenting - we're telling you where to laugh. I mean you either get it and you're laughing at what we're doing or you're, you know, you have to re-watch the episode and find the different beats that we think is so funny. I think the Office does that really well; 30 Rock just it drops so many golden eggs as the episode goes. And I think our pace in writing format's like that.
Kyle Bornheimer: Yeah. I was watching on a plane the other day. They had a bunch of NBC programming and the caliber of talent on NBC right now is pretty remarkable. And the creators behind this show come from NBC. And yeah, I think it's great. I think we have our own fresh take on the subject and it is our own sensibility. But we fit in, you know, hopefully quite nicely with the other programming on Thursday nights.
Rex is quite the smooth talker. Do you feel that you pulled anything from yourself for that?
Hayes MacArthur: It's so funny because I stumbled over some of Rex's lines so much. Some of those lines I think demand a quick delivery but there's a lot that has to be dropped. I tend to struggle and find my words a little bit more than Rex. But he's also a car salesman, so those kind of thoughts and sales techniques are really at the tip of his tongue.
Kyle, what about Dave really makes him stand out? What would you say his defining trait is?
Kyle Bornheimer: I'm going to find that out on Season 8 and then tell everybody. I'm going to work that out. You know, hopefully if people are patient with us, I will discover that. Because I'm still figuring out Dave which is why I think he's very similar to me because I haven't really figured out myself yet. I know he's graduating from his 20s to his 30s and it's going well but there's still a transition period. And he's in that kind of weird state that a lot of guys find themselves in right now of like being fully on in adulthood but living in a culture that's still sort of celebrates men acting like boys. So we play a lot with that on the show about, you know, him wanting to dress more like mad men or, you know, you know, and that in conflict with, you know, his own kind of juvenile attitude about things. I think he's a healthy character. You know, there's not much, you know, that's in conflict with him, you know, except for some of the stuff that comes up with couples. And what's off then too is the amazing relationship with Vance, his best friend, played by David Walton that we figured out was kind of the fourth couple on the show. The - and maybe the most perfect couple. They have figured out really how to coexist together and once we discovered that, we were able to play around with their friendship and how, you know, and how it affects, you know, my marriage and how it affects the other couples. That was really fun to discover like not only the couple that I - that my character is in in his marriage but it's the couple that he forms with his best friend.
So tell me how intense was the casting process? How did you gentlemen get the roles?
Hayes MacArthur: Well, yeah. I, you know, around this time every year three's a lot of material that goes out when people are deciding what shows to make. And when I read the script for Perfect Couples and I knew both of the writers behind it, I knew their work, so going in to meet with them, I just thought was just like so much fun and was an incredible treat because I was reading more traditional stuff. Stuff that I had seen before. And when I saw this genuine take on relationships and how you have all these different characters who are really coming from a good place but the results might not always reflect that, I thought that was a great engine for comedy. And I went in and I met with Scott and Jon and I found out that my friend David Walton who I'd know before was doing the show. And I just got it. I just was excited about the whole process. And when they told me that Andy Ackerman was directing the episodes, I couldn't wait to join. And having Kyle, and I'll let him tell the story how he got involved with the show, that was just - that was really the icing on the cake.
Kyle Bornheimer: It was one of those great things where something keeps popping up in your life like so, you know, telling you, you know, this is the one. Don't, you know, this is not to be avoided. Because I was tied up in another project about the time that they were casting this so I wasn't available. So I didn't want to fall in love with anything that I couldn't do. So I was kind of putting off anything that was coming my way because I was tied up and there was really a good chance I wasn't going to be able to do it. And then a lots of different weird things happened that kept kind of pushing it away. You know, the one project went away but another one came up that I was obligated to. And they cast another incredibly good actor in the role and, you know, but then that guy was tied up in something else. So it was a very weird, you know, the whole bit. Only, you know, pilot season in television works in these weird ways. But this thing kept on announcing itself to me. It kept on, you know, whenever there would be an opening, whenever like any of these things I was tied to would go away, this thing was still available. And I finally read it and was like, oh I can't believe I haven't read this until now. I - this is something that could have gotten away from me. And fell in love with it and met Jon Pollack and 30 Rock, the creators and fell in love with them instantly. And it was a no-brainer. I mean I wanted to read for them so that they knew that they, you know, that we were all on the same page with it. We had a dinner where we were just talking about where - with the direction of the show and they didn't have to sell me on it too much at all. They just had to say, you know, I knew right away that what this show was going to be about and how it was going to feel and look. It was arduous and long and there was some difficult decisions to be made but in terms of the material and working on it and once I read it, it was kind of easy. It was an easy choice.