Back in mid-November, I was invited to The Lot in West Hollywood (yes, it's just called The Lot...) to take a sneak peek at the set of the new TNT series, Trust Me, which premieres on Monday, January 26 on TNT (CLICK HERE to read my early review of the hilarious pilot). After our press corps had assembled, we were led in to the set and were brought into the world of Rothman Greene & Mohr advertising agency in Chicago. We learned they were currently shooting episode six of a 13-episode season, so everyone was at the halfway point of this new series' first season.
We were all split up into groups and we did this sort of musical chairs thing, where the press groups would rotate to different parts of the set where different members of the cast and crew were waiting for us. I was lucky enough to be in the group that got to interview the two stars of the show: Eric McCormack (formerly the Will of Will & Grace) and Tom Cavanaugh (formerly the Ed of, well, Ed). McCormack plays Mason, a V.P. art director who is a responsible workaholic that has a true passion for advertising. Cavanaugh plays Connor, a free-wheeling eccentric with ADD-like tendencies that are the total opposite of Mason. Still, with that whole opposites attract thing going for them, they've been a successful team at Rothman Greene & Mohr for seven years and, while I thoroughly enjoyed their chemistry on the screen when I watched the pilot, I got an early glimpse of that chemistry and rapid-fire banter when we were taken into the set that is Mason's office to chat with McCormack and Cavanaugh. Here's the hilariousness that followed.
Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanaugh
Eric McCormack: I'm just going to warn you in advance. Cavanaugh and I together... just turn your tape recorders on and good luck. A lot of fast talking on top of each other. I'll try to get you some actual, printable sound bytes.
What episode are you guys shooting now?
Eric McCormack: Six. With the pilot, I guess that's seven, which is weird, because I guess that's the hump show. We're excited.
Have you ever worked in an office like this before? Going back to the old days of an office job?
Eric McCormack: My one and only office job was my dad's company, which was Shell Oil. I was 18 years old and I was in the mail department. It was the year that Princess Diana became a princess.
(At this point, Tom Cavanaugh comes into the room.)
We were just asking Eric if he'd ever worked in an office like this, not on TV, like an actual real office.
Tom Cavanaugh: You mean work in a fake office?
(At this point he walks "outside" what is supposed to be a tall high-rise building with a fake backdrop. Damn I wish we had video on this...)
Tom Cavanaugh: Look at how high we are! It's a great day. Oh, I've ruined it now for them. There's four Americans who will not be tuning in. (He comes back inside)
You're shooting episode six now, so where are you guys as far as where your characters are and where the storyline is?
Eric McCormack: You know, this show was written by two guys who were in this business for a long time, Hunt (Baldwin) and John (Coveny). They're great guys and this is really their baby. They come from the advertising world, but they've changed it up pretty quick. We've lost our big account. Arc Mobile is gone by, what, episode four?
Tom Cavanaugh: Yeah.
Eric McCormack: So we're like paupers. In this episode, it looks like we might leave the agency. They're not wasting any time. There's high drama. There's high stakes going on. Our friendship has been threatened...
Tom Cavanaugh: Even on the pilot!
Eric McCormack: Yeah, in the pilot, but I think in every episode.
Tom Cavanaugh: We take a few swings at each other. Small appliances are thrown. It's good. It's really good.
Eric McCormack: There's drama and comedy.
And TNT knows drama, don't they?
Eric McCormack: They do know drama. Our show is loosely affiliated with drama.
Tom Cavanaugh: Oh. I always thought that was no drama...
Tom Cavanaugh: Now it's smarter. Suddenly, it's a smarter campaign. We know drama.
Eric McCormack: So yeah. There's drama, there's comedy. You'll cry. There will be a lot of crying.
What is it about advertising that people love so much on TV? We've got Mad Men and people love the world of advertising.
Eric McCormack: Yeah, it's a minor cult hit.
Tom Cavanaugh: I see.
Eric McCormack: I don't know. Here's what they love about it: there's only been a couple of shows. There's eleventy-teen cop shows and lawyers shows on any given season and I haven't seen this world much. There was thirtysomething, but Mad Men is the first one, that I can think of, that has focused on this world.
Tom Cavanaugh: It was about advertising?
Eric McCormack: Yeah, they were advertising guys. I think this show is kind of like was thirtysomething on lithium. There's a little Boston Legal crazyness going on there. I just feel it's different. It's high stakes, but in a different kind of way, because I think we all hate advertising and I think that's why everybody's excited about TiVo, because we can avoid advertising. That's why I think this particular world of these guys is interesting because the world they learned was a world where they were gods. You couldn't avoid advertising. There were three networks and that was it. Now, you can avoid advertising very easily so we're endangered species.
How do you guys watch TV? Do you TiVo through the whole thing?
Eric McCormack: Oh yeah. I haven't watched a commercial in years.
Tom Cavanaugh: It's not TiVo anymore.
Eric McCormack: It's coming back. TiVo is coming back.
Tom Cavanaugh: It's coming back?
Eric McCormack: Yes, because DirecTV bought TiVo and now it looks like TiVo is...
Tom Cavanaugh: But no one's going to go buy a physical box like TiVo.
Eric McCormack: I heard in 2010, it's going to be more TiVo-esque than it is now.
Tom Cavanaugh: Also in 2010, the Olympics are in Vancouver. That's a free plug.
It seems that what's happening now is that more of the advertising is actually put into the show, which is great for advertising.
Tom Cavanaugh: Well, it's good for our show. You know how oftentimes you're on another show and it's like, 'Well, I'll tell you, Brent, I didn't get the number of the serum that they dropped on her thigh, but..." Here, it's like, we're supposed to. We have an Effen Vodka sign. We're golden.
Eric McCormack: What I love is that there are a number of approved names and the, once in awhile it's like, 'Oh, we can't use that.'
Tom Cavanaugh: 'You can't show the Coke sign.'
Eric McCormack: You can't show the Chicago Tribune. Why?
Tom Cavanaugh: Because, here's the thing. There are a lot of people in Business Affairs, and if we show everything, they're out of a job.
Eric McCormack: That's probably true.
Tom Cavanaugh: And we can't have the Business Affairs people getting out of a job.
Eric McCormack: I don't know. I'm an actor.
Was there a product that you guys were begging to have on? Maybe for some freebies?
Eric McCormack: We mentioned Heineken a lot of times. We're drunk right now. Thank you, Heineken. Let's see, we did Starbucks...
Tom Cavanaugh: The NHL.
Eric McCormack: There was a lot of the NHL in the pilot.
Tom Cavanaugh: We're hoping our characters get the Viagra account. Incoming... and outgoing.
You have some pretty ladies in the office. What can we expect in terms of love?
Tom Cavanaugh: Sex. Careful when you say that word love. Basically this show is a racier version of... I was going to say Mad Men, but I'm not supposed to know what that show is.
Eric McCormack: I think our relationship is a little bit like Anthony Edwards and George Clooney in that first season of ER. I'm the responsible guy running things and he's the guy getting laid all the time.
Tom Cavanaugh: Wait. What? Yeah, you're 40 and I'm balding. What? Actually, I called Anthony Edwards yesterday.
Eric McCormack: Who calls Anthony Edwards?
Tom Cavanaugh: I did. Remember? In the editing room?
Eric McCormack: But yeah. In the first few episodes, he has a lot of sex and I have a lot of the married, thirtysomething thing going on. I guess it's fortysomething, but in this episode there are some scenes.
Tom Cavanaugh: This is a very steamy episode for Mr. McCormack.
Eric McCormack: If you notice, in the pilot, there was an uncomfortable moment when I run into Monica Potter, alluding to something from the past. It's all unveiled.
Tom Cavanaugh: The plot... it thickens.
So now, in differences between network TV shows and cable, how much do you love cable?
Eric McCormack: Um, hi softball. As a matter of fact, given what that question sounded like, you could just put in the answer, 'yes.'
Tom Cavanaugh: 'Tom and Eric seem to believe that cable is the place to be these days.'
Eric McCormack: We totally do. I was just reading yesterday about these big network shows that we probably all read the scripts for that, because of the writers strike, they're all in trouble. They're getting the kinds of numbers that probably we'll get, but for them it's bad and for us it'd be great. We'll be delighted if we get six or seven million whereas on a network it's still...
Tom Cavanaugh: Six or seven million?
Eric McCormack:The Closer gets six or seven million. No, TNT is unbelievable. It's the right time because they had one great show, they had two great shows and suddenly they have six great shows, we're one of them and they push, they spend, they support.
Tom Cavanaugh: I'm being serious for one second, not toeing the party line at all, we really think they're amazing. Every day, it's almost like an unveiling of a new thing. Man, Michael Reich, TNT, I think these guys and the success that they're having with The Closer and some of these other shows is due to the fact that they have a plan, they seem to believe in the things, creatively, they're tuned in.
Eric McCormack: They're hands on and hands off in all the right ways.
Tom Cavanaugh: They really are. It's been a real treat.
As far as acting goes, what kind of different freedoms do you have that you would not have?
Eric McCormack: I say 'asshole' and 'bullshit' in the pilot.
Tom Cavanaugh: When the camera rolls, the camera rolls. You could be doing a movie, you could be doing a show, it's the idea that the collective vision, we're all doing this same thing, we're all on board. It doesn't matter what exactly the acting is, but the fact that everybody seems to be doing the same show, we all have the same idea. Everyone seems to be on board and the people who are responsible for doing it, like John and Hunt, creators of the show, go do your show. They hired them for this reason because they think you can do this show good, so go do the show. I feel it's maybe a little bit more of that than opposed to what we do in front of the camera, although we do say 'asshole' and 'bullshit.'
Eric McCormack: I feel freer. I feel that there's not a certain network expectation, whether it be a sitcom or a drama, where you know how those beats are supposed to play out and it's very hard to break that mold. At this point, it kind of feels like we're inventing, we're inventing the way we do the show. From day one, we had a pattern, they adapted to it, and they said, 'Let's write to that and let's edit to that,' and the feel of the show has taken on a real feel that I don't think we would've had the freedom to affect at all on network.
We were then informed that our time was up and it was our time to rotate on from the posh office of Mason to the lowly cube-dwellers that Hector and Tom, played by Geoffrey Arend and Mike Damus. Hector and Tom are a junior creative team who constantly try to push the envelope of their profession, ideas that don't usually thrill the higher-ups. We all gathered around in their actual cubicle set and had a little chat with Arend and Damus. Here's what they had to say.
Geoffrey Arend and Mike Damus
I like the office. Is anything of yours actually here?
Geoffrey Arend: Yeah. There's a bunch of pictures of us from Chicago that we took. They were taken at Wrigley, a couple of drawings we put up.
And the iguana smoking a cigarette.
Tom Damus: That's got to come down. I don't like it.
Geoffrey Arend: We are not promoting iguana's smoking cigarettes. OK. I'm going to take it down, even though it's been in every shot now.
Tom Damus: We'll put a different picture there.
Geoffrey Arend: Why don't we put a baby smoking up there?
Tom Damus: We should have Jon Hamm smoking up there.
That'd be pretty funny.
Tom Damus: Do you know his connection to Mad Men? Guess who he's dating?
Tom Damus: Wait, are we not supposed to tell anybody?
Geoffrey Arend: No, you can tell people that.
Tom Damus: He's dating Christine Hendricks. They are really involved, have been for awhile.
Geoffrey Arend: She's amazing. We live together. She's my dream come true. She's not only normal, but she's super-smart and funny and sweet and kind. She's my Weird Science.
Tom Damus: I'm over there all the time.
Geoffrey Arend: He lives at our house.
Tom Damus: No, but I spend a lot of time at their house, especially this summer. I was over there a lot.
Geoffrey Arend: This is the weirdest thing. We both grew up in Queens, New York and we both did a show when we were 12 years old together. We're both on stage together.
So you were 12? Did you keep in touch?
Tom Damus: No. We met on the pilot.
Geoffrey Arend: We were on the pilot together and I looked at him and I was like, 'I know you.'
Tom Damus: And I was like, 'Were you that geek with asthma?'
Geoffrey Arend: 'And you were the jerk who kept kicking me in my back?'
Tom Damus: We went to competing theater high schools too. He went to LaGuardia, where the real actors go.
Geoffrey Arend: Yeah. Fame school. Dance fight.
Tom Damus: I was at the Performing Arts, which is like the ghetto LaGuardia.
Geoffrey Arend: The back-up performing arts school. The safety performing arts school.
Tom Damus: I got into LaGuardia, by the way... For the audition to LaGuardia, this guy turns to me and says, 'You're in a room of Jell-O. The Jell-O is getting thicker.' I'm like, 'Is there a taxi in this room?'
Geoffrey Arend: No, seriously, the first year is all about Jell-O.
Tom Damus: Then you move on to solids.
Geoffrey Arend: Then, by your senior year...
Tom Damus: 'You're a steak sandwich with provolone cheese.'
But the Jell-O comes in handy now, doesn't it?
Geoffrey Arend: Oh, all the time. My God. Every time my director comes up to me, he's like, 'About the next take. Do you know what it's like to be in a room full of Jell-O? Can you equate that in your next scene.'
So you guys are having a lot of fun here then.
Geoffrey Arend: Oh god. The strangest thing is our trailers are in a parking garage, our specific ones are in the basement of the parking garage, which I didn't think was possible, but we like to sit here and hang out.
Tom Damus: Yeah. We have Internet here. Everyone is kind of like, 'Why are you guys here?' We're like, 'We've got chairs and the Internet.' They're like, 'No, it's like 3 in the morning.'
So how do these characters move along as the episodes progress? At this point in the sixth episode, how are these characters different from the pilot?
Tom Damus: I think we're symbiotic, complementary, perhaps.
Geoffrey Arend: He's the copywriter. He's always stressed and worried about deadlines and getting things perfect and right. I'm Hector the art director and I'm like, 'You know what? It comes as it comes.' I'm more laid-back. If there's anyone throwing sarcastic zingers at people, it's probably him. It's good. When we're together, we're constantly ripping on each other.
Tom Damus: We have a same goal, which is to take over the office.
Geoffrey Arend: Yeah. To move out of the cubicles, to have walls.
What kinds of stuff did you get from the creators, that worked in this world. What kinds of stuff did you take from them for your characters?
Tom Damus: Hunt and John, by the way, let me get this plug in, they created the show. They hooked us up with some people in Chicago we got to go meet from their actual job, people we were based on. It was an amazing learning experience. Before, I was thinking like, advertising, this is like a dog-and-pony show.
Geoffrey Arend: You thought that? That's really small-minded of you.
Tom Damus: Then, I got there and I realized that the job security is really real. We got there right after layoffs.
Geoffrey Arend: There was an entire floor that had just been let go. There was an entire floor that was like a ghost town.
Tom Damus: The way that Hunt and John wrote and was trying to say to us was, 'You guys could be out on your ass next week,' and that's really real.
Geoffrey Arend: We thought, 'OK, if this acting thing doesn't work out... advertising is a nice place to be.' It's very much about thinking on your feet. We were there and they sort of congregate. They seem to know there's a conference or if something's going on in an office and they all sort of show up.
Tom Damus: It's a great business for an office-driven story. There's a lot of jealousy and inter-office politics going on. A lot of cutthroat intellectual property going on. People are very protective of what they tell each other, what ideas they share with each other. Sometimes they feed each other dummy ideas to throw them off their spin.
Geoffery Arend: Then when they go to L.A., they're not renting a Prius. They're renting a Ferrari. They stay in the really expensive hotels and running up crazy bills. $600 for drinks.
Sadly our time with this hilarious duo was cut off then and we headed deeper into this office set and into the super-posh office of Tony Mink, where, not only was Griffin Dunne, who portrays the group leader Tony Mink, awaiting us, but the lovely ladies of the show were as well, Sarah Clarke and Monica Potter. Clarke plays the wife of Eric McCormack's Mason character, who we see just briefly in the pilot but will be a larger part of the series, while Potter plays Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, a copywriter who's new to the firm of Rothman Greene & Mohr, but has been an award-winning writer for years, despite her personality flaws. We all gathered around a nice conference table in the office set and had a chat with this versatile trio of actors.
Griffin Dunne, Sarah Clarke and Monica Potter
So how's it going so far?
Sarah Clarke: The show is very fun.
Monica Potter: Very fun. Everything you say, I'm just going to repeat.
Sarah Clarke: We're just so happy to be sitting next to each other, because we don't get to work together that often.
Monica Potter: We don't.
Sarah Clarke: Tony and I have had nothing yet.
Griffin Dunne: No. We have nothing to do.
We just talked to two sets of rather rowdy guys together. What's it like on set then? Is it always that raucous?
Monica Potter: Yes.
Sarah Clarke: I'm sure it is. Mine is a little different. Mine is home life.
Monica Potter: But everyone is a comedian... except me.
Griffin Dunne: I'm just hearing that they're all so rowdy, because I have a different... all my scenes are with Eric and all I do is inflict fear on him. I send him out there and say, 'If you don't come back with this account or close this or make this deal happen, you're not going to be able to afford your kids' education and you're going to be a rotten husband.' You know, I just shove fear down his throat. My stuff, hopefully it'll have some humor in it, but basically it will just have the drive of this advertising business. The drive and how the economy and the people's tastes and everything directly affect our pocketbook and our future and our death.
Monica Potter: Well, when you're watching Eric and Tom and then Mike and Geoffrey, I almost peed my pants a few times, and I'm not even joking. Tom Cavanaugh is the worst though. He'll give you one of those looks, and he does it on purpose. So that's funny, but we lose a lot of film.
Does anybody ever do it back to him?
Monica Potter: I'm getting pissed now. I'm gonna start a war.
In terms of bringing a little sexual tension to the office, your character and Eric's character has a little bit of tension that's dealt with in this episode.
Monica Potter: Yeah. We wrapped it yesterday... I'm already going to get in trouble, no. We did have some tension... because of something.
That's our headline right there. 'Something Causes Something.'
So, Sarah, are you aware there's something going on at the office then?
Sarah Clarke: I'm aware there is a new woman writer that he didn't mention.
Monica Potter: But I came to visit you.
Sarah Clarke: Yeah. But that's all I know.
You know that Tom's character is more of a ladies man, so does that worry you at all?
Sarah Clarke: Tom's character, you know, they've been friends for so long, he and Eric's character, Mason and Connor have a very long friendship that, inevitably the wife gets brought into. I have probably fed Connor many meals and he has probably slummed on our couch. I feel there is a sense of knowing who Connor is and understanding him, because within their relationship they spend a lot of time together and I have to take that on. I enjoy him. He's a lot of fun, and he makes me feel pretty.
I notice the Dewar's on the desk. Is this something that every advertising executive has to have, some kind of wet bar?
Griffin Dunne: It's actually tea from some other episode.
But no, the alcohol thing is very real, isn't it?
Griffin Dunne: Yeah. This is always here. It's part of the dressing in my office. I think in this day and age, it's more really for dressing, but what is interesting is that is Dewar's, and this is Cream of Wheat and when we talk about products, we're talking about real products that are right in front of your face. I guess it's one of those product placement things, only in this one, the product placements actually move the story. We actually talk about, you know, 'If we don't get the Palmolive account, people are going to jump out of windows.' We actually talk about actual companies.
Did you do any research into the ad world before you started this?
Sarah Clarke: It's so funny. I know so much about the ad world, only because I grew up in the Midwest and the cool job was an ad exec. In St. Louis, where I grew up, we had Anheiser-Busch. My godmother who lived in Chicago, was in the ad business for 20 years and I would go visit her. She lived in Italy for three years, she lived in Australia for three years. She'd get these big accounts and she'd have to go along. I thought, just for the travel aspect and the idea that that was where the creativity seemed to go, in a job, I thought, that's what I want to do. Then I sort of started to say that, well, ok, that's a lot more work... and she was an alcoholic (Laughs). I laugh now because she would laugh with me because she's recovering. No, it's a hard job and I think it's the pressure of trying to stay on top of the trends and trying to predict how people are going to like something, how they will be kind of seduced into buying it, because consumerism is a big part of America.
Monica Potter: Yeah. My uncle Bill is still in the business. I remember when we were little, he wrote all these commercials, the Chuckwagon ones where the guy is hitting the thing and there is the little wagon with the dog chasing it.
Sarah Clarke: Oh, I love that ad!
Monica Potter: It was like 1983 or something, for Chuckwagon Dog Food.
So besides the Chuckwagon ones, do you have a favorite ad?
Sarah Clarke: I always think that Volkswagon comes up with some pretty great ads.
So, what's been the biggest surprise for any of you, coming to work on the show?
Sarah Clarke: How nice everyone is! I find everyone on this show, from the producers... to Griffin... very very nice.
Sarah Clarke: But no, everyone wants to make a really good show, but they do it without coming in with this toxic attitude. They come with just working together. It's fun and funny.
Monica Potter: I'm so afraid to say that, but it's true. I'm so afraid to say that, like, 'I love you. Oh, I love you,' because then what if someone starts to become like really mean.
Does that happen a lot?
Monica Potter: Yeah. Well, not a lot, but whether it's a movie or whatnot, you're like, 'Oh my God. You're going to be my new best friend.' And then, a week later it's like, 'She's just really mean...' But it just feels like we've been doing this for a long time, and it's really cool.
Our time was up after that and our last stop on the tour was a chat with series creators, executive producers and showrunners Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny along executive producer Greet Shephard. Baldwin and Coveny both have extensive experience in the world of advertising, both working for separate prestigious ad firms in Chicago for many years. The two managed to find their way to Hollywood and, after a brief writing gig on the short-lived Fox series Fastlane, they both found themselves writing and co-executive producing for the TNT hit The Closer, which is where they came in contact with Trust Me executive producer, Greer Shepherd. We sat down with this trio of producers in a swank conference room set and here's what they had to say.
Hunt Baldwin, John Coveny and Greer Shepherd
How hard is it recreating what you know of the advertising world for a TV show?
Hunt Baldwin: Turns out, it's pretty tough. There's a lot of detail that goes into every episode that we make. If you look around the set, every piece of paper, we want them to look like what we remembered they looked like in the advertising agencies that we used to work in. It takes a lot of work, but the end result is pretty great.
John Coveny: Once you get past the, 'this story is painful for me to tell' phase of creating stories, it goes well. We lived this life and we're writing from that experience.
Do you ever think you'd come back to it? You finally made it big in Hollywood.
Hunt Baldwin: We're very fond of telling people that, after spending 10 years to try and desperately get out of advertising, we finally did it by writing a TV show about advertising.
So how much of these storylines are based on things that actually happened?
Hunt Baldwin: There's usually a nugget of something that happened to us or somebody we knew about, that gives rise to something else. Once these actors started populating the stories, it's taken on a little bit of a life of its own, but the nice thing is, having lived that life and going through all of the drama and comedy that happens in a real advertising agency, we know there are interesting, dramatic things that happen outside of, simply the big presentation. That's a big part of your life, but there are lots of little details and personal relationships, power struggles, that happen throughout an agency that, having lived through that, can draw on that I think other people wouldn't necessarily be able to locate, without having that kind of insider knowledge.
You guys are naming actual products on the show. How does that whole process work? Do you have to get rights for everything?
Greer Shepherd: It's funny. It was less about promoting, it was more about making our world feel authentic and realistic. We make up some of the brands, so that we have complete license to tell any type of story we want, but we thought it would make our show feel true if we could access some real products. We put that out to TNT Sales and Warner Brothers Sales. We described the types of products we'd be looking for and there had to be a certain amount of risk that these brands were willing to take because, as we said, we were going to be showing what happens backstage at an advertising firm. People discuss these products and some people like them and some people don't and some people find that the brand initiative is ridiculous. We wanted to have the latitude to be able to talk about all of that. Turns out that Dove was really game for this so we have incorporated them as one of the clients in the Mink Group. We'll also be working with Rolling Rock from Anheiser-Busch and Buick from GM.
Do you guys actually come up with campaigns for each of those products?
Hunt Baldwin: We do. Not every story is about coming up with a campaign for a client, but many of them are. It's one of those areas that we have the benefit of spending a lot of time doing that.
John Coveny: We've created a lot of ads over our years. It's like, 'What campaign can we do for this product?' 'Oh, remember that campaign we did seven years ago? Plug that in.'
Hunt Baldwin: 'Or how about the one we never plugged for 7-11? How about that one?' Exactly.
Greer Shepherd: I will say that is the most challenging part of the writing of these scripts, coming up with these campaigns, because these campaigns sort of have to rise organically from these characters. It can't just be, 'Oh, that's a great campaign,' it has to be, 'Why did Connor come up with that campaign?' or 'Why would Sarah come up with that campaign?'
John Coveny: That's also part of the fun of this show, beyond the journey of this Mason and Connor partnership and the emotions that they go through throughout the season, is also seeing what happens when your partner has nothing. What's that creative process, and people will be able to see that struggle of what is this idea we're going to present tomorrow? When you turn that board over, and you have people sitting on the other side of the table, their reaction.
Hunt Baldwin: And, also, 'You think your idea is better than mine?'
Was this show in any way inspired by Mad Men, or was it more like, 'Oh, shit'?
Hunt Baldwin: Well, it started as 'Oh shit,' not that they beat us to it, they sort of happened at the same time. We took a long time developing this because we were working on The Closer with Greer at the time and it was happening during our hiatuses. We were pretty far along.
Greer Shepherd: I think we were handing in the script when they began shooting.
John Coveny: The answer to your question, simply, is no. We were, like most things, procrastinating on this idea for about 13 years in advertising. Then we moved to Hollywood, then we found a job on Fastlane, then we lost our job on Fastlane, then we met Greer Shepherd. So, this had been percolating for some time now.
Hunt Baldwin: But, when you hear about it, you also have this moment like, 'Uh oh.' The moment we saw it, we were like, 'Oh. There is no uh oh there. That couldn't be a more different show than what we're making.'
John Coveny: And, as if it couldn't get any weirder, a good friend of ours is Jon Hamm, who is actually getting the phone call about getting the role in the car with Hunt. The beauty of it is we've got an area of advertising that's being developed now. But, ultimately, the two shows are so different in tone and everything. What we like about our show is the journey of our show, there is the rise of the Roman Empire that advertising had in the 60s, where you could do no wrong and you could tell clients whatever you wanted. Our world that you enter is the decline and fall of the Roman Empire and what happens when layoffs are happening every week and you don't know how good you are.
Hunt Baldwin: People are worrying about TiVo and whether commercials are really the focus of advertising or whether there needs to be something else. The business is in flux in a way that's really scary to a lot of people in the business. It's still as relevant, if not more relevant, than it's ever been. It's a world of framing and marketing but it's changing in really fundamental ways and people are really uneasy about how that is. That, for us, is the great dramatic backdrop for these characters, whose lives are ruled by anxiety and envy and fear and all these things.
Greer Shepherd: One of the things that I really responded to what they were doing is how American it is. There are certain themes that really resonate in it and one of them is this country promises you the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness itself, just the pursuit. Advertising supports that idea. They're always putting out this ideal of, 'If you buy this product, you will be happy or you will be sexy or you will find the mate of your dreams.' The other big idea is the concept of rebranding, which goes all the way back to Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby. You can just reinvent yourself here, and people will allow that. It's really watching like, can you rebrand a product, which is what advertising is always trying to do? Can you rebrand yourself? Or is that inherently a false idea that this country is based on? I love those themes so I think every episode, in some way, touches on them.
Hunt Baldwin: That's really what this season is about. These characters trying to rebrand themselves personally, trying to have people think of them in a different way, or have something forced on them that they are having to adapt to and if they'll succeed.
And, with that, my day at The Lot on the set of Trust Me came to a close. It was one hell of a day with some hilarious and talented performers who should make this another winner in the TNT lineup. The series premieres on Monday, January 26 at 10 PM ET, which fittingly follows the premiere of five new episodes of The Closer and, if you want my official take on the pilot, you can CLICK HERE for my early review of the series premiere. Peace in. Gallagher out!