Dave Foley may scoff at being referred to as a "veteran comedian," but there's no denying it. The Canadian actor made a name for himself in such memorable comedic projects as "The Kids in the Hall," "NewsRadio" and "Robson Arms," and that's not even getting into his film credits. Currently, Foley is back in top form with the multi-cam sitcom, "Spun Out." He stars as Dave Lyons, the owner of a PR firm whose staff of misfits has enough trouble solving their own problems, let alone anyone else's.
"I was definitely open to doing another sitcom, especially in this format with the multi-cam," says Foley. "I love that. I love putting a show on each week and getting to work with a good ensemble cast. All that stuff I really enjoy. Whenever I did guest spots on other shows like 'Hot in Cleveland,' I was going, 'Oh, I miss this.' The 'Spun Out' script was sent to me and I read it and was like, 'This is good,' which is a rare thing after reading a script. Then it was in Canada and I thought, 'OK, that hasn't happened in a long time.' Then we started seeing if we could work out the arrangements for me to come up here."
The cast typically rehearses each day and tapes in front of a live studio audience Friday nights. That's certainly the case during a set visit on a warm afternoon in July 2013. The actors are busy running lines and scenes, but there's some extra buzz surrounding this week's episode. "Beverly Hills, 90210"'s Jason Priestley is guest starring as Dave's best friend, who just happens to be gay.
"Jason's character has come out of the closet since they last met," explains Paul Campbell, who plays copy writer Beckett. "Dave is getting used to the idea that his best friend is now gay and then overcompensates by almost becoming gay himself. In the sitcom world, that makes sense. For Beckett, it's all about how he constantly sabotages any potential romantic relationships by finding silly flaws that he can't get over. Conversely, Stephanie [Rebecca Dalton] is incapable of breaking up with any guy she's with. They discover by the end that neither of them should be in a relationship with anybody, but maybe each other."
During breaks, Foley, Campbell and co-star Holly Deveaux individually sat down with HuffPost Canada TV to chat about their "Spun Out" characters, ad-libbing and comedic chops.
Lyons' PR team are quirky and highly ineffective, which makes their crazy antics that much funnier. In addition to Beckett, his employees are his pal Nelson (Al Mukadam), the boss' daughter Stephanie (Dalton), the office nerd Bryce (J.P. Manoux) and the offbeat Gordon (Darcy Michael). Outside of work, Beckett's roommate and ex-girlfriend Abby (Deveaux) can't stop meddling.
"Beckett is the straight man," explains Campbell. "No question about it. He's an all-around good guy. He has his downside. Beckett is an enthusiastic guy. He has integrity and wants to be the best at everything he does. Ultimately, his heart lies in being a writer, but he had to take this job at a PR company to pay the bills. Generally, he's a likable guy who can be silly or serious. The fun thing about shooting 13 episodes of the show is you really get to explore the different relationships. Nelson is his best friend and it's kind of love/hate.
"They are like two brothers and they fight constantly," Campbell adds. "He and Stephanie are the long-term will they/won't they love interest. They certainly have their ups and downs. Beckett's relationship with Dave is probably one of the least fleshed-out because typically Beckett has the A-story and Dave has the B-story, or vice versa. They don't often intertwine, so we don't see a lot of interaction between the two characters. Then I just have this running gag where I despise Gordon."
"Abby is brazen and sassy," offers Deveaux. "That's something I can identify with. She takes problems as they come. She helps Beckett through his daily issues and tries to bring lightness to the situation. But she can also be feisty and get involved in something she shouldn't. It's going to be fun to see her try and help Beckett out, while sometimes making it worse. There's a lot of love between those two characters.
"This week Abby is determined to set Beckett up and have him not insult a girl," she continues. "They find a girl, set him up with her and then Abby gets in the middle of the date by trying to stop it all from going bad and fix it as it happens. And he's like, 'I don't know if this is the right thing.' I'm like, 'It'll be fine. We'll take care of it now.' So, she gets involved in a date that she shouldn't, with absolutely no guilt or trepidation in approaching the situation."
"I'm the old guy, which is nice because I used to be the young guy," quips Foley. "Dave owns the PR firm everybody works for. He's a very wealthy man with many ex-wives, which is partially like me. He's also a guy who was very driven in his career and was a terrible father and is now trying to make up for it by having his daughter work for him. He's always been spoiled and ego-driven."
Raising The Bar
Over the course of his career, Foley has acted, written, directed and produced. The man has done it all. That pedigree impressed Campbell and compelled him to bring his A-game to "Spun Out".
"Like any of the projects I worked on ... working with Mary McDonnell on 'Battlestar Galactica' changed my life as an actor," says Campbell. "Working with Dave Foley is no different. The guy is a comedy savant. He probably has more experience than everybody on the set combined. His comedic instincts are so honed and sharp all the time, you can't help but learn from it.
Filming live is unpredictable. Actors can trip, or fumble and stumble over lines. Essentially, the experience can blow up in their faces. On the flip side, the on-the-fly format also provides the opportunity for cast members to sharpen their comedic timing and test their improvisational skills.
"I'm very comfortable ad-libbing," states Campbell. "There are places that it works and places that it doesn't. You have to be very careful. That's one of the most fun and exciting things about not only the rehearsal process, but as an actor, the live shows. There's so many different things in play in terms of what jokes make it into a scene. We have a handful of writers that are around all the time to write jokes when one doesn't work. I'm constantly writing jokes at home, so I have stuff I want to try."
As for feeding off the audience's energy, Foley says, "The audience almost functions like a conductor. They set the pace for how long you ride that laugh and how quickly you get to the next lines and how much you can dwell on moments. Their response is an inherent part of what the rhythm of the show becomes."
When a script contains snappy, witty dialogue, it's virtually impossible to keep a straight face. Just ask Campbell.
"Darcy got me today," says Campbell with a smile. "I was in hysterics. For five minutes, I had tears coming down my face. They had to cut because I couldn't pull it together. That's happened twice from him. I'm terrible. The fun thing is when there's an audience, that's some of the most fun part of the evening. It in turn energizes the audience and then the actors as well."
Priestley may be in the house today, but he's not the only familiar face dropping by. Tricia Helfer ("Battlestar Galactica"), Will Sasso ("MADtv"), Lauren Ash ("Super Fun Night") and "Storage Wars"' Barry Weiss will also be showing up over the course of the season. With Foley as No.1 on the call sheet, it would be wrong not to pray to the TV gods for a "Kids in the Hall" reunion on "Spun Out."
"Actually, the gang is going to get back together to do an episode of 'Spun Out,'" confirms Foley. "For the last year, we've been talking to each other and having phone calls about doing something. Every few years, everybody gets an itch to do something together. We're definitely at that point where everybody wants to do something before one of us dies. We're just figuring out what it will be. It will be decided through writing. We'll basically get together and pitch ideas to each other and start fleshing it out."
Reflecting on "The Kids in the Hall"'s cult status, Foley admits, "We were pretty surprised we got picked up at all to begin with," he says. "Then the fact it found an audience and that audience continues to be out there ... I still meet people of all different ages who know the show. It's probably getting to be fewer young people these days, but it's always been college students who watch the show. Parents are showing the series to their kids. It's pretty gratifying to have it still matter to people."
All eyes will be on "Spun Out" when it premieres. But for every "Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond" or "The Big Bang Theory," some fledgling sitcom gets the axe within a couple of episodes. Foley feels "Spun Out" delivers the goods and his show will do just fine.
"'Spun Out' has a great ensemble of actors playing characters that I think people will want to spend time around," he concludes. "That's the key. You turn on the show and you're like, 'I want to watch them.' TV is something you do in your home, so you don't want people in your home that you don't like having there. It's bad enough you have to have your children there."
"Spun Out" debuts with a two-night premiere beginning Thursday, March 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET before it moves to its regular Friday at 8 p.m. ET timeslot on March 7 on CTV.
CTV 2013-14 TV