Before the writers' strike essentially halted new television, the charming Samantha Who? was one of the TV season's breakout hits. The show returns tonight with its first new episode in months, reclaiming its post-Dancing with the Stars time slot — and, with any luck, the audience that fell in love with it last Fall.
Last week, I had a chance to chat with Barry Watson, who plays opposite Christina Applegate as Samantha's ex-boyfriend, Todd. We talked about his move from What About Brian, which he starred in for two years, to a half-hour comedy, as well as his career aspirations and his hopes for Todd and Samantha in the future. Here are highlights:
After What About Brian ended, did you know you wanted to do another series? And did you know you wanted to do a comedy?
No, actually — no to all of those questions, because I didn't know until they offered me the role of Todd that What About Brian was completely done yet. That was my first sign of the cancellation of Brian — that's a good title, by the way, "the cancellation of Brian." So I kind of took a couple days to kind of think about whether I wanted to jump back into another show again, but when I did the pilot, Todd's character was only in the pilot episode, he wasn't really a series regular yet, so I figured why not? It wasn't like I was held down to any contract and had to do another series, so I was like, yeah, I'll come and do the pilot. They said I had like another day to think about it, and once I got off the phone I was turning on the TV, and Don't Tell Mom, the Babysitter's Dead was on, and I was like, well, there's a sign right there, I'm going to do it.
How did Todd go from being just in the pilot to being a series regular?
I was so brilliant! [laughs] No, I don't know how that happened — I guess there was always talk that he would become more of a recurring [character] or a regular, but he was only kind of cast in the pilot. They could have kept it going, or they probably could have taken the character out after the pilot, if they wanted to, but the chemistry between Christina and me just worked and they wanted to keep me around for a little bit, which was nice.
I've got more from Watson, including hints about what happens with Todd and Samantha in the upcoming episodes, so just
What are some of the things that you like about the Todd/Samantha relationship?
The way I played Todd in the pilot was just that he was afraid of Samantha, that he was basically kind of scared of her. I think this new Sam, he finds very kind of attractive and endearing in a lot of ways. She's kind of very childlike, and maybe it takes him back to who Sam was, maybe in the first year of their relationship. You know, I also think maybe on Sam's side, Todd's one of the very few people who's — maybe not totally honest with her all the time, but more honest than the rest of the characters about her past. She knows that she can count on Todd more than anybody else, even though they're not together anymore.
What was it like going from What About Brian, where you were Brian, to going to Samantha Who? where you're not the focus of everything?
I just look at it as a job and a character. I'm not somebody who counts their lines each script and has to be the center of attention constantly. For me right now it's actually kind of great, because I put so much energy and time into What About Brian that I felt kind of got lost in all that anyway, so it's nice to — you know what, it's on Christina's back pretty much, so I just want to jump on her back and have her take me to the promised land.
It's actually really good. it was kind of a weird adjustment at the beginning — we actually shot the pilot episode on the same stage as What About Brian, and Todd's apartment is actually Brian's apartment just kind of redressed a little bit. I still see when I come into the set What About Brian written on the back of the walls, stuff like that. Not having to be there everyday was kind of a hard adjustment, cause I always like working a lot — I feel like it gets me in a rhythm that I need to be in. But this has been good. It's given me more time to be with my kids, and the pressure's not on me like it was with What About Brian. I got really stressed out quite a bit toward the end of that show, so this is much better. I'm very very very happy.
Back in your 7th Heaven days, you did some writing and directing. Would you like to do that again?
Directing, for sure. Writing, I don't know if I am the guy to be writing TV. But directing is something I definitely want to keep pursuing and eventually make more of a career out of it, I think. Right now I'm kind of just focused on the whole acting side of it, and if certain things work out when I can start directing more stuff, then I'll definitely jump on that opportunity. I want to be a "slash" guy, an actor-slash-director guy.
Is there anything you can tell me about what's going to happen when the show comes back, either with Samantha and Todd or with the show in general?
Todd is with his new girlfriend, Chloe, who's about to move in with him. Eventually, I think that there's gonna be some moments of Todd and Samantha — "maybe, will they, I don't know . . . " There's going to have to be more of that, because if they figure it out then there'd be nowhere to go for the next 20 years that we shoot this thing. I think there's definitely some feelings that are kind of starting to get to the boiling point with Sam and Todd so hopefully we'll see more of that. It's great working with Christina, it's very easy, and the more they give us stuff to do, the better I think it will be for the show and for the characters.
Photo copyright 2008 ABC, Inc.