Damon Wayans Talks 'Happy Endings'
Veteran comedy actor discusses working with son on ABC comedy
By Minh Nguyen
Special to MSN TV
Damon Wayans has been making us laugh with hit shows like "In Living Color" and "My Wife and Kids" for years. Wayans will be appearing on ABC's new comedy, "Happy Endings," Wednesday, April 27, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC as the father to his real life son's (Damon Wayans Jr.) character Brad. Wayans plays an uptight father who will get a new lease on life once he gets a medical clearance. MSN TV had a chance to chat with Damon Wayans Sr. on being a Wayans, Eliza Coupe on the set and how he lightened the mood on "Happy Endings."
MSN TV: You and your family were an inspiration for us from "In Living Color." It was nice to see a family get along, work so well together and entertain us.
Damon Wayans: We really hate each other. We pretend.
You pretend to like each other?
How excited are you to be returning to ABC to play your son's father on "Happy Endings?"
I am very excited to play my son's dad as I know that role. I just love him to death so it's been really fun to see him start his career off and not do the Wayans brothers thing -- not that there's anything wrong with that. He's finding his own way. That's beautiful to me. I support him.
Can u please tell us a bit about the character you will be playing?
He is Brad's (played by Damon Wayans Jr.) dad. My character doesn't really know how to say, "I love you." He felt that taking care of his son and raising him was enough. In life, that's really not enough. The episode is about me saying that to him, and I have a really hard time, because my father never said "I love you" to me.
On "Happy Endings?"
My father in real life won't shut up with that "I love you" stuff.
"Happy Endings" is just starting its run. What was it like being on set for this new show? Was the cast bonding yet?
The cast is wonderful. We laugh a lot. Eliza is hilarious. She should be in sketch comedy. She is really, really funny. We just got along. It was like a family. I loved the way the show runners encourage the cast to improvise and play around and play it different ways. It is a very relaxed set. It is reminiscent of a Wayans brothers set. It's just fun. People hug, love and talk. It's Season 1, though.
Do you think they were intimidated when you came on because of your vast experience?
They might've been, but I did a prep fall just to loosen them up. That's what I do. I come in, I fall down and I hit my head on the camera, just so everyone knows I'm coming. (Laughing)
You've starred in a popular sitcom before. What advice do you give your son or others in the cast?
The advice I gave my son is to really find your character and find his voice. Television is a thing that people get very familiar with. They want to hear your voice in their head. You get back to Archie Bunker and George Jefferson, "I Dream of Jeannie", "I Love Lucy" ... these are all the shows that you view because of the characters. When you find a really great character, you can't just say anything. That character wouldn't just say anything -- only say things the character would say. I think that my son embraced that.
How did you get approached to play this role?
My son was talking to the show runners, and they asked him, "Would your dad be on the show?" My son asked me, and I said, "Heck yeah!" It was pretty easy.
You have a huge family of actors and performers. Is it any surprise at all when your kids want to enter the family business?
No, I think all of us are very hesitant because we want them to really want it. There is a lot of pressure because you're a Wayan. People have certain expectations or a preconceived idea of what the funny will be. I think it is intimidating for my children and the other children in this family, but when they see it and they get that little twinkle in their eyes, we know what that is.
I just took my niece and my nephew with Shawn to see Janet Jackson. On the way there, they didn't know who Janet Jackson is. They know Michael, but they didn't know Janet, because they're only 10 and 8. My nieces are singers and performers, and when they saw Janet, they were blown away. They stood on the chair and watched with their mouths open, amazed, soaking everything up. It was beautiful to watch.
We read that your son, Damon Wayans Jr., did not initially use your family name. Was that your idea or his?
No, that was him. He used Kyle Green. I took him out on the road with me, and he didn't want that pressure. He would come on stage and people can be mean. "Bring out your dad. Bring out Sr." It was hard on him, so he would go on as Kyle Green. When he was working with me, people would say throughout his whole set, "That's his son. When he does that, he looks just like his father." So, he said, "You know what, I'm just going to use Damon Jr."
Now, he's come into his own. I think a tough road was great for him because, first of all, it's good to test him out to see if he has a love of the game. And two, it just makes him stronger like a warrior. Warriors aren't born they're made.
What else are you working on?
I am about to shoot a pilot on CBS which is based on Colin Cowherd's life. He is an outspoken sports radio guy who is married to a beautiful wife. He has a crazy ex-wife and a beautiful woman on his show. He is trying to manage three women in his life.
"Happy Endings" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.