Interview with Dan Byrd from 'Cougar Town'

By Daniel S Levine,

Actor Dan Byrd is a star on ABC’s Cougar Town. Last year, he also had a starring role in Easy A. He also stars in a new film titled Norman as the title character, a high school kid trying to handle his daily routine. When he meets a girl, played by Emily VanCamp, his life turns upside-down and is forced to face challenges not normally met by children of his age. The film has been met with wide praise, having been given a limited release last month.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: OK, so you’re promoting that new film, Norman...
Dan Byrd: I guess so. It’s a little late at this point...Better late than never....It will be coming out on DVD or Netflix or something at some point. So, if anything, it’s good to keep something going, I guess.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: [Norman] sounds like a dark role. Your character fakes having cancer just to get attention, his mother died in a car accident and his father has stomach cancer. Is it hard to play a role where you know most of the audience probably isn’t going to like you?

DB: Um...yeah. That was something that was definitely new and a different kind of challenge than what I’ve had before. But that was a major part of the appeal too. You know, Norman is such a fully realized and multi-dimensional character that it’s like you don’t really have to appeal to the audience in that type of way because they see the whole person. So, even if it’s not like the most likable personality ever, they understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and you can empathize, because that’s the movie. It’s about him and his plight that he’s going through. So, it wasn’t a concern of mine to make him like likable because if the story was clear, then the audience would kind of get on board. My main thing was to just try and be as truthful as possible to the character, I guess.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: That ties into my next question. I mean, you had success with Easy A, which was also a very different type of teenage high school film. So is that what attracted you to the role? That it was so different than your American Pie-type of comedy?

DB: Yeah, these opportunities are definitely few and far between for somebody my age and my look. It’s not very often...that a real part comes along like this. You know, I’m used to playing like parts in other movies, but they always fall into a certain niche or category like in Easy A it’s the gay guy or Cougar Town, it’s the son. This was like a real part. So that was a huge part of the appeal to me. I’ve got to be honest, this film was made like three and a half years ago, so at this point....

TheCelebrityCafe.com: How long ago?
DB: Over three years now, so at this point, it’s kind of like a distant memory. It’s sort of hard to talk about in certain aspects. It’s not very fresh.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: I can understand, because just writing for the site and reading about movies that get made and just sit on distributors’ shelves and it’s years before they can finally get it out...

DB: I think it was a combination of things with this. It wasn’t like sitting on a distributor’s shelf. I mean the second we found a distributor, it was a pretty fast process to actually get it into a movie theater. But with the small independent movies, there’s just no clear-cut path you know of how to get it out there. So, each one sort of has to find its way in one capacity or another. And [director Johnathan Segal] really took his time in the whole editing process and when they got Andrew Bird to do the score, we kind of had to work around [his] touring schedule. He was touring all around the world and he kind of fit us in whenever he could and that’s not something that could really be rushed or regimented too strictly. So there were factors...and then he was done, it had been at least a year and a half since we had wrapped production. Then it went on the festival circuit for about a year. Then it finally got picked up by AMC Independent to get released in some movie theaters.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: I had never heard of it myself because where I live, we really don’t get independent films like Norman very often around here.

DB: Yeah, that’s a shame. I mean, most places don’t. I mean, even the places where they open, like even in LA, there was only like one movie theater I could have told friends or whoever to go to that would have been feasible for them to go to. So even in the cities it’s opening it’s not really too available. It’s still inconvenient a lot of times. But, you know, I think something like this, which I’m just so happy actually got into movie theaters and got on the screens and hopefully in front of some people...

As far as what this can do for me or do for John, I have no idea. I think we’ve kind of seen the extent of it at this point, but I think the fact that we’re proud of the movie. And so anyone who sees this, it’s just another small victory at the end.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Like a bonus?
DB: Yeah, exactly.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: I guess you’d probably like to talk about Cougar Town?

DB: Oh, I’m dying to talk about it. Let’s do it! [Laughs] What is up with the name change? I don’t know.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: There’s a name change?

DB: No, no, no. Well, they’ve been talking about it since the end of the first season, but we’re going to stick with what we’ve got.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: It’s going into the third year. So are you surprised that it’s lasted this long?

DB: Definitely. Yeah, you kind of go into these things, at least for me...I guess I’m pessimistic by nature, sort of assume that any ship is about to sink at any moment. You go in thinking that it won’t make it past the pilot and then the pilot gets picked up, you’re like ‘Oh, it’ll never make it past 13 episodes.’ Then it gets picked up for the back nine and then you’re like ‘Oh, second season, that’s just like impossible.’ And here we are, the third season! It’s just kind of like proven me wrong every step of the way and it’s not like I don’t believe in the show. I’m just a pessimist by nature so I prep myself for failure! So that way if things do go down, I won’t be completely heart broken or surprised. But at this point, I’m just happy that I still get to work with these people. It’s definitely the longest job I’ve ever had before. It’s just been a huge blessing in my life and going to ride it to the wheels fall off. And hopefully I’ll turn the pessimistic attitude around and channel that energy into optimism. So I’m hoping that we’ll get another year and another year and who knows, this could be the longest running sitcom of all time. The one no one ever saw coming. Like we’re on 15 years! It’s going to be like a soap opera!

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Except not on everyday. You don’t want to be on every day.

DB: Oh, yeah. Just getting on a show that goes beyond season one is like hitting the lottery and now we’re in season three. We haven’t started airing yet, so we don’t know what’s coming after this, but to be looking...we’re halfway through season three...so just looking towards next year. It’s all really cool..and it feels sort of not real in a way.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: How much fun is it to work with Courteney Cox?

DB: It’s awesome. Love her. She’s like the anchor on set. Obviously the person at the top sets the tone for everyone else. She’s just a super grounded, super funny, nice, open, honest person and that kind of trickles down to everyone else. Also, Bill Lawrence is the show runner... basically a mastermind in the interest of TV. He knows the ins and out of it. He was the show runner and executive producer on Spin City when he was like 22 years old, so he’s like a prodigy of sorts and just super smart, super funny, nice guy also. And one of the main things he stresses is the ‘no a**hole policy.’ He literally does background checks on people, calls other people they’ve worked with just to make sure that there’s no incidents where they get ‘diva-y’ at some point because he knows how important it is for everyone to get along. One bad egg can literally ruin it for the whole group. Uh, we have no bad eggs. We all get along really well and really enjoy each other’s company and that hasn’t changed since day one. So, kudos to him for putting the time and energy and finding the right group to work together.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Well, that really keeps the show running forever or as long as it can, because you make sure you have people who can commit long-term.

DB: Exactly. Because whether you want to or not, if people don’t get along in real life, that ends up translating on screen. It’s not as good, especially in a comedy. You know, if you’re not laughing and enjoy the time with these people on screen, who’s going to watch it? It’s not a medium where you can be stressed out and bitter towards people. It’s really important that you get along and hopefully that will elevate what you’re doing. Which I think it has in our scenario.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Are there any projects you are working on, on the side?

DB: No, not really to speak of. It’s just kind of Cougar Town for the time being. I hope to do something during our next hiatus or break, whenever that is. Since I’m fortunate for the first time since I’ve been acting, which was since I was a little kid, to not like have to work in order to continue to support myself. I’m just trying to lay back a little bit and wait for something that’s really worth going after and worth pursuing and I may not have that luxury again any time soon. I’m just trying to take advantage of it while it’s here. Because God knows, I’ve been in some things I’m utterly ashamed of and I’m just trying to avoid getting that.

TheCelebrityCafe.com: Is there anything in the past that you’ve been embarrassed about?

DB: Oh, definitely, but I don’t want to name names because that’s just kind of rude. But, I’m sure if you just look on IMDb you can figure out which ones I’m proud of.

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