Interview with Ted Danson and Holly Hunter of “Mr. Mayor” on NBC by Suzanne 3/8/22
It was so great to speak with these two legendary actors. Holly is an Oscar winner and of course, Ted Danson has been on TV for a very long time and is still bringing the laughs on this NBC show. They’re clearing having a great time. This was a press panel, so I was only able to ask one question. The other questions are from other journalists. I would have loved to have asked many more questions. Maybe someday I will! Don’t miss the show, which returns tomorrow, Tuesday night on NBC! It’s even funnier this season.
Ross: Hi guys. Ross Crystal from Showbiz Express. Ted, Holly, thank you so much for doing this and congratulations on the new season. Let me begin with you, Ted. How do we move into the new season? How does the mayor approach this new term, f I may?
Ted: Well, I think he probably has come to the realization that, just because he wanted to prove to himself and his daughter that life wasn’t over, and he ran to be mayor does not necessarily qualify him to be the mayor. [Chuckles] So this year he decides to right away hire somebody he calls the innovation team. You know, the brightest, youngest brains in California, to start shaping his administration and it creates a huge amount of friction in the office. It does provide a love affair for one of the characters, but it really just messes things up even more.
Ross: And Holly, Arpi is as annoying this time around as she’s ever been. What is it about this character that you love?
Holly: I’m just kind of gobsmacked by that. I hardly know how to proceed.
Ross: Hee, hee.
Ted: He’s an older white gentleman, Holly, you know, like the mayor…
Holly: Oh, right. It’s so interesting to think about the I team… the Innovation guys coming in… because Arpi works from…she’s like, old school. She is analog. And in a way, that’s the way city halls all across the United States operate. You know, they’re grassroots, from the ground up. “Can somebody please, tighten the manhole cover that is clattering every time a car goes over it?” I mean, you’ve got those kinds of issues that are coming into city hall. People screaming about whatever…the curbs not being at level on their street. I mean, it’s from the ground up that council members are dealing with issues in their city. From that, all the way to homelessness and traffic in Los Angeles. So the challenge for Arpi in this season, dealing with these Silicon Valley guys who come in with virtual reality approaches to problems is like…it’s so beyond annoying.
Ted: Yeah, I love that we’re in the age of man discovering the real meaning of mansplaining and beginning to realize that “Dear Lord, I never opened my mouth without actually starting to mansplain something.” And I think, you know, to have Neil Bremmer who has taken a sweet (he’s a good guy, but) a very shallow cut on life and is now explaining to Arpi how the city should be run. It has to be the most maddening thing in the world for her character. Because she does desperately care the old fashioned way — really care — about what they’re doing.
Ted: Hey Ross. Did I throw you under the bus? I’m sorry, buddy. Forgive me.
Ross: Oh, no, not at all. I was just wondering, as Mayor Garcetti leaves office and goes to be an ambassador, has he ever called you? Has he ever said, “Hey Ted… seriously?”
Ted: I think he has… I just didn’t want to take his calls.
Suzanne: Ted, your character is a rich, entitled, clueless, self-involved guy. Was there anyone in real life that you think about when you’re portraying him?
Ted: I just…shave, look in the mirror, and go, “I got it. I got it. Thank you, Ted.” And off I go.
Ted: You know, we’re all discovering things about ourselves, gratefully, slightly painfully, during the last couple of years. How entitled! I can just look at myself — how unknowingly entitled I am. I’m a thoughtful, sweet, liberal enlightened man. And I’m not, you know, I’m not. I thought I was. So, truly, I do feel like I was made for this part. And, I think, like the mayor… I, Ted am willing to change, but it’s very hard for me to see myself accurately… how silly I am, you know?
Suzanne: And Holly, you were just talking about the innovations and everything. In real life, on sets…you’ve been around for awhile. Does it ever bother you? Do you ever have that same sort of reaction when younger people come in, onset or anything like that? Do they make you feel like they want to reinvent everything [whereas] you’ve been doing it awhile, [but] they’re like, no…
Holly: Yeah, no, no, that doesn’t happen because you know, what’s so wild is… in a way, I could, I might be able to speak for most actors, but I think most actors, in some ways, are kind of childlike. So many actors that I love, the actors that I love, and adore working with, they’re kind of childlike… they’re children, in a way. Actors are… you spend your entire career changing, adapting….You’re doing things you’ve never done before. So many sets that I come on to… almost every set that I ever go onto. There’s no one that I know. I am meeting everyone for the first time on that set, ever. And I am used to that, and I’m sure Ted can say the same thing.
So actors have this liquidity… they’ve got a fluidity about change that I admire, and I love, and I’ve chosen to do movies, and chosen to work with people who often are breaking through to the other side in terms of form, how movies are made… [For instance], Terrence Malick. When I worked with him on a movie. I wanted to work with Terry to see how he made them and wow. He blew my mind! And working with Catherine Hardwood on “Thirteen,” she was making “Thirteen” in a way that I’d never seen– I’d never experienced before. This also is– it’s just a completely new form for me. So it keeps me changing. I gotta be up for it, and I love that challenge.
Suzanne: Right. Thanks!
Karen: Hi, I’m Karen Moul from SciFiVision. Ah, that’s actually, Suzanne, a great lead-in to my question, which is: What’s it like, now, settling into the second season behind the scenes with a cast that’s in place. I don’t know if COVID protocols are loostening, but maybe Holly first could talk about, what the climate is like, with your second season starting?
Holly: Well, joyful because we have this fantastic DP, David Miller, and he’s a wonderful touchstone because all sets are a little different and how everything is set up is a little bit different. And he provides us with this beautiful kind of structure that we can then go crazy in. We learned the structure from David, and then we all just go wild. We know what the perimeters are of our playing field. And for me to get more acquainted with that… you know, and Ted always, already was very acquainted with working with him. That that’s been very delightful, and I guess there’s just a little more confidence and intimacy with our characters. There had been an automatic kind of chemistry that existed between this cast that we’re all – I think – grateful for because you know, that doesn’t have to happen. And it did with us. There’s a kismet there.
Karen: And Ted, you’re a veteran of the sitcom format and have done many years. This is not your first, I guess, renewal second season. Do you have anything to add to all these comments?
Ted: Yeah, I mean, Holly said the word joyful. (clears his throat) Pardon me… It was joyful. COVID, as you suggested, had relaxed a little…we were still tested and did all of that. But when we got in front of the cameras, we could rehearse without masks, and there was a freedom that didn’t exist the first season. And there was also… we had taken a three- or four-month break, like the world did. And during that time, as a cast, we Zoomed a lot. We stayed in touch. We shared (like everybody did), because it was so intensely real, that the world was locked down, that we shared at a level that we probably wouldn’t have been able to, if we’d had a normal, season after season after season. We really got to know each other and appreciate each other. So when we got back together, not only was that a joy, a freedom of being able to be happily, joyfully, creative… But also, the writers and the actors were discovering who they were. You know, there’s always a process in the beginning where writers will say, “Have your character do this, do that.” And then you’re like, “No, that didn’t work. That didn’t work. That worked.” You know? So there’s a process of discovering who you are as a group, as a show, and, I think we kind of jelled last season, and it was joyful for all of us to appreciate the other characters, appreciate the other actors, and bounce off of such amazing players. It was very exciting.
Karen: Thank you.
Dano: Hi there, Dano from Nocturnal. So, for both Holly and Ted…You guys have both, worked with a lot of different comedic styles and, Tina Fey has her own cadence and brand. Is there a difference in approach or learning curve, versus like a “Bored to Death” and “Cheers” to this, or with Holly, a Coen brothers script to this… I guess, Ted, you also had a Coen-inspired script with “Fargo.” What’s the difference in approaching it?
Ted: Well, Robert and Tina are very fast. It’s much more of a… I grew up in a, “Here comes a joke. Pretty good joke, right?” You know, and the audience would laugh and you’d go on. There was a pause, there was a, you know, a kind of one thing at a time. And, this is very, very, very fast. You’re doing shots, you’re pointing out something political, but you’re kind of firing over your shoulder as you go galloping by. So the speed, the elevated quality of the writing, the words…It’s a challenge. I mean, your job as an actor is to ground whatever you’re doing in some kind of reality. And Tina and Robert are pulling you the other way going, “Nah, let’s shoot for the moon.” But your job remains the same. So that tension of making whatever it is they’re asking you to do, real, is I think the joy, the challenge and the excitement of what we’re doing.
And let me just add one thing about Holly hunter. You know, I can be a nice actor, meaning, I know what you want, so I’ll give it to you. You know, here it comes, you know, and that can be slightly boring sometimes. I watch Holly insist on grounding what it is she’s doing. It couldn’t be as far-fetched as you can imagine, but it’s still grounded and you never let go of that, Holly, and it’s a real inspiration for the rest of…for me, I’ll speak for myself.
Season Premiere: March 15
“Mr. Mayor” follows a retired businessman (Ted Danson) who runs for mayor of Los Angeles to prove he’s “still got it.” Once he wins, he has to figure out what he stands for, gain the respect of his biggest critic (Holly Hunter) and connect with his teenage daughter, all while trying to get anything right for America’s second weirdest city.
The series stars Ted Danson, Holly Hunter, Vella Lovell, Mike Cabellon, Kyla Kenedy and Bobby Moynihan.
“Mr. Mayor” is produced by Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group, Little Stranger, Bevel Gears and 3 Arts Entertainment. Robert Carlock, Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond and David Miner will executive produce. Eric Gurian will serve as a co-executive producer.
Mayor Neil Bremer, “Mr. Mayor”
Ted Danson stars as Mayor Neil Bremer on the NBC comedy “Mr. Mayor.”
Danson is a Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actor known for an array of exceptional performances, most memorably for his portrayal of Boston bartender Sam Malone on NBC’s multi-award winning and iconic comedy “Cheers,” which ran for 11 seasons and won three Emmys as best comedy series. He recently starred in creator Michael Schur’s acclaimed NBC comedy series “The Good Place” for which he was nominated for his 14th Emmy Award for outstanding lead actor and received a Critics Choice Award for his role as Michael.
Other recent credits include the 10th season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” FX’s critically acclaimed second season of “Fargo,” CBS’ long-running “CSI” and “CSI: Cyber,” FX’s “Damages,” as well as Golden Globe nominated role on CBS’ “Becker.”
In film, Danson was seen in 2018 in “Hearts Beat Loud,” a drama music film that premiered at Sundance. He has also appeared in several other high-profile projects, including the 1987 blockbuster hit “Three Men and a Baby” and its sequel, “Three Men and a Little Lady.” He also had a co-starring role in Steven Spielberg’s World War II masterpiece “Saving Private Ryan.”
Raised outside Flagstaff, Ariz., Danson attended Stanford University where he became interested in drama during his second year in school. He then transferred to Carnegie Mellon University and graduated in 1972 with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in drama. After graduation, he was hired as an understudy in Tom Stoppard’s Off Broadway production “The Real Inspector Hound.” Danson relocated to Los Angeles in 1978 to help manage the Actor’s Institute for a year-and-a-half while he taught there. Six months after his arrival, Danson earned a role in “The Onion Field” and co-starred in the TV movie “The Women’s Room.”
In addition to acting and producing, Danson is an environmental activist, co-founding the American Oceans Campaign (AOC) in 1987 to alert Americans to the life-threatening hazards created by oil spills, off-shore development, toxic wastes, sewage pollution and other ocean abuses. The AOC merged with Oceana in 2001. Oceana works to teach citizens how they can participate in protecting and restoring marine resources, and to show Congress that Americans are concerned with these issues.
Danson resides in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Mary Steenburgen.
Arpi Meskimen, “Mr. Mayor
Holly Hunter stars as Deputy Mayor Arpi Meskimen on the NBC comedy “Mr. Mayor.”
Hunter has been nominated for four Academy Awards for the films “Broadcast News,” “The Firm,” “The Piano” and “Thirteen.” In 1993, she won the Academy Award and Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in “The Piano.” In 2008, Hunter received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2009, she was awarded the Women in Film Lucy Award.
Most recently Hunter was seen as rival CEO Rhea Jarrell in HBO’s hit drama “Succession” and Showtime’s highly anticipated miniseries “The Comey Rule.”
Hunter reprised her iconic voice role as Elastigirl in the highly anticipated sequel to the animated hit films “The Incredibles,” alongside Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson.
Hunter co-starred in “The Big Sick,” which won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Comedy as well as be Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay. For her supporting role, Hunter was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Award, and was honored with a Career Achievement Award at the 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Hunter was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as a mother dealing with her daughter’s wild and rebellious behavior in the film “Thirteen,” directed by Catherine Hardwicke. Hunter was also honored with nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press, SAG, BAFTA and the Broadcast Film Critics Assn. for this role.
Hunter received the Academy Award for her performance as a mute Scottish widow in Jane Campion’s “The Piano.” For this role, she received the Cannes Film Festival Award, British Academy Film Award, New York Film Critics Circle Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, National Board of Review Award and a Golden Globe Award, all for best actress. That same year, Hunter garnered an Academy Award nomination for her performance as the investigative secretary in “The Firm,” based on the John Grisham novel.
Hunter was nominated for another Academy Award for her portrayal of a driven career-woman producer in “Broadcast News.” For this role, she received the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, National Board of Review Award and Berlin Film Festival Award, all for best actress.
Hunter made her television series debut in TNT’s drama “Saving Grace,” which earned her nominations for two Emmy Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series. “Saving Grace” ended after four seasons in 2010.
Hunter starred in ABC’s “When Billie Beat Bobby” where she portrayed tennis legend Billie Jean King in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between King and Wimbledon champion Bobby Riggs. The role garnered her an Emmy nomination for Best Actress in a Television Miniseries or Movie.
Hunter was nominated for an Emmy for her role in Showtime’s “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her.” The film tells stories about love and loss in the lives of five women. The film won an award in Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival and also screened at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival. Hunter also starred in Showtime’s original movie “Harlan County War,” for which she garnered both an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie.
Hunter was seen in the Sundance Channel series “Top of the Lake,” co-starring Elisabeth Moss, written and directed by Oscar winner Jane Campion. Hunter’s performance garnered her a Screen Actor’s Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.
She also starred in “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom,” for which she won the Emmy for Best Actress. This role also garnered her a Golden Globe nomination. She starred as Jane Roe in NBC’s “Roe vs. Wade” and was awarded the Emmy for her performance.
In 1982, Hunter made her Broadway debut in Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” followed by “The Wake of Jamey Foster.” She was most recently seen on stage in the revival of David Rabe’s Tony Award-winning play “Sticks and Bones,” opposite Richard Chamberlain, Nadia Gan, Morocco Omari, Bill Pullman, Ben Schnetzer and Raviv Ullman. Hunter starred in Marina Carr’s “By the Bog of Cats,” directed by Dominic Cooke at Wyndham’s Theater in London.
Hunter co-produced and starred in Beth Henley’s “Control Freaks” and produced Ray Barry’s “Mother’ Son” at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles.
Other New York stage appearances include “The Miss Firecracker Contest,” “Battery,” The Person I Once Was,” “A Weekend Near Madison” and “Impossible Marriage.”
Hunter resides in New York.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda