TNT “Franklin & Bash” actors Breckin Meyer (he’s Franklin) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (he’s Bash) look right at home crashed on couches in a corner of the Four Seasons bar in Midtown. Between banging out text messages on their phones, Meyer tosses Gosselaar a piece of gum from his pack of Orbit Bubblemint.
“It’s Jared Franklin’s gum of choice in the show,” cracks Meyer. “I’ve been chewing it since we shot the pilot here in Atlanta last year.” Without missing a beat, Gosselaar adds: “No one has ever chewed more gum on screen. He’s possibly chewed more scenery but not more gum. It was the only note we got from the pilot: ‘Jared’s gum chewing in every scene is a little distracting.'”
Thr pair perfected that buddy banter here in Atlanta in the spring of 2010 when they shot the pilot for TNT’s brand-new comedy-drama about the mayhem swirling around a couple of unconventional ambulance-chasing lawyers and life-long friends who find themselves suddenly recruited to work in a buttoned up Los Angeles law firm run by Malcolm McDowell. The show premieres tonight at 9 on TNT.
Atlantans will recognize the city’s tallest skyscraper, the Bank of America building in tonight’s pilot as well as the beloved downtown burger stand Just Around The Corner across the street from CNN Center on Marietta Street where the two lawyers solicit a client who’s just been rear-ended. They shot the sequence on Easter Sunday just down the street from where the zombies notably attracted a military tank in the pilot episode of the hit AMC drama “The Walking Dead” last year.
“We’re eating their food in the scene too since the Just Around The Corner crew cooked for us and are in the background of the scene,” Gosselaar recalls.
“We both responded to the friendship in the pilot script,” Meyer says. “The show really lives and dies by it. When we meet them, these guys are a couple of personal injury lawyers with all kinds of legal tricks but over the course of the season they realize they’ve got to step up their legal game at this prestigious law firm.”
Adds Gosselaar: “Being here in Atlanta and being on set together for 16 hours really helped us establish that rapport. When we got back to the hotel at night, we wanted to hang out together and use that opportunity to work on the script together for the next day. You don’t usually have that luxury when you’re filming at home. You go home to your families. Shooting the pilot here really enabled us to work on that chemistry on the run in a very controlled environment.”
Both actors were careful to add some nuances to an already nicely crafted script so their portrayals sidestep sitcom stereotypes.
“It’s always easy to go the wrong way,” says Meyer. “And suddenly it’s a show about two wacky lawyers who refuse to wear suits and show up in court in Van Halen T-shirts and blazers. We wanted to ensure that these were two fully developed characters and not just straight guy, funny guy.” Adds Gosselaar: “Nobody wants to watch that for five years and we wouldn’t want to play that for five years. We avoided all that because [creators] Kevin [Falls] and Bill [Chais] are great at what they do. It was all in the script from the pilot on.”
The actors assure us, meanwhile, that working with Malcolm McDowell is not as crazy as it appears on screen. “That’s the brilliance of Malcolm,” says Gosselaar. “It looks like he’s winging it but he’s always incredibly prepared.” Adds Meyer: “He’s crazy but he’s also crazy prepared. He’s been in 3,000 movies, he’s 187 years old and he still loves doing this for a living.”
Adding to the familiarity for Mark-Paul was the addition of his former “NYPD Blue” co-worker Gracelle Beauvais to the “Franklin & Bash” cast. During an earlier interview with Intel at the W in Midtown, Beauvais explained why when “F&B” was greenlit as a series, shooting relocated to Los Angeles. “Nothing against Atlanta but we all have little kids and we lobbied to have the show shot at home.” On playing her legal eagle character Hannah Linden in “F&B,” Beauvais says: “I thought the script was really funny and really different and I’ve always wanted to work with TNT. It’s clever and smart and the boys’ chemistry is great.”
While other shows would allow five seasons worth of sexual tension to build before romantically pairing co-workers, Jared Franklin and Hannah end up naked in tonight’s premiere. “We don’t just give each other looks, we went right at it!” Beauvais says laughing. “It was so bizarre. But Breckin made it fun. It’s always weird though. It’s like, ‘Hi, how are you? OK, let’s go!’ It was early on in the shoot too. But we had a good time. I love Hannah. I love her strength, her intelligence, she banters with the boys but she also doesn’t apologize for who she is. She owns it.”
Beauvais pauses, takes a sip of water, laughs and adds: “Clearly, she owns her stuff!”