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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews F to J > Bret Harrison

Bret Harrison in 'The Loop.'Bret Harrison

That Airport Star

by Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 13, 2006.

Bret Harrison has been working in Hollywood for less than a decade but already he is making quite a name for himself.  He has played significant roles in the series Grounded For Life and movie Orange County.  Harrison was chosen by the producers of That 70s Show to replace star Topher Grace when Grace left the series to pursue a movie career.  Harrison’s best friend and writing partner is Adam Brody of The OC.  Together they have been working on scripts for films while their TV careers have taken off.    

Harrison’s biggest break yet is taking on the lead role of The Loop, a FOX-TV comedy about Sam, a recent college graduate who has gotten an executive position with a struggling airline based out of Chicago.  Sam has a brother named Sully (Eric Christian Olsen) who is constantly avoiding work but looking for crazy ways to get rich.  The two of them live with two women – Lizzy (Sarah Mason), a beautiful bartender and Piper (Amanda Loncar), a sweet, gorgeous, smart girl that Sam has been in love with since high school, but who just sees him as a good friend.  At work, Sam has to deal with a bitter assistant (“I learned how to send an email at MIT, where I went,” she explains to him), an over-the-top older company president (played by Philip Baker Hall) and a sexually predatory vice president (Mimi Rogers.)

“I work with Bret all the time and I’m madly in love with him,” enthuses his co-star Rogers.  “Really Bret has to carry the show.  They work him mercilessly.  Bret makes it look easy, but I’m really just impressed with how talented he is.” 

A few weeks before The Loop was set to debut, Harrison called us up to tell us all about the new show.

How did you first get involved in acting?

I started doing plays when I was living in Portland…

Oregon or Maine?

Portland, Oregon.  I just got really, really excited about acting.  I started taking acting class three times a week.  My acting coach at the time, she kind of took me under her wing and acted like a manager. 

I’ve got to say I used to love Undressed on MTV.  That was your first series work.  How did you get into that?

I auditioned for it.  It was one of the first things I landed when I moved out to LA.  It’s an interesting show, because they would always constantly transition people out and into it.  You could only do a max of eight episodes.  So it was kind of like an actor’s unemployment out here.  It was shot on video, but the kids loved it.  It lasted for a really long time.  That’s where I met a lot of my really good friends.  I met Adam (Brody, of The OC) on Undressed.  I met one of my good friends, Marcus, on Undressed.  We’ve been friends ever since.

Bret Harrison in 'The Loop.'I know that you and Adam did a short film together.  What is that?

It was called Home Security.  We shot that in our condo.  We wrote it and basically spent our own money.  The editor on Grounded for Life at the time, he ended up directing it.  It was really fun.  Hopefully… we’ve written a few scripts since then and we’re looking to do some more stuff in the future, too. 

In your career has been you have always mixed very dramatic roles on The OC and Law and Order SVU with comedies like Orange County and Grounded for Life.  Do you prefer comedy or drama?  Which one is harder for you?

I think drama is more intense for me.  Comedy comes a little bit more naturally.  I like being on a lighter set.  You know, constantly joking.  For me it’s more fun.  But at the same time, I would never want to give up drama.  If I can do three comedies and a drama a year, I’d be excited.  That’d be perfect.  Because drama is challenging and I think it makes your comedy better.

I read that you are involved in an upcoming remake of Revenge of the Nerds.  When is that coming and how are you involved? Are you going to be acting in it as well?

Yeah.  Well, maybe.  We might.  It’s kind of up in the air right now.  We’re on our third draft.  Basically, Adam and I went to McG (the director of the Charlie’s Angels movies). We’d been writing at the time, and we had written a script that was very similar.  It was different, but it was kind of like Revenge of the Nerds.  Then we were talking about maybe trying to write or produce a Revenge of the Nerds remakeMcG said, “Alright, well do it.”  We went into Fox Searchlight and pitched them the idea and they liked it.  Now we’re into our third draft.  Hopefully we’ll start shooting this next summer.   

The Loop is actually not your first sitcom; you had recurring roles in Grounded for Life and That 70s Show.  How did you get cast for those roles and what were they like?

Eric Christian Olsen, Bret Harrison, Philip Baker Hall, Mimi Rogers and Joy Osmanski in 'The Loop.'It was really fun.  I got cast, again I auditioned…  You know, Grounded for Life just started out as a guest star.  Then over time it turned into a recurring and in the last year I was finally a full regular.  Because they were both Carsey-Werner shows, after Grounded for Life ended Tom Werner called me up and asked me to be on That 70s Show, because Topher (Grace) was leaving the series and they needed a full-time replacement.  So I took that in second position.  Basically, if The Loop wasn’t going to get picked up as a full series, then I would have been on That 70s Show for the whole year.  Because The Loop got picked up, they threw me off the water tower. 

Those were more traditional live-in-studio series.  How is the making of a single camera show like the Loop different?

I prefer shooting single camera.  It’s shot like a movie.  I just think the final product looks better when you’re watching the TV.  It looks like you’re watching a movie.  It looks like you’re watching Dodgeball or something.  There’s no laugh track.  Even though I think shooting a single camera show like The Loop is more difficult, it turns out better product.  That’s what I would always want to do.

What attracted you to The Loop?

The minute I read a script I completely identified with it.  You saw the pilot.  It’s completely parallel to my real life (laughs).  Even today, I had an interview at ten this morning and I went out really late last night – I went to a Kanye West show, I had a couple of drinks and then all of the sudden I’m back into the work world.  I have four interviews today and an audition tomorrow.  I completely identify with that guy and I think everybody else can identify with it, too.  Everybody’s trying to juggle working and hanging out.

Bret Harrison and Mimi Rogers in 'The Loop.'I spoke with Mimi last week and she said that you were the glue that really holds the show together.  How does it feel to have a show that depends on your character as the focal point?

A lot of people say, “Oh, are you stressed?  Does it freak you out?”  I like it.  I really do.  I love being in every scene.  In Grounded for Life, I had a couple of scenes here and there, and then I’d go back to my trailer and take a nap.  Whereas this, I like being able to work all the time.  I like being the guy. 

What’s Mimi like to work with?

Mimi’s great.  Mimi’s hilarious.  She’s one of the funniest ladies I know.  She’s constantly goofing off on set.  She’s kind of like her character.  (laughs)  You know, she’s always teasing me…  But she’s fun.  I’ve learned a lot from her.  She has a lot of history behind her.  She’s been working with different people, you know?  Married to Tom Cruise…

Philip Baker Hall is so funny.  What is he like to work with?

He’s so good.  He’s so good.  He’s a really laid back guy.  He commits to everything.  There’s this scene where basically I go and the company has these company showers and he’s taking a shower.  He’s totally in it you know?  (laughs)  He’ll do anything.  Get in a cold ass pond.  He’s seventy years old and he’s still going balls to the wall.  He doesn’t stop. 

The airline industry is so depressed these days.  Why do you think that leads to comedy?

(laughs)  Well I don’t know if it’ll make the airlines more comedic, but Sam is so passionate about the airline that he’s working for.  There’s always, on every show, he kind of breaks into talking about the airline and different ways he can make it better.  I just think, constantly hearing that, I think people will really get into it. 

The show is about the juggling of your business life and your private life. You said that the character of Sam is very much like you. Do you have any Sullys in your life? 

Oh, yeah.  I’ve had many Sullys in my life.  (laughs)  A couple of my best friends growing up in Oregon were constantly having these different ideas: okay, this is how I’m going to make the big bucks.  In one of the episodes, Sully starts a sandwich company and thinks this is the next thing.  The truth of the matter is, I think Sully is going to be that guy that eventually hits it big one day. 

I’ve seen Eric in a couple of movies and I’ve always liked him in those…

Yeah, he just did The Last Kiss with Zach Braff.

Joy Osmanski, Eric Christian Olsen, Mimi Rogers, Bret Harrison, Sarah Wright, Philip Baker Hall and Amanda Locar in 'The Loop.'I know it’s a sitcom convention, but how is it possible that Piper doesn’t know you’re totally in love with her?

I know, I know.  But you know; I’ve been there.  I’ve had that girl where you’re constantly trying to put out the vibes and they’re obviously not getting it.  Either that or they are getting it and they’re just playing dumb.  Which, maybe Piper’s doing.  I don’t know.

Most of the cast is relatively new to series TV.  What are they like to work with?

The rest of the cast is great.  Everybody’s so cool.  Sarah Mason is so funny.  Eric is obviously great.  I think everybody has really gelled together.  We’ve only shot seven episodes.  But the third episode in, everybody was just jiving together.  We were working off of each other and improving and it was a lot of fun. 

Do you have any ideas for the show that you’d love to see them do – either about Sam’s character or more generally for the show? 

Just the more they hit Sam over the head and completely tear him apart.  You know, Sully doing different things.  I think that there’s no stopping.  They can go beyond.  What eventually needs to happen is I think it would be real funny to meet Sam and Sully’s parents.  Or I would love it if Philip Baker Hall had to come to the apartment.  Because in every show it’s split; it’s Sam going between the work world and the apartment hanging out with his friends.  I think it would be pretty funny to either bring Mimi back or maybe Mimi and Eric Christian Olsen end up having a fling or something.  I think that would make for pretty good TV. 

The Loop is getting a debut episode timeslot right after American Idol.  Is it gratifying that Fox apparently has big plans for the show?

Yeah, Fox has huge plans for the show.  We have a huge budget in terms of music.  We’re starting to do a lot of publicity.  I think they truly believe in the show.  The executive producer, Will Gluck, got a call from all the Fox execs just last week when I was doing ADR looping.  Everybody was just calling back on how great these last few episodes are.  How we really just hit our stride.  Everybody’s just really passionate about the show.

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Photo Credits:
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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 13, 2006.

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Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 13, 2006.