New Show 2009: Trust Me

TNT, Mondays Beginning Jan. 26

For some people, revisiting the past would be a nightmare. For Tom Cavanagh, it has led him to a role on one of the most promising new shows on television.

On Trust Me, Cavanagh and costar Eric McCormack play Conner and Mason, two best friends working as partners at a top Chicago ad agency. When Mason gets promoted to the position of creative director — a move that makes him Conner’s boss — their personal and working relationships are put to the test.

Given its veteran cast — which also includes Monica Potter (Boston Legal), Griffin Dunne (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and Sarah Clarke (24) — and TNT’s recent track record with series launches, Trust Me represents the closest thing to a sure bet on the slate of midseason offerings. It also marks a return to series television for Cavanagh and McCormack, who have been recent fixtures in NBC’s prime-time lineup as the respective stars of Ed and Will & Grace.

Working as Conner and Mason required little research for the actors, since they had already worked with their characters in the past.

“Twenty years ago, when we were starting out [in acting], both of us did a number of commercials,” says Cavanagh, who once was the star of a successful series of Canadian TV spots for Labatt Blue beer. “The people that we’re now playing — we’re familiar with those people. We’ve seen those people. Now we’re seeing them from a different perspective.”

And Cavanagh, in particular, likes what he sees.

“There’s a nice level of self-indulgence and selfishness to Conner. There’s a healthy amount of looking out for No. 1,” he says of his character, who is the loose-cannon counterpart to McCormack’s more strait-laced family man. Cavanagh relishes that the relationship is a bit of a role reversal.

“For [Eric’s] years on Will & Grace, the family man was certainly not who he was playing. And so I think he’s really enjoyed sinking his teeth into that. I think he really is having a good time doing it,” says Cavanagh. “And I’ve had instances where I’ve played maybe the more responsible character on network television, and I’m enjoying playing the less responsible guy. The more roguish and looser the cannon, for this character, the more fun it seems to be for me.”

If a show centered around a rogue ad executive sounds familiar, that’s because it is.

“When they were changing the name of the show from [its original working title] Truth in Advertising, I lobbied hard for Madder Men,” Cavanagh jokes. “I’m of the ilk that never would have thought that there was room for anywhere near as many shows as there are right now about swabbing blood and examining semen. I would have been, like, ‘Two seems like all the market can handle.’ And yet there’s 20.”

In the end, comparisons to AMC’s Emmy-winning drama Mad Men are superficial at best. Trust Me is less about the advertising industry than it is about a compelling group of people who happen to work within it — people who bear little resemblance to Don Draper and his cohorts at Sterling Cooper. More than anything, what the two shows really have in common is quality. They both employ talented people to tell interesting stories, which ultimately is why Trust Me — like Mad Men before it — is destined to become a hit. And you can trust us on that.

© 2009 TNT Credit: Art Streiber/TNT Main image: Credit: Erik Heinila