There’s a reason people love Ted Danson. It’s not just for his Sam Malone Cheers days or his Becker days or his numerous feature film credits, not even his acclaimed work on Damages. Danson is loved for being Danson. With a resumé and an award shelf that could turn one haughty, Danson has remained down to earth, candid and humble — a good guy with a good heart.
Concerned about the struggling state of newspapers today, Danson asks how our parent company, Tribune, is doing, then sighs: “I don’t want to pick up and turn something on to read.” An appropriate comment seeing his latest role has him playing a magazine editor in HBO’s new Jonathan Ames project Bored to Death, airing Sundays. After only three episode the series has already been picked up for a second season.
While Danson admits there wasn’t a big part to see for his role as George, what he did see was an opportunity. “There was a really interesting writer [Jonathan Ames] and a really interesting actor [Jason Schwartzman]. But I don’t like Zach [Galifianakis]!” he interjects jokingly. “It was like this pedigree of something’s here. I don’t know quite what it is but a really interesting man, a really interesting actor and I wanted to part of it.
“What’s really new and interesting is to be the oldest person on set by far. It’s perfect for who I play because George is all about relevancy: ‘Am I still relevant? Am I at 61 relevant? Don’t leave me out, Jason [Schwartzman] and Zach. Where you going? I want to go. Let me smoke dope. I just want to be with you. I want to be young.’ So it’s a perfect thing for Ted Danson at age 61 who is used to being at the center and now being a little further out from the center and wondering if he’s relevant. So it’s perfect. Written by a real genuine artist [Ames], who is talking about a world he’s lived and knows. When my character spouts Hemingway or Proust, it’s because Jonathan genuinely knows that world. He’s really a bright artist.”
After our discussion on Bored, I rattled off Channel Guide Magazine‘s list of offbeat questions. Here’s what Danson had to share:
You’re at a magazine rack and can pick three magazines. What are they?
Ted Danson: Am I alone or is someone watching me? Am I trying to impress?
Architectural Digest. I love having something to dream about that I will never likely have, so maybe I’d buy Yachts International. I don’t even like being on them that much, but I like looking and dreaming. They’re gorgeous. I’m going to get Billboard Magazine, because my daughter Katrina is No. 29 [at presstime] with “SugarFree.” Seriously. “SugarFree.” Kat Danson. It’s on iTunes. It’s really good.
If your TV only carried three TV shows, which three would you want?
Can we make a stipulation that I’m not in any of them? And Mary [Steenburgen, his wife] — none of our shows.
The Office, American Idol and The Biggest Loser. This is very revealing. It’s sad but true.
What has been your strangest fan encounter?
Not strange, but funny. So I’m about to turn 50 and I’m in New York. It’s a week before and I’m like, “I’m really OK with this turning 50 thing.” I’d been dying my hair, putting brown mousse in it for Becker, then washing it out later that night because it was just for the show. I walk into this video store and my American Express card says Edward Danson on it, because that’s my legal formal name. I hand the clerk my card and he looks at me and he looks at my gray hair and he says, “Oh, you must be Ted Danson’s father.” What do you say?
When was the last time you were starstruck?
Oh, Jesus. Zach! [Galifianakis, his costar in Bored to Death] And his movies — The Hangover. He was brilliant. He stole the show.
When was the last time you felt like crying?
Good heavens, a couple of days ago. I’m a crier.
What’s your favorite condiment?
Mustard. Love it. Mustard will make anything better.
What bores you?
Well, I do get bored, but pretty rarely. Small talk. “Hey, how are you? How’s your summer? Oh, sorry, got to go.” I don’t know if it’s boring, but exhausting. Watching anything I’m in. … I actually like boredom. Right after being bored you’re incredibly creative. I embrace boredom. I love sitting and staring. Boredom is fine. I really mean that. Write that down.
Last movie you saw and with who?
With Mary. I saw Larry David in his new film Whatever Works — the Woody Allen film. And I was so proud of him. He was really, really good in it.