I love everything about Big Time in Hollywood, FL., Comedy Central’s brand-new scripted comedy that stars Alex Anfanger and Lenny Jacobson as Jack and Ben Dolfe, scheming slacker brothers whose big-time Hollywood dreams land them in big-time trouble in — and out of — their snoozy Florida town.
But let me confess this right now: I love their sweet buddy Del the best. Possibly a bit too much. And I didn’t mind admitting it to Jon Bass, who plays him.
With his great big heart, goofy little shorts, sensible sandals and an utter unwillingness to believe that Jack and Ben are anything but a force for good in his life, the Dolfe brothers’ lifelong pal would be just fine having beautiful days at his discount store job and watching the boys do their thing. But that’s not exactly how things pan out.
I talked with Bass about the art and soul of being Del, stopping just shy of asking if I could adopt him. No matter how badly I wanted to.
Channel Guide Magazine: Tell me about your introduction to [Big Time creators] Dan Schimpf and Alex. Did you know them before you did Alex’s web series Next Time on Lonny?
Jon Bass: Oddly enough, Alex and I had done a reading together in New York far before he did Lonny or Big Time. Then two years after that, when I was doing The Book of Mormon on the national tour, we ended up going to get a drink and reconnected. He was the nicest guy in the world. A year after that he gave me a call and asked, ‘Do you want to audition for this show?’ I did and I got a call back and that’s when I met Dan.
CGM: Tell me how Alex described the show — and Del — to you at the outset?
JB: It’s kind of crazy ’cause we all had the same idea about Del and I think that’s why I ended up getting the part. We all sort of had the same language about him. He reminded me a lot of Peter Sellers in Being There. I mean, it’s Peter Sellers from Being There if his character had been destroyed by the cops and multiple deaths and been absolutely ambushed by some of the most horrendous things possible to happen to a human being. But we shared a common vocabulary when we talked about the character. I fell in love with the first script and then when I got the other nine, I was like, “This show is going to be something else!”
CGM: I talked with Alex at the Television Critics Association press tour and Lenny came up and joined in. Just watching those two together is hysterical.
JB: They’re literally like brothers now. It’s kind of beautiful.
CGM: Take me on a little journey inside the mind of Del. We know that you and the Dolfe brothers have been friends since childhood, but what kind of backstory did you form for yourself about why you are so devoted to these guys, even though they torment you so?
JB: They’re his only family — it’s really that Jack and Ben are his only family. His father left him at a very young age and his mother isn’t in his life anymore. I remember there was a version of the script where he lived with his mom and she was described as a whale of a human being. So the only two people in his life really are Jack and Ben. That’s all for his family. I think he finds himself being very devoted to them because, even though they treat him like crap — and you’ll see it more towards the end of the series — that there is this love that they have for Del. Even though every episode they are treating him like @#$% and they’re using him as a pawn constantly.
But at the end of the day Jack and Ben really, really do love Del. Or at least I hope they do. I hope they do, ’cause Del loves them!
CGM: You do so much with just this kind of beatific expression on your face — exactly how fun is it to step into this guy’s short shorts and just be … Del?
JB: Oh my God, it’s the most fun in the world! You get into this mindset when you put on the short shorts where you’re just like “I’m going to go for it!” and it really allows me, as Jon Bass the actor, to be like, “All right! Whatever is going to happen in these shorts is going to happen.” It really frees you up to have such short shorts on!
CGM: But we see close-ups of you all the time, just watching and enduring really awful things and you express so much just by looking into the camera. It’s a pretty common thing to have to do for an actor, but in this guy’s case, the viewer doesn’t know if anything at all is going on in there.
JB: I made a concerted effort when I started the show to always make sure Del’s outlook is up. So usually he is staring up because he finds the sky so interesting. As the show goes on, you’ll see him looking down more and more, but Del’s whole outlook is usually just trying to be like, “Life is great and what can I do to help my friends out?” He’s a very singular human being — it’s very much about the situation that he’s in and whatever he can do to help out the people he is with.
CGM: The wonders of living in the moment. I have to learn to do a better job of that.
JB: Del is definitely living somewhere. It might not be the moment, but he is definitely living somewhere. Del’s living perfect. Del’s living in any moment.
CGM: Del also walks into some seriously deadly situations — shootouts, drug deals — and walks right back out. Is it because he is such a pure-heart kind of guy that makes Del somewhat Teflon — or am I about to find out that I am seriously wrong about that?
JB: You can see it a lot in the fourth episode especially that he really starts to realize that he has gotten himself into some actual doodoo. He tries to have his sunny disposition as much as possible, but he also understands when a moment has gotten out of control. It’s definitely touch-and-go with Del. I remember there were days on set where I would talk to Dan, the director — “After everything that has happened, how can Del still go with a smile on his face?” He would just say, “That’s just Del!” and I would go, “You’re right! OK! Let’s go!”
CGM: Ben Stiller said that he was particularly impressed watching this come together and how Dan and Alex were able to gel everyone into a common idea of what the show should be and what the viewers should experience watching it. But can you talk about your scenes with Michael Madsen and Marcus Giamatti, in particular? They’re particularly memorable.
JB: They’re just absolute pros and absolutely could not have been better to work with. Honestly they are just professionalized. Everyone came to set with this attitude of “We’re doing the best we can” — and, with that, you get really fantastic work. It’s really a testament to the work they’ve done and the work they’ll continue to do.
CGM: What was it like to have Cuba Gooding Jr. walk onto the set?
JB: It was amazing! He’s so game, he’s so funny and he’s the nicest guy in the world. He actually thought I was wearing a wig for the entire shoot.
CGM: Oh. Did he, like, pull or …
JB: He did pull my hair once because he didn’t believe it was my actual hair. But he was the nicest guy. Once again just a hundred percent professional, a hundred percent game, and that’s all we could ask.
CGM: Without giving away too much, is there an “Evolution of Del” as we move forward — or what would you like that to look like?
JB: Well, there’s something that happens in the seventh episode where Del sort of shares his feelings with a love interest. So I think if there was an evolution, it would be that they move in and start a life together. But then he somehow gets pulled back in by Jack and Ben. Episodes five through eight are just really something else. I don’t want to ruin the fifth episode for you, but something happens which sort of takes the brothers and Del to the next level and you start to see Del’s sunny disposition get more and more screwed with.
CGM: Before I let you go, tell me three things that Del would always have in his fridge or pantry.
JB: Ice cream, ice cream and ice cream.
CGM: All the same flavor or would he branch out a little?
JB: No, it’s all the same. It’s Drumsticks.
Big Time in Hollywood, FL. premieres tonight at 10:30pm ET on Comedy Central.