BURBANK, Calif. — In another new comedy series on ABC, Kelsey Grammer returns to primetime in the series “Hank” the story of self-made millionaire and entrepreneur Hank Pryor, and his unfortunate descent from New York’s elite to the blue-collar suburbs of River Bend, Virginia. At his side is the charismatic, and funny Melinda McGraw, whose portrayal of his wife, Tilly, stirs up the comedy early on. Their children, Maddie (Jordan Hinson) and Henry (Nathan Gamble) add to the chaos.
Finally, there is the issue of Tilly’s brother, Grady Funk, portrayed by David Koechner, who some fans may recognize from NBC’s “The Office” and most recently the film “Extract”
As one of the final sets Blast visited in Burbank recently, we caught glimpses of a few scenes being shot before we sat down with Grammer, McGraw and Koechner to discuss the show.
The first question we had to ask the cast was: What brought them all together for this project?
“For the last year or so I was thinking about returning to television again, and trying another shot after ‘Back to You,'” said Grammer. “I looked at television and thought to myself, the only thing missing in television these days is the traditional family show that has everyone living together, mother, father, and the kids, you know? Then I met Tucker (Cawley) and he had this loosely phrased idea about a guy who had fallen down from a big perch and was moving down to Virginia.”
Blast was able to see the final pilot episode shortly before our meeting, and we wondered if the physical comedy aside from the witty dialogue would be part of its style.
“Melinda’s stuff is high farce. This week we shot some things in the woods” Grammer laughed.
“I think a lot of the behavior just ends up physical” McGraw added. “So, a lot of times if it’s not written in, if it becomes physical because of how we are covering for ourselves and each other. I think there’s a lot fun stuff, and there’s some things that are a little broad.”
We may just see a bit more into Tilly’s side of the family, whose southern roots brought them to Virginia in the first place.
“Well we get (Grady’s wife) and a couple of kids. I don’t know how many.” Grammer said. He also explained more about the relationship Hank has with his brother-in-law, Grady, a man who has no problem reminding Hank of the reasons he’s in Virigina.
“This relationship will be to always antagonize one another,” Grammer said. “And she secretly is a party to it all because he and she are brother and sister. But the key relationships are here (in the pilot).”
“So far we’re exploring the world of the family, the extended family” said Koechner, “and then probably the town, and the state, and the nation.”
And what of the kids on the show? In the pilot, Maddie clearly has her issues with daddy, and a boyfriend of sorts. “Oh we’ll be dealing with the boyfriends, I mean she’s only 17″ said Grammer emphasizing the plural.
“What’s great is that it’s a modern father daughter relationship. It’s not one of the corny ones that doesn’t exist” Koechner added, saying that, these days, teenagers go through things much faster than a decade ago.
“There are real moments, and hopefully in the end everyone is going to grow up a little,” said Grammer. “They’ve had one life they thought was pretty well set, and it changed. That throws everyone into a tailspin.”
“And it was a rare existence that you don’t really have,” McGraw chimed in, “and I do think an interesting dynamic in the triangle (between Hank, Grady, and Tilly) is that in-between them, I might come back to her old ways. Throw back a couple of beers with Grady. Or I’ll push against them. Hank has that American (perspective) of starting from nothing and making something new, kind of pulling up by your bootstraps. And the realities of how those ‘bootstraps’ are different than twenty years ago.”
We closed by asking the trio to tell viewers why they should watch “Hank” this fall.
“I think the show has an identifiable character that everyone can relate to, that’s just like so and so,” said Koechner. “And it’ll definitely get people to laugh. It comes from a place of honesty and truth. It’s not just manufactured. The writing is good, and makes me laugh out loud. And finally, well, I just love Kelsey Grammer!”
“Oh, I can’t fight with that!” Grammer replied.
“I think it’s a relief to watch a show where you see people going through such changes because it makes you feel like you’re not the only ones” McGraw added.
“And this is a show, the whole family can watch it, and it’s not a kid’s kind of show.” said Koechner.
“For years, I’ve heard people tell me that Hollywood doesn’t make shows for (the family) anymore,” Grammer said, “and this year, Hollywood does.”
Catch Grammer, McGraw, Koechner and all of “Hank” every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ABC.