Ken Marino guest stars on “Whitney”

By Karen Moul

Ken   MarinoKen Marino is coming to Whitney! The comedian guest stars in this week’s episode as Brian, the older brother of Whitney’s live-in boyfriend, Alex. When Brian crashes on the couple’s couch, old sibling rivalries come to the surface, causing the brothers to brawl.

Marino is perhaps best known for his role as Dr. Glenn Ritchie on Adult Swim’s Children’s Hospital. He also appears in the Starz series Party Down. Viewers who are unfamiliar with those shows may also recognize him from his countless guest spots on everything from Dawson’s Creek to Grey’s Anatomy.

"It was a fast week," Marino says of his time on the Whitney set. "I enjoyed pretty much all of it. I think the actors on the show are a lot of fun.

"And then the people running the show are very passionate about it and so it's fun watching a group of people creating a show that are really into it and passionate about it."

Chemistry among the cast and crew is something Marino thinks is critical to any show’s success.

"When you get on a set," he explains, "one of the things that you immediately are drawn to or you recognize is the chemistry and whether or not people are having fun because I think that that translates, you can't help but see that once it's shot.

"And I think that that absolutely was there on the set of Whitney, everybody was enjoying themselves and enjoying each other and having a good time and laughing. And if you can make people that you work with laugh, then that's going to translate on some level."

Marino recently talked to reporters about his guest role, sibling rivalry, and renovating his kitchen.

NBC Conference Call
Ken Marino
October 21, 2011

QUESTION: So you're going to be playing Alex's brother, Brian. Can you tell us a bit about your character, what he'll be doing and how the role came about for you?

KEN MARINO: Yes, I'm playing his brother, Brian. I'm his older brother, and I work at a - I sell furniture. And so…Chris is the younger brother who I'm kind of jealous of because he's smart and artistic and creative, and so I'm a little passive aggressive, if not aggressive, with him. That's about all I have.

QUESTION: How's it going, Ken?

KEN MARINO: Oh, man, I mean you want an honest answer? My kitchen's being renovated, I haven't had a kitchen for almost three months. They just came with the stove and the fridge and the plugs don't work. They're the wrong plugs. They don't need a 110, they need a 220 - 50 amps. I could talk about that all day.

QUESTION: Whitney differs from some of the things you've really been thriving on recently. You really seem to thrive in that offbeat, single-camera kind of environment, shows like Party Down, Children’s Hospital.

What's it like getting back into that traditional multi-camera setup with the live audience? How does that impact the energy, impact the way you approach the character, the way you deliver your comedy?

KEN MARINO: It's interesting, you know, it is a whole different kind of vibe and when you get in there and you're in front of an audience, you tend to want to play up to the audience so you get laughs. You get that immediate response where, when you're doing single camera you're not thinking about that. You're thinking you can - you have quieter moments and things that might be, for lack of a better word, not more subtle but just - it's just a different - it's a different approach.

And so it's exciting for me. I've done four-camera in the past and I really enjoyed, I like hearing the reaction from people, that immediate reaction. And so it's fun - I like both styles of comedy, I enjoy both.

QUESTION: I'd hardly call you typecast by any stretch of the imagination. However, there always seems to be that unique Ken Marino voice in a lot of your characters.

Do you think when fans are watching the Whitney episode they're going to really get a sense of that honest voice, that this is going to feel like a Ken Marino character rather than just some role that any recognizable funny guy could have stepped in to perform?

KEN MARINO: Well first, thanks for saying that. Thanks for saying that there's a Ken Marino voice. I don't know what that is.

I just do what I think is funny. But what do you think - what is a Ken - I don't know what that means, what is that?

QUESTION: I would kind of describe it as almost sort of a caustic "aw shucks," if that makes sense. Whether you're playing kind of a jerk character, whether you're playing a down-on-his-luck Ron Donald, you get that idea that you're almost in on the joke. But when you're not in on the joke you're aware that you're not in on the joke, if that makes any sense.

Will this feel like it's not just somebody trying to raise their visibility, Whitney trying to cast somebody who's known and respected in the field, and actually feel like it's an organic role for you?

KEN MARINO: If the question is "am I taking the part or trying to do the part to raise my visibility," that's not the case. You know, I took it because I like Whitney and I'm friends with her and I enjoy the show. I enjoy the people who work on the show and I like the character.

And I'll play it the only way I know how to play it which is, you know, filtered through me. And if it touches upon any of those things that you were talking about, great, and if not, I apologize to everybody involved.

Ken Marino on WhitneyQUESTION: What was the best part for you, working on Whitney?

KEN MARINO: You know, it was a fast week. I enjoyed pretty much all of it. I think the actors on the show are a lot of fun, you know, getting to know them a little bit.

I didn't really know any of them other than Whitney. I've run into a couple of them but they're just really good, funny people. And then the people running the show are very passionate about it and so it's fun watching a group of people creating a show that are really into it and passionate about it.

That's nice to see, because sometimes you work on a show where everybody's just kind of walking through the motions. But there was an electricity on that set which is always exciting to be around. And then they gave me a fun part, you know, to play Chris's older brother.

Chris is hysterical, and getting to know him, after I met him I was like - we went to YouTube and started watching his standup. And man, that guy is funny. So I think to play his brother...

QUESTION: Well, speaking of his brother, Brian, who would you rather hang out with in real life, Alex or Brian?

KEN MARINO: I would rather hang out with Alex. Brian's kind of a little brat.

QUESTION: You're a writer from the The State and you worked on Role Models. I was wondering if you contributed to the story at all on Whitney when they wrote in your character?

KEN MARINO: No, I didn't. You know, I would - I threw out, as I do on anything I work on, I ask if there's value to a certain joke that might fit into the structure that they have, but usually I just kind of go in and play the part.

I'll throw in jokes because I can't help myself, and then - mostly they don't get in. But every once in a while I'll land on a good one and they might say, "Hey yes, keep that."

QUESTION: And are there any projects you're working on that you might want Chris D'Elia or Whitney Cummings to be involved with?

KEN MARINO: I'm working on Children’s Hospital right now, and I'd love for them to come on and do a guest on that, or any of the people on the show -- Rhea, Zoe or Dan, any of those guys. But yes, and then I'm writing some movies with Dave Wain, so sure. I was thinking about something for Chris actually the other day that I was - I wanted to write by myself that he would be great in.

It's a standup a comedian as the main character. But it's a longer explanation than that that I'm not going to bore you with.

SCIFI VISION: Do you have any brothers and sisters and did you have a lot of sibling rivalry that you could draw on for this role?

KEN MARINO: I have an older sister and there wasn't so much sibling rivalry. Our dynamic was, you know, I wanted to hang out with her and I bugged her all the time and I was a pain in the ass to her, and she wanted me to leave her alone. But I've grown up with a lot of, you know, I have a lot of friends from The State and those guys, you know, that was basically all guys except for Kerri Kenney.

And they're basically all my brothers and have been since college. And there's always kind of a feel or a sense of sibling rivalry with those guys, which is fun.

SCIFI VISION: So you think the rivalry between brothers is a different brand than between brothers and sisters?

KEN MARINO: I think it's slightly different. I mean, I didn't have it with my sister. Now perhaps brothers and sisters do have that but I didn't have that with my sister. It was more - I was just a nudge to her.

SCIFI VISION: You're probably most recognizable as an actor, but you've been really racking up the writing and producing credits. Which aspect do you enjoy the most and where do you see all this going in the future? You'd like to continue doing all of it or just focus on one area, maybe?

KEN MARINO: My goal is to do it all, to try to continue to do it all. I mean, my ultimate goal is to stay out of the red and feed my family. But I think creatively I like doing all aspects of it.

I enjoy producing and love writing and I've directed - I directed an episode of Party Down and some Children’s Hospital. And, you know, I'm getting into that which I very much enjoy. And then acting is something that I don't think I'll ever stop doing unless I'm not hired, and then I'll, I don't know, maybe act for my kids or something.

But no, I enjoy it all. I enjoy it all and I hope to continue to do it all.

QUESTION: You've been on a number of primetime network shows over the years as a recurring character or a one-episode guest, everything from Will & Grace to Dawson's Creek and Grey's Anatomy and so on. So having a chance to spend a few days on the set of Whitney, did you sense anything about that show that reminded you of what made some of those other shows successful?

WhitneyKEN MARINO: I think when you get on a set, one of the things that you immediately are drawn to or you recognize is the chemistry and whether or not people are having fun because I think that that translates, you can't help but see that once it's shot. And I think that that absolutely was there on the set of Whitney, that everybody was enjoying themselves and enjoying each other and having a good time and laughing. And if you can make people that you work with laugh, then that's going to translate on some level.

I think that what makes a good four-camera show, the thing that is key is characters you like and you like watching. And I find the relationship between Whitney and Chris's characters to be kind of fresh and different and exciting. And then I really am enjoying that group of friends, so yes, it seemed special to me, it seemed like a special group of people.

QUESTION: That's a good point that, yes, no character on the show is, for lack of a better way of putting it, an asshole. So it helps it be a likeable show.

KEN MARINO: Yes, well, I mean, I don't know if - you know, I haven't seen enough episodes to know if anybody goes in the asshole route, but I know that the actors and the vibe with the actors is definitely a positive, cool thing. But I'm not saying I'm against characters on sitcoms that are, you know, I feel like it's okay for characters to be assholes, and I don't know - I just don't know if that's what they're going to have on this show.

QUESTION: As an actor-turned-producer, do you think that gives you an advantage that others don't have in terms of understanding an actor's psychology and using that to draw out strong performances?

KEN MARINO: As an actor-turned-producer, I think that knowing - being an actor, when I'm directing or producing something and then talking to an actor, yes I think that does help. I wasn't that on Whitney, I was basically a hired actor to come in and hopefully help the show. So I wasn't experiencing that but if I understand your question correctly, does it help to wear several hats in general in this town?

And my answer would be yes, it helps enormously. Does that answer your question? I don't know if I understood your question.

QUESTION: Yes, actually you did. And what did you find taking on the role about yourself that you didn't know before? Did this stretch your craft in a different way?

KEN MARINO: The first thing I found out about the character of Brian is that his waist is 35 to 36 inches, and my waist is 34, and I'll stand by that. I don't know how they did it in the wardrobe department, but somehow they made my waist bigger the week I was hired. It could be that I was eating a lot more, but I don't think it was that.

And then, no, I just played Brian like me, like a version of me. Probably the more annoying version of me, which is a good portion of me.

QUESTION: Which of your roles have presented most of a challenge in getting to that level of comfort?

KEN MARINO: I don't find them when I play a role to be, you know - I don't look at it as a challenge. I look at it as something that's fun to do, like a puzzle to solve and they're all hard in different ways to kind of answer certain questions. But it's exciting and it's fun to solve that problem. And for me, the character of Brian was an easy guy to play.

QUESTION: What do you do after you finish filming?

KEN MARINO: I usually shower up and I, you know, a little lather, I'll lather up and then I'll use some Kiehl’s stuff on my skin just to keep it nice and moist. And then I kind of wash, you know, just extra focus on my T-zone because I'm a little oily. And then at that point I've showered, I have to put a little product in my hair so I don't look like a Beatle because it'll look like a bowl haircut so you've got to put a little texture in there. Then I'll probably - I don't know, just pick out a nice, comfortable pair of underwear and then it just kind of goes from there, you know, jeans, shirt, socks.

Oh, shoes - and shoes.

QUESTION: Any more kitchen updates, before we get into the actual follow-up?

KEN MARINO: Yes, basically what we're going to do is we're going to run another 110 wire up through the roof and then down into where the circuit breaker is. We're going to have to add a double circuit breaker. I'm not going to lie to you - it's going to cost a little bit of money.

QUESTION: Wow, screw TV, this is where the real entertainment is, these kitchen recaps.

But anyway, moving on, you've had the lucky opportunity of getting to work with a lot of your collaborators, I'd assume close friends, in a variety of your roles. But when you're stepping into a show like Whitney, [where] you don't have that same level of ownership and that same comfort zone, are there any additional pressures your face? Do you feel obligated to impress in a certain way, maybe a different way than you would working with somebody you've been doing things with for the last ten years?

KEN MARINO: I think anytime you walk onto a set where you don't know anybody, you want to impress them. But I try to let that go - I try to get rid of that feeling very quickly because that's not the thing to be focusing on, for me, because it gets in the way of being creative and trying to serve the story and serve the scene and serve the character. But you can't help but walk on a set and be like, "Okay, I hope I'm everything they want me to be." But I try to get rid of that very quickly, that feeling.

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