After an eight year run on the uber-career launching pad titled, That '70s Show, Danny Masterson returns to series television this month in the new TBS original series, Men At Work. The show follows the lives of four single male co-workers as they navigate their intertwined careers and their love lives, and is based on the real life of actor/producer Breckin Meyer (Road Trip, Franklin & Bash) who is the show’s creator.
With both Danny Masterson and I being Long Island natives, we were two peas in a pod, as I fancy my geographical roots to be something of a suburban island “club.” Masterson’s dry sense of humor and quick wit lent itself to an unconventional interview that kept me laughing and on my toes at the same time. I found that Danny Masterson’s appeal is in his uncanny ability to find humor in the strangest of places. It’s no wonder that producers see him as sitcom gold.
In the course of our conversation it occurs to me that Danny Masterson could seamlessly insert himself into just about any social circle, or any decade for that matter. He’s a timeless hipster, managing to sound sophisticated while simultaneously dropping casual F bombs.
In Men At Work (premiering May 24), Masterson plays Milo, the sappy romantic wounded from a recent breakup, and trying to get back in the game with the help of his well-meaning friends, played by actors James Lesure, Michael Cassidy and Adam Busch.
Men At Work brings the male perspective to the fold of exploring the endless complexities that exist between the sexes, and the show visits that chapter in life that occurs before marriage and children thrust us permanently into adulthood.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): My fellow Long Islander! I saw that you were back there visiting the other day. You posted a Twitpic of Bethpage State Park.
Danny Masterson: I played Bethpage Red yesterday (referring to the famous Long Island golf course). I only started golfing a year and a half ago and now I’m totally obsessed. I’ve been trying to get to all of the great courses, wherever I can find them. They close Bethpage Black on Mondays, so I was like, “Bethpage Red it is.” That’s a phenomenal course as well.
PR.com: Is golfing your outlet when you’re not acting?
Danny Masterson: Golfing is my new softball. All through Junior High and High School and into my mid-twenties I was obsessed with playing ice hockey. I played in three different leagues, four nights a week. I also played softball and I always had one or two softball leagues. Then I actually blew out my knee, tore my ACL and burst my bursa. I couldn’t do anything for about six months. I stopped playing hockey after that, kept playing softball, and then started golfing about a year and a half ago. I’ve probably played about 200 rounds in a year and half.
PR.com: I have never golfed.
Danny Masterson: It’s pretty fucking fun, man! I took my wife (actress and model Bijou Phillips) out a few times and she’s kind of digging it now, too.
PR.com: Is Bijou a golfer now as well?
Danny Masterson: She’s not a golfer because she’s an equestrian, so she’s got the horses that she’s with every day. But I’ve gotten her to play three or four times, and she’s actually pretty good.
PR.com: So let’s talk about your show, Men At Work.
Danny Masterson: It’s funny.
PR.com: (Laughs) Care to elaborate?
Danny Masterson: The show is based on Breckin Meyer’s life and his escapades when he used to be single and didn’t know what to do.
PR.com: Is your character, Milo, based on Breckin Meyer?
Danny Masterson: Yes. I am playing Breckin Meyer’s inner thoughts.
PR.com: So he was the heartbreak kid in his single days, got it.
Danny Masterson: Exactly. I keep comparing the show to being the male Sex And The City. That’s what the characters are, and what the storylines revolve around. So far it’s been going really well.
PR.com: Your character on Men At Work, Milo, is going through a tough breakup. Since men and women handle breakups differently, from the male perspective what is the best recipe for getting over a breakup?
Danny Masterson: I think get out of town. Personally, that’s always been the thing that I’ve done when my friends have a massive breakup and they’re dying. Just grab them, hop on a plane and head someplace. Just getting out of town where every single little thing reminds you of that person. Get out of your house, get out of the restaurants you usually go to. I’m not usually one to give advice, but if someone were to ask me how to deal with a huge breakup, I would say, “Just get the fuck out of town for two weeks.”
PR.com: Conversationally speaking, what would be the best place you could think of to go?
Danny Masterson: Iceland. It’s phenomenal. It’s my favorite country to visit. What’s so cool about that country is that anything you do that’s “touristy,” is the coolest thing you’ve ever done! Like, “Oh, let’s go check out the waterfall.” And it’s the coolest waterfall you’ve ever seen. “Let’s go check out the geysers.” The coolest geysers you’ve ever seen. Everything about [Iceland] is almost, sort of, supernatural.
PR.com: Was the role of Milo written with you in mind?
Danny Masterson: I don’t believe so. I’ve been under contract with Comedy Central for the last two years making a few different pilots for them. So the week that lapsed, Turner called and they offered me this show. I don’t know if I was number one or number nine on the list. But [Breckin] called me on my cell phone and just said, “Hey, I want you to star in this show. I’m making this pilot for Turner.” I read the script, I loved it, and we chatted about the other actors who were going to come on board. I knew James Lesure really well. I hadn’t met the other two actors (Michael Cassidy and Adam Busch), but I heard they were really good and I saw their audition tapes. And then Jamie Tarses is such a huge producer, so I thought, “Ok, this is going to work out really well.” Then we have Mark Cendrowski, who directs for The Big Bang Theory, as our director. We have the heavy hitters in television and that’s why I was excited to hop onboard.
PR.com: Would you ever take on the tasks of writing, directing or producing for television?
Danny Masterson: I’ve produced a couple of movies. At some point I want to direct a film. Directing television is really difficult. I don’t know that I could do that, but I could make a feature. Producing television is something I would love to do. I was producing my shows for Comedy Central. Because I came on this show at the last minute, I’m not attached as a producer even though I feel like I do that kind of work in terms of the creative stuff and helping with the casting. In the future I would love to help create television shows. I’m not much of a writer. I’m good at re-writing, but the original ideas don’t pop into my head.
PR.com: Would you ever direct your wife, Bijou Phillips?
Danny Masterson: Yeah. She’s such a good actress. She’s done so many films, plus work on the show Raising Hope. It would be fun. It would probably be weird if I told her to do something a certain way. She’s always like, “Don’t tell me what to do.” (Laughs) Like when I try to teach her to play [golf]. I tell her, “You have to swing through the ball,” and she’s like, “Don’t fucking tell me how to hit the ball!!”
Danny Masterson: There’s that tension between a husband and wife when someone is telling the other one what to do. So as long as I was able to not do that, which would be hard because I’m a bit of a control freak, it would be tough to direct her without having some spats I would guess. But we would both get through it.
PR.com: In Men At Work you have your typical group of guy friends. You’ve got the player, the guy with the broken heart, the socially awkward guy and the easygoing guy. Why does that always seem to happen among a group of guy friends?
Danny Masterson: I don’t know. I think if you had a group of a whole bunch of the same type of guy you’d probably get bored of each other. Like, why would I want to hang out with a whole bunch of dudes just like me when I already have to deal with being with myself? When I go out I like to have a guy who is super into politics and kind of nerdy, and thinks about the world in a totally different way for us to have arguments about, or discussions about. And then I’m super happily married and I’ve been with my girl for years, so I have friends that are single and who like chasing girls. I think a whole bunch of married guys hanging out would be kind of boring.
PR.com: Do you live vicariously through your single friends?
Danny Masterson: Of course. We all do. Like, “What happened, what happened?! Tell me. No, she didn’t! Oooh, that’s terrible! Oh, that’s really funny! You did what?? No you didn’t!!” You know how it is.
PR.com: (Laughs) In your single days, which guy were you?
Danny Masterson: Um, no comment (laughs).
PR.com: Ok, I can pretty much figure that one out.
Danny Masterson: We had a good time back in the That '70s Show days. I’m very happily married at this point.
PR.com: In describing your show, Men At Work, Breckin Meyer said that the show is about “that time between guy and man,” which I thought was a great way of describing it. What was the marker for you when you realized you were transitioning from guy into man?
Danny Masterson: Oh, I don’t even think I have. I think I’m twenty years away, actually.
PR.com: You’ve yet to transition (laughs)…
Danny Masterson: I don’t even think I’m “guy” yet. I still think I’m “boy” and I just happen to have a beard. Literally, my friends are always like, “Dude, you’re like a twelve year old.” I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
PR.com: Being that That '70s Show was your breakout role and you were much younger, how is your experience on Men At Work different from your experience on That '70s Show?
Danny Masterson: There are less surprises and I know at this point when a script is good, if the other actors are doing their job, and if the director is giving good direction. I kind of know all these things instantly from having shot 250 episodes of television through the years. I guess an air of confidence is the best thing that I have to offer this show.
PR.com: And you guys already landed some great guest stars on the show.
Danny Masterson: Yeah, we had Kevin Pollak who shot with us on Friday, my brother Chris Masterson was on this episode, and also Josh Hopkins from Cougar Town. We had Ethan Suplee (My Name Is Earl, Raising Hope) last week. We had Amy Smart, Stacy Keibler who James Lesure and I have a threesome with. That’s an amazing episode.
PR.com: Kathy Najimy…
Danny Masterson: And Kathy Najimy who I didn’t get the chance to work with, but she’s a comedy fucking legend so it was really cool getting her on the show. Oh, and J.K. Simmons (Juno, The Closer) also just did a massive episode.
PR.com: How have you been able to land so many great guest stars before a single episode has even aired?
Danny Masterson: Pollak is a friend of ours, Ethan is one of my best friends, I asked my brother, and I asked Josh Hopkins. Keibler’s a great friend of mine who I’ve known for ten years so I asked her if she wanted to come and do some acting. That’s kind of how it’s worked so far. Breckin is really good friends with Kathy and J.K. Simmons so he invited them on. Amy Smart, I don’t know if that was my idea or Breckin’s idea, but we literally just called her and asked if she wanted to come and do a sitcom.
PR.com: Amy Smart plays the girlfriend who dumps your character Milo in the first episode.
Danny Masterson: Yeah, and she comes back once Milo gets back on his feet. She comes back and chops his legs off from underneath him.
PR.com: Going back twenty years, or even just ten years ago, there were a lot less television shows on the air, a lot less original programming. Now the landscape is so crowded with so many networks. Is that a positive or a negative?
Danny Masterson: I think it’s a positive in terms of putting more creative people to work. I also think that the shows that are good rise to the top and the rest fall away because there are so many options. Your shows have to be really good to stay on the air. Who knows, we could do ten episodes and I could be talking about another show next year. But I like my chances with the creative crew around this series.
PR.com: On Men At Work, is there any ad-libbing and improv, or do you go by the book?
Danny Masterson: We go by the book. If we do a second or third take we’ll often have new jokes brought in by the writers. Bonnie and Terry Turner, who were the creators of That '70s Show, were like, “We’re writing and you’re acting, and that’s just how it works.” So I’ve sort of taken on that [mentality] in the last ten years of acting, that you just hit it by the book. If you have ideas, pitch them and then try it again for a second or third [take], but at least let the writers hear what they wrote.
PR.com: I only saw a few clips of Men At Work so far, but the dialogue has that natural ad-lib feel to it.
Danny Masterson: Every single word and every breathe is fully written and rehearsed.
PR.com: That’s great writing.
Danny Masterson: That’s great writing. And that’s a nice compliment, thank you.
PR.com: You’re welcome. How do you like to use social media, from a celebrity standpoint?
Danny Masterson: I love Twitter. I don’t Facebook. I started Facebooking six or seven years ago and I was like, “Oh cool, I can show friends my pictures.” But people can just search and request you. One week I had, like, a thousand requests from people I didn’t know. So I don’t have a “fan” Facebook page. I just have Twitter because I feel like I can say what I want to say, and if someone is saying something that’s not true you can respond instantly. I like to use my Twitter for cracking a joke or promoting a band or a film I’ve seen, or some art. I don’t like to tell people that I’m eating cheeseburgers. I use it more for work, mainly for my massive amount of Beethoven's 2nd fans which is a huge, huge population. I’m kidding!
PR.com: (Laughs) How do you plan to interact with your followers on Twitter once Men At Work starts airing?
Danny Masterson: I’ll just sort of let people know when it’s coming out, let people know when there’s a rerun, and let people know how it did, if it did well. If it did bad, I probably won’t say anything (laughs). I’ll probably post a couple of really bad reviews if we get some, just because that shit’s funny to me.
PR.com: And I have to ask you about this. You’re a working DJ in your spare time and you go by the moniker, DJ Mom Jeans. Why DJ Mom Jeans?
Danny Masterson: Honestly, mom jeans are amazing, and [Laura] Prepon and Mila [Kunis] used to have to wear mom jeans on That '70s Show all the time where you needed a wrench just to pull the zipper up, and the zippers were ten inches tall. And so I just sort of love the idea of mom jeans. My buddy was like, “Dude, ‘DJ Mom Jeans!’” And I thought it was a great idea.
PR.com: You have a funny sense of humor.
Danny Masterson: Thank you, I try.
PR.com: Are mom jeans a weird turn on for you? Do you like that sort of thing?
Danny Masterson: Oh, God no! It’s a turn off 4000%. But just the idea of how fantastic they are and how some of them have elastic waistbands. They’re fucking amazing! It’s the most unflattering pants a woman could possibly wear and yet it was the style of the 70s. And it’s definitely come back. You’ll see them in high fashion every once in a while. The elongated butt is not a good look but yet the designers keep making it.
PR.com: Let’s do a Men At Work round up question. What can people expect to see in the first episode of the show?
Danny Masterson: Full frontal.
PR.com: And exactly who will be showing this full frontal?
Danny Masterson: You’ll just have to watch and find out.
PR.com: That’s a good answer. I like that.
“Men At Work” Premieres May 24 at 10/9c on TBS.
Follow Danny Masterson on Twitter @DannyMasterson.