First off I have to say, I could barely make it though the interview - these two had me laughing so hard, and you'll see why. But also, actors Malcolm Barrett (Lem) Jonathan Slavin (Phil) are extremely supportive of the new series. Plus, it sounds like there are five more episodes out there waiting to be viewed, including episodes featuring A.I. computer fights and octo-chickens. I truly hope Better Off Ted gets renewed over at ABC, even if only for additional Phil and Lem dance-offs. Tune into the season finale this Tuesday- and support the best new geek-friendly series.
What's it like being the breakout stars of a new series?
Barrett: Aw, thank you. We had no idea that was what we were. We just found that out, so thank you.
Slavin: We think we're like the bastard step children, so thank you. [Laughs] No, I think Malcolm and I think we're very lucky, in that we get to play these characters. We're not responsible for carrying the giant story lines, and so we just get to play and have some real fun. Malcolm and I have known each other for a long time, but don't tell him. I feel really lucky that I get to work with him. He makes me a better actor, because of how hard he works and how much he brings to the table.
Barrett: Oh, stop it.
Slavin: You stop it, and while I can't abide him personally and the gingivitis is out of control, I do like working with him on set. [Laughs]
The best thing about you two, besides the comedy, is you both get to get your hands dirty at Veridian Dynamics, what's been your favorite experiment or mad science creation thus far?
Barrett: I was in a jet pack! That was my favorite, going up in the jet pack it was like a roller coaster ride. That was the highlight of the season for me.
Slavin: I guess my favorite, this is so Kumbaya of me. Because I'm a vegan I like the concept of being able to grow beef without cows...
Slavin: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you because Malcolm was judging me so loudly.
I was wondering, what experiments did you guys shoot that we haven't seen yet?
Slavin: Oh sure, there are whole episodes that you haven't seen yet. We spliced plant DNA with fireflies to make fire flowers.
Barrett: You did a fire squirrel.
Slavin: Oh yeah that was an accident though. What else... the octo-parrot... no, chicken, right?
Barrett: There is an octo-chicken.
Slavin: There's a bio-computer that is half organic living matter and half computer, and its leaking some kind of goo because it has a bio-ulcer.
Barrett: We have to fight the bio-computer. We're bringing it. We're bringing the funk, okay?
What else for Phil and Lem. Are we going to delve more into your characters?
Slavin: I think always. They keep creating situations they seem to enjoy writing for us, and giving us new situations all the time. Phil sort of has this bizarre unrequited love thing for Veronica, that keeps coming up again, and again. Lem goes on his little date, which is the most precious thing you ever did see.
Barrett: We find out little secrets behind Phil and Lem's relationship.
Slavin: There are a few secrets and lies that are going to be uncovered.
Barrett: We'll end up finding out that one of them is lying about something to the other.
Slavin: Which, of course, is the ultimate betrayal.
Barrett: It's an ultimate betrayal in romance.
What's it like working with Portia de Rossi? She's got amazing comic timing, and you guys seem to fit right in there with her.
Slavin: Portia is great. She's incredibly generous as an actor. She's really fun to be around, and work with as an actor. She's so funny, and it seems like she's so effortlessly funny. She's not afraid of just plugging right in with you and delivering, giving you as much as possible so you can react back. She's great.
Barrett: Whenever the camera is turned away from her she gets a stand-in. [Laughs].
Slavin: She does not, he's lying. Whenever I'm talking to Lem and you don't see him its tennis ball on a stand.. [Laughs] Noo, its a great cast, great cast.
Do you guys ever improvise anything on set, any of your great moments?
Slavin: No they don't like that.
Barrett: They're not big fans of improv at all. And I think it's because the rhythm is so specific, to just try and throw things in without sort of knowing breaks things up too much. It can kind of derail the train. Although I'm always willing to derail the train.
Slavin: The show has a very, very specific tone and they work really hard to write it.
Barrett: If it sucks more, its because I free styled more.
Slavin: It's hard to improve on the script.
What are the chances for another season, are you guys feeling positive about a new season?
Barrett: I feel positive. We've got a bunch in the can, the network's been behind us. They are pumping us now, so folks will watch the season finale. So we've got a good chance. I'm a pessimist, I don't see nothin' until it happens. I don't trust nobody until the puddins' in there.
Slavin: What, pudding? Are you talking about pudding?
Barrett: But that's because my Dad left me.
Slavin: Aw I wish you could see us right now, because I'm holding him.
Barrett: But yeah, it's not ABC's fault...
Slavin: I'm not the most optimistic person either, and yet I am hopeful about this show. I feel like we have a good shot. ABC has been very supportive of us. They like what we're doing creatively. They've been real upfront about that. You know, we're getting great press from people like you, saying that this show started out great and gets better and better. People are finding it. I think the trick is not to make people like it, the trick make people watch it once, and then they'll come back.
Barrett: Plus I have pictures of Steve McPherson naked, so... he doesn't want that out.
Slavin: Well played, well played.
How many episodes do you have in the can for a possible next season?
Slavin: We have five episodes, I think, that have not aired that we shot this year. And they're great. They picked these seven or eight that we aired, because it was an abbreviated season.
Barrett: It was an abbreviated season, so we wound up showing an abbreviated amount of episodes, so we still have some left. That will hopefully get used.
Slavin: You think, add that to an order next year and you have a full season.
I feel like your fan base is growing. Are you getting recognized on the street yet?
Barrett: Yes they are, I was at a restaurant and somebody said, "Are you that dude?" And I said "yes I am," and she said, "I love the Chappelle Show."
Slavin: Wow. [Laughs]
So if you could dream up the next product to come out of Veridian what would it be?
Barrett: More jet packs.
Slavin: What would I want to see happen...oh...hmmm.
Barrett: [Interrupts] Something that rescues animals...
Slavin: I know right? A cure for intolerance. [Laughs] Ah that's so who I am, it's so not funny. I'm so crunchy granola, I'm so bad. A home for every unwanted kitten. A uni-goat.
Barrett: I would love one of those.
Do you have to learn all the scientific terms you guys say on the show?
Slavin: Oh my god, always. Unless they add things at the last minute, then I have no idea what's happening.
Barrett: As an actor you want to know what you're saying, unless they add stuff and you can't do anything about it. But I feel like they don't always know. I mean they'll know, and do their research, but I'll ask, how do you say that? And they say, "I don't know." It was ooplasm.
Slavin: Ooplasm. We had to have a discussion about the ooplasm cultures versus the cytoplasm cultures. We had to do a lot of work to find out how we were going to say it.
Barrett: No one could agree on how to say ooplasm.
Are either of you like your characters or find yourself in similar situations?
Barrett: I think there are aspects of us in the characters. In a future episode you see Lem go on a date. And I think a lot of how, as cocky and arrogant as I am, a lot of how he interacts with her is how I interact with women to an extent. I went to a Math and Science [school], so I know what it's like to be "the nerd." So yes, there is a bit of me in there.
Slavin: Totally. I'm not as emotional as him, because I've learned to shut down, but I mean certainly, I'm very, very passionate about the things I believe in, similar to Phil. And I'm pretty awkwardly afraid of large groups of people in a way that Phil would be as well.
Barrett: Yes, Jeff and I have weird social anxieties that you probably won't be able to pick up on.
Do you think that we're in a new era of geekdom, since you guys are receiving most of the praise for your work on the show, clearly the audience is loving the two scientists.
Barrett: I don't know. I hope so. I like nerds.
Slavin: It's really fun not to have to ever think about being "the pretty" on the show. You know what I mean? I think that smart is sexy, and driven is sexy and passion is sexy and if you're passionate about Math so be it.
If you haven't seen them on Better Off Ted yet, catch a few video highlights below, and make sure to tune in tonight on ABC at 8:30 PM.
The Break Up And Make Up
Phil And Veronica