Exclusive Interview: 'Big Shots' Star Joshua Malina
Exclusive Interview: 'Big Shots' Star Joshua Malina
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
In conjunction with our 2007 Fall TV Guide, BuddyTV will be publishing exclusive interviews with the stars of some of the hottest new shows this fall throughout the week.  Check back all this week for interviews with the actors and actresses of the new shows.

Joshua Malina gained fame and notoriety as that guy in everything ever written by Aaron Sorkin.  This fall, he'll be taking on a new role, that of successful CEO Karl Mixworthy in the ABC series Big Shots, premiering Thursday, September 27 at 10pm following the fourth season premiere of Grey's Anatomy.  Joshua spoke to BuddyTV about his new shows, his work with Sorkin on the brilliant Sports Night and The West Wing, as well as his love of poker and the baddest beat he's ever had.  Below you will find a transcript as well as the mp3 audio file of the interview.

Hi, this is John from Buddy TV, and we're talking to Joshua Malina from the new ABC series Big Shots. How you doing, Joshua?

I'm very well, how you doing today?

I'm doing great. Now this new show Big Shots, when I first heard the cast, it's an eclectic group of actors. You, Christopher Titus, Dylan McDermott, Michael Vartan. How do the four of you, who have such different styles, click?

Ah, that's a good question. I think the key to our chemistry is that three of us really like each other.

And who's the odd man out in that one?

Oh, that would be inappropriate to say. The three of us really get each other, really – no, I'm just kidding.  We are different. Michael Vartan and I go back a little bit, I produced the TV show Celebrity Poker Showdown that was on Bravo, and Michael played on it twice. So he and I have been poker buddies for a few years, and he and I get along very well, we're very similar.

Dylan and Titus, I just met the first day. Almost instantly in that very sort guy way, we were cracking at each other and sort of giving each other grief. That's sort of our way to become friends, it was sort of instant mass insulting of each other. Pretty juvenile, but that's how we broke the ice.

OK, this show is an hour long. Is it more comedic? Is it more dramatic? Is it one of those weird middle-of-the-road dramedies?

It is… I hate to say middle-of-the-road, that's sounds dull. It does exist somewhere in there, I would say I think if you were to ask Jon Feldman, who created the show, he would tell you that he aims...the aim is to be really funny, and while I think there are some real characters and some real story arcs and hopefully things are compelling, I think ultimately the real aim of the show is for the viewers to have a good time and it's largely a comedy.

I don't think it's an insult to say middle-of-the-road, because dramedies, I think some of my favorite shows are dramedies. You've done a lot of work...a lot of people would say The West Wing, at times it was one of the funniest shows on TV.

Well, that's true actually, I'm in complete accord with you. I always feel that Aaron Sorkin is an incredibly comedic writer, all of his characters are sort of inherently comic characters. So I do agree with you, even when the topic may be something very lofty or very serious, I still think he's really a comedy writer.

And a lot of the press for your show is calling it ‘Desperate Housewives for men,' and I'm wondering, do you agree with that assessment or not?

Interesting.  I think it certainly leaves it in that ballpark. I think I would make a subtle distinction, I think it would be more of a ‘Desperate Housewives focusing on men,' because I don't know that the show is really trying to be for men. I think men will enjoy it, but I think women are really gonna enjoy watching the show, and maybe even moreso than men.  I think the focus, the core group of friends in this show is male, as opposed to Desperate Housewives where it's female. But I'm not sure if it's a vastly different audience we're going for.

OK, and I'm just wondering, because your character, he has a wife and a mistress on this show.

As unlikely as that character would be portrayed by me, that is true.

That was gonna be actually my question, because you play a lot of nerdy, nebbish types. I'm wondering, how do you approach playing a character who is at least with two women, quite a ladies man?

Yeah, that's also goes back to….I've been married for 10-and-a-half years. When I first got engaged to my wife, the lovely Melissa, she admitted that her one hesitancy about marrying an actor was like kissing scenes and romance. I basically said “Honey, look at me. I'm never gonna kiss anyone on screen.”

And the next thing you know, I got my best friend Aaron writing for me, and so he's writing me pretty girlfriends. And the unlikely has happened.  As far as actually playing the part, I just sort of play what I've got. I don't worry too much about preparation, or is this guy nebbish, is he a nerd, I just sort of play the situation, and this is what I've been dealt.

Karl is a very, very rich CEO, and he's married to a lovely woman. But for some reason he's decided to cheat on her, and in the first episode he is, I think, already regretting what he's done, but he finds himself in a situation from which he's having trouble extricating himself. But for me, it's just fun, I love playing a character who's maybe a little bit dysfunctional, and exists in a morally confused or challenged zone.

Now your show has Grey's Anatomy as its lead-in when it premieres this September. That must make you feel pretty confident about the show's chances of success.

I certainly remember the moment. I'm a complete Internet geek, so I literally found out about the time slot searching online. I think I read it on variety.com perhaps, and I was utterly delighted. And yeah, I think, certainly it's a big vote of confidence from ABC, and I think a sign that they are confident in the show.

That being said, it's also a big spotlight, and so I think we've got to deliver pretty quickly. But I would certainly, if it were up to me, it's the time slot would pick. I feel ABC's really gave us their prime real estate, and so I'm certainly grateful for it.

Now you mentioned your involvement with Celebrity Poker Showdown earlier, which was one of my favorite shows.

Really? I'm very happy to hear that.

Every single time it was on, even if I'd seen it like five times, I'll just watch it again.

That's fantastic, I love that.

Is that completely dead? Is there a chance that it could be revived?

It is, alas, over. I think we did 42 episodes, it was great fun. My friend Andrew Hill Newman and I came up with the idea, and I like the idea of doing something along those lines again. We're talking about it, but I think in that incarnation of Celebrity Poker Showdown, it is, alas, no more.

And you're a big poker fan, so I'm wondering, what's the most you've ever lost in a single game of poker?

That's a good question. I think the most I've ever lost is about three grand. I mean, I certainly wasn't happy about it, but I don't play these people who play for tens of thousands of dollars. I've never had the bankroll to sort of play in gigantic games. I would never want to play.

I can't say that I've never played above my head, because there's certainly been some lean times when I was playing, and probably risking more money than I should have. But my biggest loss was at three grand, and one $2,000 pot of that hand. One $2,000 hand of that horrible evening, I lost to Hank Azaria when I was a 43-to-1 favorite. So that is my worst bad-beat ever. Of the 44 cards remaining in the deck, there was only one that would lose me the pot, and Hank Azaria got the fourth two.

That's got to hurt. And would you ever want to play in the World Series of Poker? Have you ever played in that?

I have not played in it. I'd like very much to, but again, I think nowadays it's like a $12,000 buy-in. Talk to me in two years, Big Shots is still on the air, I'll be playing in the World Series of Poker. I think what I'd like to do is, you know, you can go down go to Vegas in the days and weeks preceding the WSoP.  They have all these satellites where you can buy in for lesser amounts and try to win a seat, one of these days I'll do that. The real obstacle to my pursuit of poker is that I've got two kids, and so I can't see telling them "Daddy's going away for a couple of weeks, he's got to go play poker."  I used to play all the time, but now that I'm a daddy, I play far less frequently.

You also mentioned Aaron Sorkin earlier, and I think anyone who appreciates quality television knows that he is responsible for probably two of the greatest shows of the last 10 years, if not ever.

My money, he is the guy, I don't think it gets any better.

Exactly. And now, you appeared in everything he did, but you didn't show up in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. And I'm just wondering, why not?

I know, and I'm terribly sad that a record is broken. It's true, actually. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying, to be perfectly candid, I lobbied him hard. But alas, no,  I didn't make it, I would've done a cross in the background.

Just to keep it going.

Yes, well, no.  The truth is, actually, I don't really care about the streak or the record or whatever. I actually love his writing, and we're good friends, I couldn't be more fond of him personally, so I want to be in everything he does, just because I think everything he does is great, so I want to be part of it one way or another. But I couldn't wheedle my way onto this one.

And just lastly, I just want to ask, because I noticed this: you're on Big Shots, Felicity Huffman is on Desperate Housewives, Peter Krause is gonna be on Dirty Sexy Money. Is this ABC's way of atoning for canceling Sports Night?

That's fantastic, I love that. Yes, but they're only halfway there. We need [Robert] Guillaume, Josh Charles and Sabrina Lloyd on ABC, or they have not fully atoned. My feeling also is, if they get the other three, then we could talk about, let's get a two-hour reunion.

Don't even tease me about that, because that would make me unbelievably happy.

You and me both.

Check out our exclusive interviews with other stars of the new Fall 2007 TV season:
Tawny Cypress, from K-Ville
Jerry Minor, from Carpoolers
Bill English, from Cavemen
Crystal Lowe, from Bionic Woman
Oscar Torres, from Cane

 -Interview conducted by John Kubicek
(Image courtesy of ABC)