With their sharp thinking and irreverent courtroom shenanigans, Jared Franklin and Peter Bash won many cases in the first season of TNT's "Franklin & Bash," and the show won many fans and earned a second season.
A large part of the show's success is due to the playful chemistry between its stars, Breckin Meyer (Franklin) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Bash), who don't turn off the funny when they're not on set. Like when I ask Meyer about writing an episode this season, and Gosselaar teases his buddy that he gave his character more lines than he usually gets.
"I had a lot more lines," Meyer responds, laughing. "I had the funny stuff, too."
In the new season of the comedy procedual, which premieres at 9 p.m. June 5 on TNT, the lawyers' own success at the powerful LA law firm that recruited them last season will have them struggling to maintain their "fight for the little guy" values. But you can bet that inner turmoil won't keep them from the courtroom hijinks fans love.
Gosselaar and Meyer were in Chicago recently to talk about the show's success, how much of it is improv and what will happen to their characters this season. (I'll have more about the episode Meyer wrote in a later post.)
We're you surprised by how popular the show became in Season 1?
Mark-Paul Gosselaar: Yeah. We wouldn't be our humble selves if we thought that, you know, everyone was going to like the show as much as they did.
Breckin Meyer: I mean, yeah, pleasantly. No, I think we were happy that people liked it, honestly, as much as kind of we enjoyed making it. When we found out we got through to the second season we were really happy, 'cause we have a really good time doing it.
MPG: I don't know if it's us, but I was also surprised fans caught all the little nuances.
MPG: The things that we enjoy as fans of our own show, which sounds really pretentious but it's really not, but...
BM: But it does sound pretentious.
MPG: But we're such fans of our show and find little nuances in our show and then it just...
BM: That make us laugh.
MPG: And make us giggle and a lot of the fans picked up on those things. When we talk to a lot of them they usually express their appreciation for those kind of little moments, those asides and stuff that don't seem scripted.
But are they scripted?
MPG: Most of the time.
Really? Many seem so natural that I thought they were just you guys riffing.
BM: Yeah, there's a lot of that. We stick to the script and then there's usually one or two takes where they'll let us riff. It's usually the ins and outs. It's usually the buttons of the scenes you riff on and they change, just to keep it fresh with us 'cause we have such long days it's like we'll just--
MPG: It's a handwriting course. We stay within the lines and then at the end we put our little signature on there, you know?
MPG: It's like a little thing and that's how the whole show is.
BM: But it tends to work as it goes in line with the characters; it doesn't take you out of the show.
BM: That's the thing with like [doing] improv. If it takes you out of the show, it's like, yeah, it was funny but it's not what the characters would do. As long as it tracks with what the guys would do usually it makes it in the show. I don't know if you've seen the season, but [in the first episode] there's a Jimmy Stewart impression I do and [Mark-Paul] riffed on it. We just did that 'cause we were having fun. Honestly, we were having fun goofing off with the actor playing the other lawyer. And he sounded like Jimmy Stewart.
MPG: A lot of times we'll just do it one time. Someone says to us, "Oh, that was great. Keep it." And we'll maybe do four takes on a scene or an angle and we'll do four different endings or four different reactions.
BM: And just a riff every now and then. That Jimmy Stewart riff, I just started doing it 'cause this guy to me sounded like Jimmy Stewart so I goofed off with it and then Mark-Paul riffed in the way Peter Bash would, 'cause Mark-Paul knows exactly what Jimmy Stewart sounds like, but Peter wouldn't necessarily...
MPG: And it was just such a Peter/Jared moment.
BM: We were happy it made it in the show.
MPG: A lot of the credit has to go to the editors because there's so much weeding through [takes] and they know the tone of our show. We've seen shows of ours where they don't have any of the Jared-and-Peter riffing, or the episode's very static.
BM: We've seen early cuts where it just feels like a procedural show, a very normal procedural show. And then you see the same episode once our editors and producers have gotten through it and it's like, "Oh, that's 'Franklin & Bash.'"
MPG: "There it is. There's 'Franklin & Bash.'" A lot of credit goes to them because they know how much to give and when not to give, so a lot of credit goes to them.
Do you find the writers are more now sort of writing for you in ways?
BM: No, I think they've been consistent. They write Franklin and Bash.
MPG: They write Franklin and Bash. They don't write us. Ninety percent of the time we're doing their writing. Like I said, it's just at times where we can go off script and it's only for brief moments. We don't change a scene, but it's just for those moments where we can take what they've given us. We've not complained but we've said to them before, "You're not leaving us a lot to do here. If you want us to do something there's not a lot to do here. Maybe we should trim the dialogue or add this so that we can use it as a launch pad."
BM: Mark-Paul can play guitar bit, but the fact that Peter played guitar was in before [anyone knew], you know what I mean? That's from [creator] Bill Chais, who plays guitar. So it wasn't a Mark-Paul thing; it was a Peter thing, just coincidentally Mark-Paul was able to [play] and has been learning more and more as the show's gone on.
MPG: The basketball stuff, to is one of those things.
BM: Right. I'm a drummer and they've said like, "We could make Jared a drummer," and I'm saying "No, no, no. Don't make Jared a drummer." I don't want to play me, you know what I mean? We don't want to play each other. It's boring. We want to play these characters.
MPG: Play with each other, too. [Laughs.]
BM: [Laughs.] Yes, we like to play with each other.
All right. So any added pressure with Season 2 after the popularity of the first?
MPG: Yeah. We had pressure because throughout the season...
BM: Not put on us by anyone else. But by us.
MPG: I remember us always saying, "We got to make it even better." We had pressure. This has got to be better than the first.
BM: It's got to be better than season one.
MPG: Or at least in the same tone, but those places where we felt like we missed something [do better]. We would express that to the producers and they're like assuring us, "No, it's in there. It's fine. It's good." Like in the first season it felt like a lot of hot tub scenes and parties. It really wasn't, but that's how it felt in our heads.
BM: One of the interesting things about how we do the show is we wrapped in January. We're in June now, or almost in June now and we wrapped in January. I think the benefit for the team and kind of the game plan is that we do the show not while it's airing. So we're not adjusting it according to the audience.
MPG: That's tough.
BM: We're doing it in a vacuum, which I think is to the benefit of the show because it's like we know we're consistent with our show. We're not changing it, we're not listening to everyone; we're not changing according to what's on now. Is there a show similar? Do we have to alter it a little more?
You guys seem to be having a good time on screen. Is it fun at work, too?
BM: We still have so much fun doing it; it really is. It's so funny. Every time we finish in January I call Mark-Paul during the holiday and I'm like, "I want to do a couple more. Can we just do a couple more? I'm not ready. I'm not ready to be done."
MPG: I'll be watching the shows and I want to text these guys and say, "What a fucking great job." I really enjoyed it. It's just fun because it is exactly what it's supposed to be. We don't pretend to be anything else. The writers and the producers know exactly what show it is; it's a fun show. It's entertaining.
BM: And we all get along. It sounds so silly. Like the actors, the producers, all that. We just don't want anyone else to grow up. Kevin has a new show that he's producing as well and the first thing we were like the step kids who have like a new sibling. We're like, "Who the fuck is that? Well do you like them more?"
The major challenge for Franklin and Bash this season is that they become partners in the firm and they're struggling because now thay are the big guys they used to fight.
BM: I think that's the overall theme.
MPG: Yeah, that's the undertones in the season, but there are even bigger things we learn toward the end of the season: why they were actually hired in the first place. Stanton finally comes clean about the truths of why we were hired.
BM: Of why he brought in Franklin and Bash in season one.
MPG: And why he made them equity partners. We go back in time; we do a flashback in one of the episodes where you see them in their youths, as youths.
BM: [Laughs.] As yoots.
MPG: [Laughs.] As yoots.
BM: They don't know why they were hired; they don't even know there was any other reason until almost all the way through the season. In the beginning of the season, being made equity partners, their big challenge is how do you stay true to your values when now you're representing the guys you used to fight against, the man or whatever you want to call it. Big corporate giants. And they have to make rain. They got to bring in clients and bringing in hot dog vendors and whatnot is what we're used to. And suddenly having to bring in like corporate giants like the one Kevin Nelon plays. We're not used to like wining and dining the assholes. We're used to kind of fighting them.
MPG: It doesn't mean that episodes aren't funny anymore. The way that we combat the seriousness of what they have to accomplish in the firm is by humor. The more authority and the more that these guys are against the wall to conform, the more I think that we can be more Franklin and Bash.
BM: Yeah, that's when we have the most fun is when we're up against authority, when we're up against whether it's like a cop, whether it's the judge, whether it's a corporate jackass. That's kind of where the most fun for us as actors comes in 'cause that's when you let the guys do their thing.
Give me your pitch for the season.
MPG: It's bigger, better.
BM: I was about say, it's bigger than last season. It's bigger, better. One of us is hung.
MPG: Yeah. Bigger, better, and one of us is uncut.
BM: Yeah. It's pretty good.