July 29--Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who have both played iconic TV characters, are joining forces for the new CBS comedy "The Crazy Ones."
Their roles are worlds away from their previous tours as "Mork" the alien from "Mork & Mindy" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But when Williams is involved, having a title like "The Crazy Ones" doesn't seem too far-fetched.
Williams plays a renowned advertising genius whose unorthodox methods would get him fired if he weren't the boss. He runs a powerful agency with his daughter (Gellar), who often questions her father's sanity while trying to make a name for herself in the advertising world.
Although Williams does bring his brand of kinetic comedy to the show, he stessed that it will not be a showcase for his improv acumen. He said he wanted to play a layered character.
"He's been though rehab and divorce, which I have been through," said Williams. "That was built into the character, which I responded to." He also stressed that he was pleased to be in an ensemble that would ground him.
"Pam (Dawber, his costar on "Mork & Mindy") held the line for me," he said, indicating that Gellar and other stars would serve the same function.
Added Gellar, "Robin cares about making everyone's stuff work." Executive producer Jason Winer added, "Improv is the icing but not the cake."
However, the show's creator, David E. Kelley, said he felt initially daunted by placing Willams in the center of a show that he had been developing and conceiving for several years. "It was like being handed the keys to a car I was ill-equipped to drive."
But he and Williams hit it off and worked out a system in which the cast keeps to the script for a few takes, and then they film a take in which Williams and his costars can be free to improvise.
"He likes the box and manages the box very well, and then he plays outside it," Kelley said.
During the session, Williams did riff a bit, injecting an Anthony Weiner joke and a rehab joke ("I went to rehab in wine country just to keep my options open.")
And although the Oscar winner has a busy movie career, he said he was grateful to be on TV: "It's nice to have a steady gig for so long."
Gellar, who has concentrated on more serious roles in the last few years, said she was excited to be in a comedy and to work with Williams. "This is amazing, a dream come true."
The pilot of the show revolves around the advertising firm being in jeopardy of losing its biggest client, McDonald's. Williams' and Gellars' characters scheme to persuade pop star Kelly Clarkson to sing a jingle for a new ad campaign.
Winer stressed that McDonald's was not involved in the show and received no compensation. Other names of products or companies may be used because they lend the show authenticity, not because of product placement.
"But if you look under your chairs, you'll find a Happy Meal," Williams quipped.
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