Interview with David Denman and Liza Lapira of "Traffic Light" on FOX - Primetime TV Show Articles From The TV MegaSite
 

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By Suzanne

David Denman and Liza Lapira

Interview with David Denman and Liza Lapira of "Traffic Light" on FOX Tuesdays 9:30/8:30c starting February 15.

I did attend this call, but just as I was asking my question, my phone cut off. It had some technical problems.  How embarrassing, right? Ah, well. I did at least get to tell the two actors how good their show is. It's a rare thing: a situation comedy that is not only funny, but it sounds very real (like real people who are friends), and the people are likable and don't make you feel stupid. Anyway, this really is a good comedy, so you should watch it.

Final Transcript
FBC PUBLICITY: Traffic Light Conference Call With David Denman and Liza Lapira
February 3, 2011/11:00 a.m. PST

SPEAKERS
Kim Kurland Ė FBC Publicity
David Denman Ė Traffic Light
Liza Lapira Ė Traffic Light

PRESENTATION

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by and welcome to Traffic Light conference call with David Denman and Liza Lapira. At this time all participants are in a listen-only mode. In a moment we will begin a question and answer session and instructions will be given to you at that time. As a reminder, todayís conference call is being recorded.
I would now like to turn the conference over to Kim Kurland. Please go ahead.

K. Kurland: Hi, everyone. I just wanted to say thank you for participating in the call today and just to remind everybody that Traffic Light premieres next Tuesday, February 8th at 9:30 p.m. If anybody should have any follow-up questions after the call, feel free to e-mail me at kim.kurland@fox.com.
And, Cynthia, I think we can take our first question.

Moderator: Thank you. And we will go to the line of Danielle Turchiano with the L.A. Examiner. Please go ahead.

D. Turchiano: Good morning, guys. Thanks for doing the call. I wanted to talk a little bit about the relationship between the guys first because the three friends have such a strong camaraderie right off the bat. We feel like weíve known them for a long time. So, what is your take on where the women in their lives come in?

D. Denman: Well, Lisa has been around since college, actually. Weíve been dating for a long time, so she knows all the guys. I mean, Iíve known them a little bit longer. I think we all met in college. But Callieís character, sheís only been around for I donít know how long, not very long, maybe a year or so, so sheís a little bit more of an outside into the gang.
But youíll see in future episodes that we do do some flashbacks referring to some different things, like Lisaís got a really bad hair perm that we all had to comment on or not comment on.

L. Lapira: Well, I feel very much that Lisa is, well sheís obviously married to Mike and with Ethan and Adam itís almost a brother-in-law, sister-in-law relationship since essentially the four of us have been friends. Itís about the three guys, but Lisa has definitely been in the mix, as David said.

And I also feel, just on a character level, thereís something grounding about Lisa. Sheís kind of the, I donít want to say most normal, but I would say the most grounded in the group, which my boss likes to say isnít saying much, but she is.

Whereas with Callie sheís kind of like the firecracker thatís like the new information, so I think in that way the two women are very much pillars on the opposite side of the spectrum. And then, if we continue to make more, which weíre hoping we do, it will grow into more of an ensemble thing. It will always be about the three guys and their relationships with their women, but then there will also be story lines where it will be about a group of friends, all five of us.
D. Turchiano: Great. And in older, like more traditional sitcoms the married couple was always a very specific type and a lot of times the only way they would relate to each other would be maybe through bickering, you know, a fight at the beginning of the episode and it would be about getting back together.

Can you talk a little bit about how your onscreen marriage is different from that and if you relate to it at all?

D. Denman: Well, we did make a very conscious effort of trying not to do one of those couples. Both of our executive producers are very happily married and they wanted to make very clear that we are a happily married couple, that have problems and stuff that we work out and deal with, but we wanted to do it in as relatable and as realistic a way as possible.

We didnít want to do the old man is beaten down by his wife and so all those jokes that can come from that, which, frankly, for me is kind of boring and Iíve seen it a million times and I think that happens, of course, within the relationship at times, but at the core of it, theyíre very happily married and they are each otherísÖLiza help me out here.

L. Lapira: The otherís what, the otherís.

D. Denman: The otherís, Kevin Reilly said early on Ė heís the Head of Fox Ė that theyíre rivals.

L. Lapira: Weíre the adversaries?

D. Denman: Weíre the adversaries.

L. Lapira: Weíre the adversaries. I thought you were going to go with best friends.

D. Denman: Well, they are best friends, but they are also like; they have a mutual respect for each other and they both are very successful in their jobs and thereís not; I think they both think they run the house, but I think with any couple, well, I donít know if every couple is like that, but at least ours is.

And I think for me, I know this is a drama, but one of the most realistic couples that I ever got to see on TV was on that show Friday Night Lights and I thought they were such a great example of someone I would relate to as a couple and I like the idea of trying to create a relationship like that on a television show. And I think weíve tried to do that.
L. Lapira: I love that idea and I love that question because thatís what I think is special about; I mean, there are lots of different things about the show, the fact that itís tackling the friendships and the relationships aspect, but even within our specific ďarchetypeĒ of the married ones weíre not stereotypical.

I like to say we try to keep it hot. Weíre like this young, weíre still hanging on to being this young, sexy couple that we were in college. Itís just our circumstances have changes. Weíre Adam and Callie, five, six maybe ten years later, so thereís that remnant of heís the cute guy and Iím the cute girl and we certainly flirt like we like each other and we have banter like we like each other.

And when we fight we do go toe to toe, which I like. I think Lisa wins maybe 51% of the time, if not 50/50, but weíre pretty much evenly matched.

D. Turchiano: Okay, well thatís definitely different, so Iím looking forward to seeing more.

Moderator: Thank you. Next weíll go to the line of Amy Amatangelo with the Boston Herald. Your line is open.

A. Amatangelo: Great, thanks for talking to us today. I really appreciate it. I just wanted to ask you both a little bit about how the roles came about for you?

L. Lapira: Well, I was the last one in, so to speak, for the pilot. The guys had been cast first and itís a pretty straightforward story. I got called. I went in for the audition and then I came in for the test and thatís where I first met the lovely and talented David Denman and the rest was history.

It was hand in glove when I met the show creators and then when I met David and actually did the scene it was even more so.

D. Denman: For me, I had done a couple of pilots for Fox over the last few years and they had been very interested in trying to get me to do another show for them and I had met with Bob Fisher, the Executive Producer, and I really loved the script.

But, in all honesty, I was planning on doing a drama this year, but if I were to do a comedy it was going to be this one because I read a lot of scripts, a lot of other couple type shows that are on the air as well and this one seemed the most realistic and the most relatable. And it really felt like people that I knew and stories that I connected to. And then they offered me the job and I felt like it was ultimately the right move to make.

And I was so grateful that I did because I had the most amazing creative experience working with these guys and with this ensemble and the writers and the directors because it was a very collaborative effort and our executive producers made a big deal about basically improving whenever we felt like it, dialogue. We never really improved plot so much, but within each scene they wanted to make sure everything rang as true and as real as possible.

And so there was a lot of that dynamic and when we were casting Lisa I had read with a bunch of different girls and for me that was like, as important as it is the relationships, I spend most of the show with Lisa and it was imperative that we got the right mix. The second Liza came in, they had already read with Liza and met her. I was doing a show in Atlanta and I was flying back and forth and so I came back and the second she opened her mouth I was like, oh boy, okay. Weíve got something here.

Literally, it involved like I think most of our audition for the test for all the network executives and stuff and we immediately had chemistry. And it just works; she got the whole tone of the show, like immediately and when you talk about tone with things itís sometimes hard to really describe that to actors.

Itís like, oh, this is what it is and when you donít have to describe it and they just come in and they get it, itís so refreshing and Liza just nailed it from the get-go, so we were very, very excited.

L. Lapira: And Iím very lucky.

A. Amatangelo: And, David, weíve seen you on so many different shows over the past few years and you just even referenced Drop Dead Diva, where we saw you, but what feels different about launching a show and does it feel different pressure or anything different about being part of a show from the beginning?

D. Denman: You know, itís really actually incredibly exciting. Itís nerve-wracking, because you hope itís good and you want people to watch it, but Iíve done ten pilots and this, by far, was my favorite one and so I was really grateful that Fox liked it so much as well.

I was part of The Office from the pilot, from the get-go, and it is an amazing experience of really being with the show and watching it grow and evolve and most shows take a little time to find their feet and really start working on all cylinders. And I think our show, for the most part we started off pretty strong.

I think the show does get better as we go along because weíve already shot 13 episodes. But itís just the nature of any new show; you start to figure out how to write to the strengths of the people you have and how the show evolves. I find it incredibly exciting because itís a fun journey to go on and especially for all of us, like going to New York and doing the upfronts and even these interviews, talking to all of you guys.

Itís incredibly exciting because itís all really having been part of a bunch of shows that have done this, but not really being in the forefront of the main characters that have had to do this, itís really like a first time for me as well. Iíve gotten to watch from the sidelines quite a bit and Iím grateful to be part of the main crew thatís trying to get out there and promote it and kind of ride on their shoulders. It is a true ensemble.

I mean I know we focus a lot on the three guys, but the five of us really carry an equal amount of weight on the show so Iím really grateful for that because you could be in a situation where youíre just the main person and I think thatís a little bit more nerve wracking.

A. Amatangelo: And was there a reason you were thinking about doing drama this year instead of comedy?

D. Denman: I mean itís the old adage, everyone remembers the last thing you did and before I did The Office all the television I had done was drama. All the movies I had done were comedies and then after The Office it seemed like all the television I did was comedies and the movies I did were dramas. And I just felt like because of The Office being such a success and having, even though Roy wasnít the most funny character in there, but just because youíre part of that ensemble, the casting community people immediately think that you do improv comedy and thatís sort of your bag.

And I went to the Julliard School and studied classical theater and I have other talents than just doing improv comedy and so I wanted to make sure that people saw me in a different light. I figured that I would always be able to go back to do comedy after being on something that was successful at least in the casting community and that it might be nice to show a different color for people if I did a drama.

But Iím glad I did this because this actually, although it is a romantic comedy, itís a real romantic comedy. Itís not like your standard multi-camera sitcom, where itís come in, set up jokes, set up jokes, set up jokes; this really feels very real and realistic and we get to live in these characters, which creatively itís a much more fulfilling experience for me than to do like a standard Two And A Half Men or something where that takes a very different skill set, but, I donít know, I just find this more enjoyable personally.

A. Amatangelo: Great. Thank you so much, guys, for your time.

Moderator: The next question is from Troy Rogers from The Deadbolt.com.

T. Rogers: Hi, David. Hi, Liza. David, can you talk about Mike and what you like about that character?

D. Denman: One of the things I love so much, he is a solid, stand up guy and heís trying to be the best father, the best husband, and friend as he can be and in his attempt to do that he struggles sometimes with balancing all of those aspects of his life.

And he gets very caught up in the details about things. He is a lawyer and so I think maybe it is natural, but he definitely feels that there are rules to how you should do things and having been in a successful relationship sort of the longest, he definitely thinks he knows everything there is to know about relationships so heís the first person to give his advice, no matter how bad it is, to his buddies and anyone else, whether they want his opinion or not.

But, thatís a little bit about Mike. Heís very happily married and he loves his job and he loves his kid, but itís not easy to balance all those things and I think, for me, I used a couple of my close friends as examples of this, itís sort of a conglomeration of a couple of guys that Iím really close to that I see on a daily basis struggle to balance all those aspects of their lives.

T. Rogers: Okay, well you just mentioned that Mike is the one thatís been in the relationship the longest. How does he work opposite Ethan because he would be at the other end of the scale wouldnít he?

D. Denman: Yeah, I think one of the things we did; weíre not making a comment on where youíre supposed to be in a relationship, but weíre sort of commenting on different stages of relationships. But thereís really nothing wrong with being happily single and living the lifestyle you can live. And I donít think Mike would be very happy living like that and I donít thing Ethan necessarily would be so happy being married with a kid.

So, we definitely come at it from different perspectives and we sort of are the two opposites for Adam. Weíre the two guys on each shoulder giving him advice on what to do. But, yes, he loves Ethan. Theyíve been best friends since college and they give each other a hard time all the time, but I donít think Mike is trying to get Ethan to settle down.

He says it, but I think he knows in his heart of hearts that I donít think Ethan is really the type of guy to settle down.

L. Lapira: Just to piggyback on that, I think that was 100% well said in that itís not a comment on it, itís more of an exploration of kind of being happy at the state that youíre at. And, in fact, we have an episode solely dedicated to the three switching lives by accident and, you know, so Ethan decides to fall in love for a day.

So, for a full day he goes through marriage. Adam and Callie take care of the kid, so they kind of mimic our lives and Mike and I escape to a spa as if weíre the newlyweds. And at the end of the episode, you know, moral of the story, after all the laughs is that we are just where we should be. We are happy at this exact stage that we are at and we donít want to switch lives.

T. Rogers: Okay, awesome. I have one more quick thing for Liza. Since itís Mike, Adam and Ethan together does Lisa kind of side with Callie, or how does that work?

L. Lapira: You know, you would think that, the boys against girls. But what I like about our show is the shades in between, the nuances, because the truth of the matter is sheís closer to the guys, she grew up with the guys just like Mike did. We all met in college.

I also like that we explore kind of the brother-in-law, sister-in-law relationship. Thereís an episode where I advise Ethan on how to get his mojo back and if we were to continue there have been discussions of me maybe being the go to when Adam sets things up with Callie. So, Iím close with the guys and itís never, ever that sitcom trap of oh, Mikeís out with the guys, Iím so mad.

If anything, Iím like can I come, too? Can we get a sitter, I want to come, too. So, with Callie we did touch upon, towards the latter episodes, we touched upon a friendship, a burgeoning friendship with she and I and I think thatíll only enrich the overall theme of trying to find time for friends, trying to find time for yourself, trying to find time for your relationship. If anything it will just enhance the group dynamic and the theme of the show, which is like just trying to balance it all.

T. Rogers: Okay, great. Good luck with the show, you guys.
Moderator: Thank you. Our next question comes from the line of Suzanne Lanoue with TV MegaSite. Please go ahead.

S. Lanoue: Hi, thanks for talking with us today. I really enjoyed the pilot and really agree with what you said about how itís being realistic and unpredictable, which is rare in a TV show, and funny. Itís very rare to have all three at once.

L. Lapira: Iím sorry, I keep hearing these beeps. What did she say?

Moderator: We lost our connection. We will continue on down the line from Daedrian McNaughton with Premiere Guide Media. Please go ahead.

D. McNaughton: Hi, guys. Can you hear me?

D. Denman: Yes, youíre cutting in and out a little bit, but I can hear you.

D. McNaughton: Can you hear me better now?

D. Denman: Yes.

D. McNaughton: Okay, can you relate in your personal life with the upcoming episode where Mike was having sort of me time and he was totally unaware that his wife knew what was going on? Itís the sort of common mistake men do make in relationships. Is there any way that you can relate in your personal life to this?

L. Lapira: Relate to, Iím sorry, just to clarify, relate to the need for alone time or the need to hide it?

D. McNaughton: Yes, the need to hide it. Where they think the wives really donít know any thing about it.

D. Denman: I think Mike falsely sometimes thinks itís better for him to hide information from Lisa because he then wonít have to maybe necessarily deal with things. Like, for instance, you know in the pilot episode heís hiding in a car and saying heís stuck in traffic so that he can swatch Iron Man on a DVD player.

And the reality is, the second he comes home from work heís on a second shift with being at work with the kid, not that Lisaís not doing the exact same thing, so I think he probably would get more mileage out of just communicating and telling his wife that he needs this or that, but I think Mike is trying to; itís easier for him to just avoid the conflict by making up these little white lies to try to have a little more time. But if he were just honest about everything we wouldnít have conflict and then the comedy wouldnít come in. So, I think he definitely needs to screw up a little bit with his ideas of what he thinks he can communicate.

We have a couple of episodes where Mike screws up pretty bad in his need for thinking that heís controlling information and keeping the relationship happy and, in turn, it makes it ten times worse, but I think that happens in any relationship.

L. Lapira: Absolutely and it happens both ways. I donít think itís restricted to sex as much as guys alter information or maybe donít present the whole truth. Itís kind of like a self preservation thing and what David said about trying to avoid an argument.

I think girls do it, too. Lisa does; Lisa has her chocolate shake time that she doesnít tell Mike about. Callie wants to get away from Adam when they move in, too, and she creates a lie to be like oh, I have this responsibility, I canít hang out with you.
So, Adam even says it in the pilot, we all do stupid stuff, when we all try to control the information and the joke of it is, and we even explore it in the pilot, is that we know. For example, Mike is doing that, stealing away 15 minute chunks in his car to avoid the immediate being put to work and Lisa is hip to the game and sheís not even calling him out on it, like sheís mad, like, hey, why are you doing that?

Sheís kind of like, yeah, I know youíre doing this, but, honey, Iíve got to go for a jog now. So, take the kid, you know, you guys can watch Iron Man in your car together and Iíll be back in a half an hour. I think a less smartly written sitcom would make a whole episode about how he lied and she found out.

But we kind of just breeze through it, like, yeah, babe, I get it, but I need my me time, too, so Iíll see you in 20 minutes. And itís realistic and funny to me.

D. Denman: One of the things that we donít do is, you know, people give this advice all the time in relationships, donít sweat the small stuff and we donít sweat the small stuff, although Mike gets very caught up in the details about the small stuff and that creates plenty of conflict.
D. McNaughton: Most actors accept roles that are somewhat similar to their personalities. Who do you see in this role, in particular, and were there any similarities in your personalities? For both to answer.

L. Lapira: So, Iíll go first. There are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. Iíll start with the differences, just because theyíre so vast. Sheís wonderful in terms of being in a committed relationship. Sheís very stable. Sheís one who handles the responsibilities of life, i.e., a child, being a wife and mom, being amazing at her career and can balance it very well. Again, of the group I think she does the best or the second best or sheís up there in terms of the job that she does doing it, which may or may not be saying much.

Whereas in life Iím less of a super human. I donít think I do as well as she does. Where weíre similar is that, you know, sheís a smart ass and she gives as good as she gets and what I like about Lisa is she leads with being a lady, whereas maybe Callie is more of a firecracker and is more expressive of it, I think Lisa has those elements in her, but she leads with being a lady and so sheís nice and grounded until sheís not. Meaning once you mess with her kid, then it comes out.

Or, if youíre competitive in sports, then it comes out. Or if sheís having a battle of wits with her husband about a GPS, then sheíll roll her sleeves up and go for it, but I like that she doesnít lead with that, but I also like that when the situation calls for it sheís quick to go there. And I love, love, love the banter she has with her husband and just in life.

Sheís very quick witted and, as I said, gives as good as she gets. And sheís very flirty with her husband. I think thereís also an element of still wanting to be a girlfriend, that old adage or clichť, hey, even though youíre married youíve still got to be his girlfriend or heíll go get a new one, which is a joke.

But I think thereís something about her that these are two people who are definitely still attracted to each other and thatís not a TV vice. I actually watch all my married friends and they still flirt Ė at least my friends that are in healthy relationships Ė theyíre still flirty and theyíre still the same kid. Theyíre just older now and have responsibilities, but theyíre still in their heart, theyíre still that kid, theyíre those kids that fell in love.

D. Denman: Well, Iíll say from my perspective of Mike, Iím not married, I donít have any kids, Iím not a lawyer. I donít have a lot of those things, but personality-wise, I related to all of these guys, to be quite honest. It seemed like my group of friends that I hang out with. I could name five deep in every, in a huge character of friends of mine that are just like these guys. And that was very intriguing to me because I wanted to tell stories about people I related to.

I hope I donít get as wound up as Mike does, but I think there are moments where I do get upset about the details when I feel there is something unfair in the world, but I try not to let it consume my life, like it can do to Mike at times.

But there are some similarities, but you also have to understand that as the show goes on the writers start to write to things, aspects of charactersí personalities that they find funny or interesting that they just start to meld because we spend so time together. So, there will be little isms that come in that we donít even realize it that theyíve started writing, they just start putting in the script.

And, in addition, we do do a lot of improv within these characters, with banter with each other and so a lot of that stuff comes out from us. So, there are definitely some similarities. But, truth be told, no actor likes to think that theyíre just playing themselves on television. So, hopefully, I donít think I was like other characters that Iíve played, to be quite honest, and I think this guy may be closer to me in personality than even Roy on The Office or Tony on Drop Dead Diva, other things that Iíve done. So, in all fairness this character is probably closer to me than those are.

D. McNaughton: Well, thank you guys so much.

Moderator: Thank you. And with that, Iíd like to turn the conference back over to Kim Kurland. Please go ahead.

K. Kurland: I just want to, again, thank everybody for participating and if anyone has any follow-up questions, just shoot me an e-mail. But I think thatís a wrap on that, so thank you so much.

L. Lapira: Thank you so much.

D. Denman: Thanks, everybody.

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