Interview with Brian Dietzen of "Congratulations" and "NCIS" - Primetime Article From The TV MegaSite

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By Suzanne

Brian Dietzen

Interview with Brian Dietzen of "Congratulations" and "NCIS" 6/27/13

This was a great interview! Brian seems like a really nice guy, very easy-going- and we had a great chat. He acts like any normal guy, not someone on the #1 hit TV show! His new movie "Congratulations" is a very good relationship comedy. He co-wrote the movie as well as stars in it. The movie is now out on Video on Demand. I really recommend it. Visit the Official Website

Here is the audio of our interview. I hope you enjoy it!

If the audio is not streaming well, please right-click on this link and save it to your computer. It should work better that way!

Interview part 1  Interview part 2

Here is the transcribed version by Gisele. - I will be going through it later and adding more if need be.

Suzanne: Your background has mostly been acting. How and why did you decide to turn to writing as well?

Brian: Well, I think, it's kind of an extension of acting. It's creating a script. It's moving forward and expressing some sort of artistic vision. I went to school at CU in Boulder, and even there, I loved reading scripts. I loved studying the classics, studying the masters, and that sort of stuff. And moving out here when I started writing with my friend Abby Miller, we wrote a musical together, a feature musical. We realized, shortly thereafter, that it would cost millions of dollars to make that feature, so we decided to try our hand at writing something on a much smaller subject, and we came up with "Congratulations."

Suzanne: I found the concept interesting because I've been married 31 years at the end of July, and when we got married, my husband didn't really care about marriage at all, but I did. We probably wouldn't have gotten married if we had stayed in the same town, but he wanted to go off to graduate school, and I said, I'm not going unless we get married first!  But that was 1982 and times have definitely changed, and people are less traditional, especially women.  Do you find that you have some unmarried friends that really don't want to ever get married, like Bridget?

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. I think, like you just mentioned, there's a different definition for marriage, and then with our country trying to even define it as in yesterday with ??? and the repeal of Prop 8. Our country's trying to define what marriage is, and this a story more about two people trying to define what it was just for themselves. It's a difficult thing for even two people to define between the two of them. We kind of see that this thing came from the nugget of truth with -- "I'm married. I have two kids, and I'm very happily married, and Abby is very happily not married but with her boyfriend -- so we decided -- and not that she opposes marriage, but it's just never been her dream to get married, so we decided to create two characters with these oppositional viewpoints, and put them in a room together and see what happens, and we came up with this storyline that Eric Levy and Juan Cardarelli came in and rewrote with us. So, really what happened was we were looking at a lot of our friends and realized that a lot of them were resistant to getting married, because a lot of the reasons for getting married in our generations, whether they be religious obligation or religious fulfillment or taxation, that sort of stuff. A lot of our gay friends can't get married. Oh, I suppose they can now, in this state. It really -- marriage took a back seat a lot of times when you didn't want to have children and that sort of thing. So, it was interesting to explore just to see a person that really valued it and really wanted that for his wife and a woman that says, "That's not something I've dreamed of and why can't we just be happy by saying we're together?" And it was an interesting question that we wanted to pose and see how two people can tear themselves apart over the question of marriage instead of having it bring them closer together.

Suzanne: It's an interesting generational difference, in a way. The only unmarried people I know are ones that couldn't find a mate - they didn't choose to stay single. 

Brian: Yeah, isn't that interesting? I would agree. I think that a lot of the people I know right now who are either in my parent's generation or even 10 years older than me aren't necessarily saying, "I just want to be single my whole life. You know, I think for the most part a lot of people do enjoy partnerships, whether they're married or boyfriend/girlfriend whatever, over their lifetime. It's just a matter of whether you're willing to stick it out, put the ring on, and say, "I want to for better or worse this thing." I think a lot of people nowadays in my generation certainly being raised by 50% divorced parents are saying, "Is this something I really want to roll the dice on?" It's a legitimate question. What's more depicted in the movie, I would say, is going to Jim's hometown is his mother's love for her husband and, obviously, what Jim saw growing up when the two of them were together. He wants what they had, and he kind of glorifies that in his mind. And you can really see through Bridget's sister not to value the marriage that her family has. Her sister is working in a bar, is divorced, not a great mom, and you see that's probably that tortuous past to her, you know? Sometimes it takes a while. I have a great close friend. He and his girlfriend were dating for 9 years before they decided to get married, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. It'll happen in your own time. He was definitely hearing it from his family. He was hearing it from her family. I think that the question of marriage in this generation is being taken a bit more seriously. "I'm not gonna do this when I'm 22 years old. I want to wait and see who I am as a person. I want to get my career set beforehand. I want to do a lot of these things before I get married to make sure I'm choosing the right person." You like to hope that that's the case.

Suzanne: I enjoyed Congratulations. I see from your interview with Independent Film Quarterly that you mentioned Prop. 8 as an inspiration for the movie. It must make you happy that Prop. 8 was overturned by the Supreme Court yesterday! Have you heard a lot of people in Hollywood talking about it?

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. It's pretty unanimous out here that that was a pretty bogus proposition. Any sort of proposition that seeks to take away civil liberties and rights from individuals, as opposed to protecting your rights, it got out of hand pretty quickly. To see the backlash against it and to see, also, how it was funded by so many conservative right-wing groups, and to see how so much of that money came from Utah, came from another state. You know, it was really infuriating to see that basically it was a political agenda to take away the rights of an entire group of people -- homosexuals. The way I see it is that I've never been able to help that I've been in love with my wife. I've never been able to help the fact that I want to be with her. If she were a different gender, and all of a sudden, I couldn't have some of the same rights that I have right now, I think if you put yourself in those shoes, and you say, "Oh, boy. I didn't think that, looking at my husband or my wife," it really puts a different spin on it. And you think, "Wow, I could live in a society that would inhibit me from marrying my wife because, I don't know, she's ??? It really is different when you look at it that way. We all live in the same world. We all need to have the same rights, and I don't think that the word marriage being linked to religion and the government and us saying who you should be able to marry and who you shouldn't, I think a lot of it is tied to religion and government, and it's not the government's right to say that. It all comes down to homophobia. You can guise it in any language you want but really what it comes down to is bigotry. I think that the overturning of Prop 8 is a strike against bigotry, and I think that's fantastic.

Suzanne: Why did you decide to end the film without letting us know whether they stay together or not?

Brian: I think it would have been a whole other movie. I think we would have told another 90 minutes, I'm sure; but also it's interesting. Different people will say different things to us after they watch it. Some of them will say, "Oh, I think it's so interesting that you had them stay together at the end." And other people will say, "Oh, it's too bad that they had to break up at the end." I think the ambiguity of it says more about the viewer than it does about the two. I think that the complexities of marriage, the complexities of this relationships, the complexity of any two people's relationship can't be defined by just a happy ending, you know? As you know, you've been married for so long, there are times of ups and downs, complexities within your relationship that are absolutely beautiful and amazing, and there are other things that are indescribable, but it's just quirks in communication and your relationship. And to try and define that for these two would be very hard to do, but also I think it's kind of fun to leave it up to the viewer and say "What do you think?" and "Where would you be two months after this happened with your boyfriend or with your girlfriend?" It definitely opens up the floor for a bit more conversation and debate, so it's interesting to see who people side with in this, too. We've had distinctly Jim audiences and distinctly Bridget audiences. So, it's fun. It's fun to see who people are kind of in their corner when watching.

Suzanne: Will there be a sequel, you think?

Brian: Nope. [Laughs] I doubt it. I really like movies that let you think where those characters are going to be right now, you know? Where are they now? I was just watching it five hours ago. Where are they five hours after the screen went blank, you know? Where are they a year after the screen went blank? I enjoy movies that grapple with the ambiguity of the ending. I feel like they both had a character arc. They both changed. And where they go and where they take you from there is kind of up to our creative imaginations.

Suzanne: Do you plan to write other movies?

Brian: Yeah, I'm writing one right now about fatherhood and it's not a similar tale to "Congratulations" but it is similar in the respect of saying what defines fatherhood. Who is a real father? Is it the person who shares the DNA and gives the sperm in the equation or is it the person that's around every day wiping bottoms and feeding a kid? So, it's kind of a tough tale to tell, but it's been very fun to write so far. I'm right in the thick of it right now, so I can't say too much about it, 'cause I don't know how it's gonna end. We'll see. It's very exciting. It's a similar kind of storytelling, I suppose, where it's not slapstick comedy.

Suzanne: Where can fans see the movie?

Brian: On July 30, we're going to be releasing it digitally, meaning that it will be on iTunes, Xbox, PlayStation, VUDU, YouTube. It'll be pretty much everywhere, a lot of VODs for cubicle ??? So, it'll be available on July 30 for rental or purchase. Once it goes from there, we'll see about negotiating some television contracts, and hopefully, it'll be hitting the airwaves on a TV channel within the next year, which would be great, but we definitely want to play out some of our digital VOD payment stuff first.

Suzanne: I love your work on NCIS, especially the scenes with Ducky. Why do you think the show is still so popular after all these years?

Brian: The characters, I think. I think the writers have done an amazing job in giving these characters a wonderful voice and wonderful relationships. I think the actors have not fallen asleep at the wheel at all. We've been trying to challenge ourselves to come up with great relationships each week, and I think that's one thing that distinguishes it from other television shows. Not that other shows don't have great characters when it comes to procedurals, but I think that most people that I talk to about NCIS say, "I just love the family, you know? Abby and Ducky and McGee and Ziva -- everybody together feels like a family. You can't have that without some pretty big characters.

Suzanne: It seems like most ensemble TV shows have at least one nerdy character. NCIS has 3 or 4. Who do you think is the nerdiest or geekiest?

Brian: Gibbs, I think. I don't know. I mean, it's interesting. Probably intelligence-wise, the most intelligent? You got Ducky and McGee and Abby, and Jimmy's pretty smart. He's not the brightest bulb, but he is pretty smart. But as far as social ineptitude, I would say Jimmy's probably the most socially inept, because he just says the wrong thing constantly, just trying to be fun and be light-hearted about a subject. As far as geekiness? McGee definitely does a lot of role play and a lot of video games, so perhaps him, although Ducky would be the original geek. The OG? But there's a bouquet of nerdiness on that show -- it's not just one single character. I think Jimmy got distinctly less socially awkward when he got married. He's the one guy on the entire show that's married. It's strange. He may be the most socially inept but, by the same token, he probably has the most normal home life of anyone on the show. So, it's a step up for the guy. My wife agrees that Jimmy's definitely the cutest one on the show. [Chuckles]

Suzanne: Speaking of nerds, will you be going to Comic-Con this year?

Brian: No, I won't. We're gonna be working. We're gonna shoot be shooting still, and I think they take down a couple of shows here and there. We had our swing at the plate a couple of years ago, so I think it kind of goes on a rotating thing, so "The Big Bang" guys might be going down this year, I'm not sure who is, but there'll definitely be a couple of shows of ours down there. We'll see.

Suzanne: Have you been before?

Brian: It was fun. It was such a cool place. I didn't go with CBS, though. I just went down because one of my friends said, "Do you want to go to Comic-Con?" He works as an executive at a studio and said, "Let's go. Let's go down and check it out and visit. As a fan, I grew up with comics. I love all of it, and it was really, really interesting. Really fun, and it was cool to see how it's become such a huge hub for movie making, television, and everything. It's become much less about little $1.25 numbers from 1995. It's not really about that anymore. It's about mass entertaining. It's pretty cool.

Suzanne: Is there anyone in the cast you're particularly close to?

Brian: Yeah. I was just out the other night with Pauley. We were at the Thirst Project. She was being honored for all of her work. The Thirst Project had a gala honoring her, and we hang out quite a bit. I was just out a couple of nights before that with Sean Murray's wife. We get together at a little poker game with some friends of ours, and then last week I was also out with David McCallum golfing. Yeah, I mean, we -- it's a pretty tight cast actually. I could definitely get together with any one of my castmates at any time. I actually just go play golf quite a bit as well, and just hang out. Over the course of ten years, there have been marriages, children being born, and all that sort of stuff. We've all been in one another's lives. We're not putting on for the cameras when we're in interviews and we're joking around with one another. We really do have a close relationship on that set -- something that's very happily unusual, you know? It doesn't come along very often, but we're pretty -- we all know we're blessed to have that.

Suzanne: I see that you have another movie coming out called "Karaoke Man". I'm fascinated by this one because I love karaoke!

Brian: That was actually the movie I did the year before "Congratulations." The executive producer of "Karaoke Man" who I was working with said, "I love working with you. If you ever have a script or a project you want help finding funding for, let me know." And I called her right then and there. I gave her the script for "Congratulations." "I want to do this." And she helped me and she did. She was the executive producer on our movie, Debbie Cooper. She helped us find a ton of the funding for the movie, so we're really, really indebted to her, and we're so glad to be working with her. But the movie "Karaoke Man" -- I didn't have any part in writing or producing that one. I just went and auditioned for it. It was a fun romantic comedy about a guy who's a comic book artist who is socially inept and awkward, a little bit Jimmy Palmer, and the way he gets out of his shell to impress a girl is by doing karaoke, but he dresses like a superhero when he does it. So, it's very light, it's very fun, and it has some really good actors in it, and we had a great time doing it that summer. I'm not sure where they're at. I had no hand in producing it or anything like that, so I'm not sure where they're at as far as releasing it. I hope it sees the light of day pretty soon. Hopefully, Debbie's made some good contacts with "Congratulations" and can get that thing out there as well.

Suzanne: Do you sing in the movie?

Brian: I do. I'm not a very good singer, though. It's really not a movie about ??? I sing a few different songs. It was fun. It was a fun movie to do.

Suzanne: Do you have any other forthcoming projects?

Brian: I have that movie that I'm writing right now about fatherhood. That's kind of the project that I'm working on right now. I just did a guest spot on a TV show for TNT called "Perception." I did that during the hiatus, as well. So those are a couple of things I've been working on. Other than that, I've been working on being with the kids over hiatus.

Suzanne: Besides NCIS what TV shows do you watch?

Brian: I can't wait for "Breaking Bad" to come back on. That's my favorite show. And I've been ecstatic that I've been eating up the new episodes of "Arrested Development," 'cause I was a huge "Arrested Development" fan when it was on. I was on the red carpet for an event for the television academy awards, and right next to me is Ron Howard. "Oh, my gosh. This is so cool." And I walked over to them, and I just had to say it, "People probably tell you this all the time, but I'm such a huge fan of "Arrested Development." I can't wait for it to come back on. He said, "We just came out with new shows. They're really, really good." "All right, that's so cool." So, those are probably my two favorites right now that I'm watching. There are a lot of great shows. I'm excited about a couple of new ones on CBS. "The Millers" looks really awesome. I saw some of that. The new Greg Garcia show with Will Arnett in it. I'm psyched to see what Matt Jones is bringing with the new show "Mom." Our guy Dorneget? Not his own show, but he's in a show, the new Chuck Lorre show, with Anna Farris. So, yeah, there's some good stuff coming up. My wife and I like "Dexter" as well. There was a period a couple of years ago where we were like, "Ah, it's the same old thing." You know, a little bit. And then I feel like they stepped it up this last year. I really liked the stuff that they had this last season. This next season I think is just gonna be crazy good. If you know the show is that good, you can kind of do whatever the hell you want to as a storyteller. There are no sacred cows, like you can just sacrifice anyone. I think it's gotta end in blood. I don't know whose, but the interesting part is that you know there's gonna be massive bloodshed -- you just don't know who it's gonna be. It's a good show. It's been a really good show.

Suzanne: Anything else you'd like to tell your fans about your new movies or your show?

Brian: I would like to tell them that on July 30, they should rent "Congratulations" or wait 'till August. Whatever you want to do. Wait 'till the first week of August. I think it's gonna be -- I'm hoping that I'll hear good things. It's always fun for me when I like watching a TV show, and then I see that actor doing a role that's very different from it -- on something else. I always really enjoy that, and I think this is kind of the opportunity for people to see that with me and my character. It's quite different than what I do weekly on CBS. This is a role that I just absolutely loved playing. It's been so awesome. And then this other role is something that's far outside of that, so it'll be neat to see if people can connect with that.

Brian's bio:


His story is quite interesting as 8 years ago he was called in to audition for a guest starring role on NCIS and 8 years later he just officially became a series regular  as the eccentric assistant to Dr. Mallard.   This season there is a lot in the works for his character as we left off wondering if he even got married.

Brian also completed writing, producing and starring in his own feature film entitled CONGRATULATIONS and has co-starred and appeared in several productions both on the big and small screen.   He has had a number of amazing roles on the stage, screen and television in just a short time.  He is married and lives in LA with  his wife and two beautiful children.

Main bio: Brian Dietzen is just a nice guy. Having grown up in Colorado, he is not your typical actor. He enjoys his role on the huge hit series NCIS playing the role of Jimmy Palmer, the eccentric autopsy assistant to Dr. Mallard. Brian was excited when he was asked to guest star on one episode and now eight years later, he remains an integral part of NCIS crime fighting team. But that is not the half of it.

Brian is also proud to be a filmmaker having just written, produced and starred in his latest feature film, CONGRATULATIONS. He and his writing partner Abby Miller wrote the movie in 15 months. The film’s financing came from a producer that Dietzen had previously worked with on the independent feature, KAROKEMAN. She became a huge fan and was so impressed with the script that she decided to invest in the movie. Having gone from screenplay editing in a mere 19 months and with the film currently in post production, Brian is already writing on other projects and continues to fulfill his passion as a filmmaker.

Brian started acting when he was just 8 playing an evil elf in a Christmas play and from his first appearance on stage no one was going to stop him. He attended Niwot High School in Boulder and starred in several classical plays before going to the University of Colorado to earn a BFA in their prestigious acting program. Starring in the critically acclaimed productions including WAITING FOR GODOT, EQUIS, DEATH AND THE MAIDEN and ALL MY SONS, to name a few, he then landed the regional premiere of ABINGDON SQUARE. Simultaneously doing several commercials, Dietzen joined the Colorado Shakespeare Festival performing in HENRY IV, HENRY V and JULIUS CAESAR.

Brian eventually moved to Hollywood and without a SAG card or an agent, was called into Patrick Rush’s office for the WB series MY GUIDE TO BECOMING A ROCKSTAR, produced by John Riggi of WILL AND GRACE and 30 ROCK fame. From there, his phone did not stop ringing. He immediately teamed up with Riggi for the two man show with writer Steve Rudnick (THE SANTA CLAUSE). THE OLDEST MAN IN SHOWBUSINESS received terrific raves. Brian then jetted off to Miami to work with Kelly Clarkson on the new Rob Iscove (SHE IS ALL THAT) movie FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY.

Dietzen was driven to return to the stage and formed the sketch comedy group “The Norm” with Kevin Rankin and Jill Farley, producing a live sketch show and a popular web series entitled COACHING LIFE. It was on a brief hiatus from “The Norm” that Brian was called in to audition for a one day guest starring role on NCIS as Jimmy Palmer. Eight years later, fans tune in to watch the distinctive way Brian helps uncover crucial information alongside Dr. Mallard during their autopsies.

Brian is married to his high school sweetheart and devotes as much time as possible to their two beautiful kids. When he is not on the set he loves golfing, playing and watching baseball, running every day, and writing. In addition, he still goes home to his native Boulder, Colorado as often as possible to spend time with his family.

You can see the trailer for "Karaoke Man" here:

Independent Film Quarterly interview

Entertainment Weekly interview

TV Guide info and cover photo and interview

Don't forget to check out our pages for NCIS, too!

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