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Interview with John Ratzenberger of "Legit" on
FX NETWORKS: Legit
March 7, 2013/10:00 a.m. PST
Stephanie Kelly, Host
Moderator Welcome to the Legit Conference call. At this
time, all parties are in a listen-only mode. Later we will
conduct a question and answer session. Instructions will be
given at that time. As a reminder, this conference is being
I’d now like to turn the conference over to our host, Ms.
S. Kelly Hi, everyone. Thanks so much for joining the
conference call with John Ratzenberger, who plays Walter on
FX’s comedy, Legit, that airs Thursday nights at 10:30. John
makes his debut in tonight’s episode as Billy and Steve’s
dad, Walter. Without further ado, let’s start the Q&A.
J. Ratzenberger Can I ask a question?
Moderator You sure can.
J. Ratzenberger I don’t have one. I just wanted to know if I
can ask one.
Moderator You sure can. We’re going to our first question …
the phone line. It’s going to come from Amy Harrington with
Pop Culture Passionistas.
A. Harrington I’m actually calling along with my sister,
Nancy, who’s my writing partner. We’re calling from Burbank,
but we’re Boston girls originally, so we have an affinity to
you to begin with.
J. Ratzenberger Thank you. Boy, it’s getting hammered with a
lot of snow this weekend, right now I think.
A. Harrington Yes, it’s been a brutal winter; not good.
J. Ratzenberger I know.
A. Harrington We tell … to move here and they don’t listen.
We can only do so much. We were wondering if you could just
start by telling us a little bit about the part you’re
playing and why you wanted to get involved with Legit.
J. Ratzenberger Well, they sent me the script and I read it.
I thought, “Oh, this is really politically incorrect”; and,
I thought, “Oh, but it’s really funny.” You know, the
political correctness is; it’s really choking the life out
of our civilization, I think. To have something like Legit
come down the pike and say, “Hey! It’s okay. You can laugh.
You can relax and laugh.” I was impressed with that. So, I
showed up on set, went to work and loved every minute of it.
A. Harrington That’s excellent. Speaking of political
correctness, we were really interested in hearing a little
bit about M.O.S.T. and your work with that. Can you talk a
little bit about that?
J. Ratzenberger Sure. M.O.S.T. is a program. It’s Mobil
Outreach Skills Training. What we do is we pull up our
trailer trucks that are outfitted as classrooms with
computers. We put people to work. We do it the opposite way
that it’s normally done. We’ll go to a company and we’ll say
to the company, “What do you need?” They’ll say, “We need
ten welders and five CNC machine operators,” and maybe some
other things. We say, “Okay, yes.”
Then, we look for the people; they come to us right at the
parking lot of the factory and watch some of the programs,
and guarantee the job. We’ve put over 1,000 returning vets
back to work in the last year. So, we go anywhere in the
Moderator Our next question’s going to come from Jamie
Steinberg with Starry Constellation.
J. Steinberg I wanted to let you know that Bob Pearlman from
the Diabetes Research Foundation ….
J. Ratzenberger … so you’re calling from Florida?
J. Steinberg Yes.
J. Ratzenberger It’s all nice today. What a good man.
J. Steinberg Is there anything you’ve found particularly
challenging about this role, or maybe something that you
added to it that wasn’t originally scripted for you?
J. Ratzenberger My calling card is that I always add things.
I always look for what’s not on the page. I look for the
laughs between the words. So, when they hire me, they know
that’s what they’re getting in. My biggest challenge is
staying away from the donuts. Because Jim Jefferies and Dan
and D.J. are such quality actors to work with, it’s a lot of
fun. It’s like being in a sandbox. They make it fun. So, no,
there wasn’t any agitation, no.
Moderator We’ll move on to the next question. It will come
from Karen Moul with SciFi Vision.
K. Moul Every Wednesday night, I play on a trivia team at
the local bar. Last night, the quiz master asked us to name
the only actor who had been in all 11 Pixar films.
J. Ratzenberger I know the answer.
K. Moul I bet you do. I was wondering if you could tell us a
bit about your long association with that company and what
it means to you.
J. Ratzenberger Well, it was 18 years ago that I started
working with Pixar. The first Toy Story came out about 16
years ago, so my first meeting with them was 18. It’s sort
of like getting the brass ring on the merry-go-round twice.
The first one was Cheers and all of a sudden, these fellows
from Northern California give me a call. They wanted me to
put my voice to a pig. I really like these guys: John
Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Darla Anderson. I thought, “What
fun people they are.”
I think the … phrase is high standard. They start with a
high standard and they stick to it. They never lower their
standards. That’s why Pixar is Pixar. So, my association
with them has been nothing but a blessing. It’s been nothing
but good because to be associated or work with or work for a
company, whatever you’re doing, whether you’re making brake
linings, pencils, or animated films, if you have a high
standard, that lifts you. That makes you work harder and
better and smarter. It’s been a joyous ride.
K. Moul Since you have been such a long time partner with
them, I would expect to see you in the next film. Are you a
part of creating any of those characters? Do you come to
them with ideas or how do you work together?
J. Ratzenberger No, my philosophy, whether it’s in this
industry or out of it, is if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I
just leave it as it was right from the beginning because
they do a good job. So, I don’t stick my nose into where it
doesn’t belong. If I’m asked, certainly, we’ll have a
discussion about this or that or what the character should
do or what the lines should be. But, otherwise, no; I let
the captain steer the ship.
Moderator Our next question will come from Kristyn Clarke
with Pop Culture Madness.
K. Clarke I’m curious. You have a wide experience with
comedy acting. Do you think there’s a formula for good
J. Ratzenberger A good formula for what?
K. Clarke For good comedic TV.
J. Ratzenberger Comedic TV? Is that as opposed to comedic
stage work or being funny on a school bus?
K. Clarke Yes, exactly.
J. Ratzenberger For TV specifically, no I don’t know that
there’s a formula. I know there’s a formula when you’re
filming it and when you’re writing it. But, actually making
it funny is...the old expression, “If it’s not on a page,
it’s not on a stage.” The writing is the most important
part. If you ever noticed with Cheers and Legit, they’re
very similar in that you never see the joke coming. With
most TV comedies, you know what the joke’s going to be. You
can see it three pages away, but with Legit, you don’t see
it coming. That’s what I like about it.
K. Clarke Do you have dream role that you would like to take
on one day that you haven’t yet?
J. Ratzenberger A dream role? I’d like to be a tugboat
captain, because I like tugboats.
K. Clarke Why is that?
J. Ratzenberger Well, I grew up near a shipyard. I’d watch
the tugboats come in and out at all times of the day and
night, in the middle of blizzards. These tugboats would just
all of a sudden appear through the storm. I thought, “Wow!
How cool is that? They just never stop.” So, I guess it’s
just part of me. That’s why I like going out to sea. I spend
a lot of time on boats and things like that. I’d like to do
a whole series as a tugboat captain. So, if you can arrange
that, let me know.
Moderator Our next question’s going to come from Michael
Gallagher with stayfamous.net.
M. Gallagher As an actor, what keeps you coming back to take
on new projects like Legit? What’s your biggest motivation
for doing what you do?
J. Ratzenberger The bottom line is if you can do it in life,
I mean how lucky we are in the acting industry, first of all
to be in it, and then, secondly to make money at it. Really,
the trifecta is if you can enjoy it and have a good time.
So, it’s laugh, make money or, make money and laugh.
If my job description is someone who gets paid to go to work
and laugh, I don’t know if there are many people on Earth,
living or dead, that is more blessed. That’s what keeps you
coming back. It’s such a joy to be in and amongst people who
are creative and someone’s writing me a check at the end of
the week, saying, “Okay, go buy some Melton shoes.” It just
doesn’t get better.
M. Gallagher Do you think you’re more choosy when it comes
to roles at this point in your career? Or, are you still
willing to take some chances?
J. Ratzenberger Taking chances? I don’t know about taking
chances. My bottom line was when I read the Legit script, I
laughed. I thought, “Boy, this is really politically
incorrect. But, man, is it funny.” So, if I laugh, and I
don’t think I’m any different than anyone else as far as
sensibilities, if this is done right, if everybody else does
their job, and the editors and the music people and the
director, this is going to be good. It turns out that it is.
Moderator Our next question is going to come from Sammi
Turano with TV Grapevine.
S. Turano You’ve been acting so long doing comedies,
anything else on your bucket list? You’ve already done
dancing and writing. Is there anything else that you want to
try that you haven’t already?
J. Ratzenberger Yes, the dancing part. I like to dance.
Maybe I was born too late. But, that era of Hollywood where
you were expected, if you were on stage, to be able to sing,
dance, act, to have all those skills. If you look at the old
movies like James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, that was an
actor. He could be a tough guy; he could be a tap dancer. I
wouldn’t mind doing a show where they got back to the tap
S. Turano If they were to have a Cheers reunion, where would
you see Cliff now?
J. Ratzenberger Well, the backstory of Cliff. I would say,
let’s see, that was how many years ago? Okay, ’93. So, the
beginning of the end to that, Cliff would have started a web
site called “Ask Cliff” where you could ask him any question
in the world, and which he then sold for $63 million
dollars. Then, he just spent all that money on stupid
things, stupid inventions, and people, and traveled to
places nobody wants to go. So, now he’s broke. He’s working
part-time in the UPS store and it’s driving him crazy.
That’s what I think his back story is.
S. Turano I absolutely love it. Thank you, and by the way,
your book is so inspirational. I hope there’s another one in
J. Ratzenberger You know, my daughter’s been asking me to
write another one. She said, “Daddy, you’ve got to write
your story.” My journey when I left home at an early age and
ended up living in Europe for ten years—while I agree it
would be a good story, it’s just finding the time and the
space to do it in, but maybe one day.
Moderator Our next question will come from the line of Karen
Moul with SciFi Vision.
K. Moul At this point in your career, you’re able to really
work steadily on some shorter term projects whether it’s
guesting on the … or the Pixar stuff or whatever. Would you
consider a return to being a series regular or even
anchoring a show? Are you more comfortable with the way
you’ve been working lately?
J. Ratzenberger I like doing series. With the advent of
reality television, the demographics that the networks
always insist that they have to follow, the amount of really
good show on TV are going to be less and less; that’s why
doing Legit is such a treat because it’s a good show. But,
the networks are really going to have to start playing
catch-up with cable because you’ve got people running the
networks that really don’t understand the social media and
what we’re doing now today, bloggers and the power of the
internet. Once they catch-up with that maybe there’ll be a
change. But, no, I would go back to a series in a heartbeat
if it was funny.
K. Moul You did a sort of reality TV. Would you go back to
doing Made in America? Did you enjoy that?
J. Ratzenberger Yes. I really enjoyed that. That was a labor
of love. I’m a big fan of America, a big fan of Western
Civilization and the standards and what we bring to the
world. As I said, you don’t hear stories of people risking
their lives trying to get into any other country except the
United States. People swim through shark-infested waters to
There’s a reason because the standards are so high. When you
turn on the hot water, the hot water comes out. When you
switch the light switch, the light goes on. If you’re
anywhere in the world and you have millions of dollars, you
still are going to come to the United States if you need
good medical care. Wherever you live, every day that
Yes, doing Made in America was my celebration for giving
back because manufacturing is to America what spinach is to
Popeye. That is, you have to make something. You have to
build something and repair it. That’s where inventions and
innovations come from. So, I’ve always been a big fan of
that. I would do that show again, sure.
Moderator Our next question is going to come from Sheldon, I
believe it’s Wiebe with eclipsemagazine.com.
S. Wiebe Thanks so much for doing this.
J. Ratzenberger Not at all. How is eclipse spelled? Is it
S. Wiebe It’s … eclipse of the sun, but it’s eclipsemagazine,
all one word. I was just wondering because they’re such
totally different people in almost every way, could you talk
a bit about Walter’s relationship with his sons?
J. Ratzenberger Yes. Walter is a guy who is old school.
Probably still goes to church and believes that there’s a
power higher than him. He thinks that his job is to keep
that family together. Now, the mother, we know, has gone off
the curve a while back. I mean she’s out to lunch.
I think Walter’s job is to keep it together. It’s almost
like he spends his time building ramparts against madness. I
think he’ll do whatever he can within his power, within his
ability, his pocket to support his sons. He’s been dealt a
tough hand, but he keeps going forward. He doesn’t want to
give up. He can very easily just go down to the bus stop and
disappear. He’s not going anywhere.
S. Wiebe As a kind of follow-up to the same question, Jim is
probably the least likely person in the world to be anyone’s
best friend, and yet, he gets along so well with Walter’s
sons. What’s Walter’s relationship like with him?
J. Ratzenberger Well, I think Walter looks at Jim as
somebody who gives Walter a break. I think Walter has to
worry less about his kids because Jim is obviously from
another country, so he’s a little bit more worldly than his
sons. I think Walter would rather live with the sons and Jim
than live with his wife. That’s for sure. But, I think he
enjoys the relationship.
Moderator Currently no questions in queue.
J. Ratzenberger Okay.
S. Kelly Okay, we’ll wrap it up then. Thank you again,
everyone, for participating. Thank you to John Ratzenberger.
Again, he plays Walter. Please tune in to Legit on Thursday
nights at 10:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. Thanks again. Take
Moderator That does conclude our conference for today.
Thanks for your participation and for using AT&T Executive
Teleconference Service. You may now disconnect.
J. Ratzenberger Well, thank you.
Moderator Thank you.
S. Kelly Thanks, John.
J. Ratzenberger Bye-bye.
S. Kelly Bye.
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