'Go On': Laura Benanti on working with Matthew Perry and delaying on-screen romance
Tuesday (Sept. 11), viewers will at last get to see the show's second episode, in which Ryan ( Matthew Perry) continues to be frustrated at the way therapy group leader Lauren ( Laura Benanti) runs their sessions. One thing you won't see, though -- at least not for quite a while -- is a budding romance between Lauren and Ryan. Or so Benanti hopes.
"I think we have to be really careful, because he's just lost his wife," Benanti tells Zap2it about the relationship between Lauren and Ryan, who's reluctantly attending therapy to help cope with his wife's death a month before the show begins. "I certainly don't want the audience to be like, 'Whoa, his therapist is making moves on him right after his wife died.' That's a little too much."
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Series creator Scott Silveri (who worked with Perry on "Friends") says "nothing is off the table" in terms of Lauren and Ryan's relationship, but he and fellow executive producer Jon Pollack aren't in a rush to get them together either.
"We want to make them as interesting a couple of friends as we possibly can, but we want to respect what would really happen with a guy like this," Pollack says. "So our rule for the first set of episodes is dating is off the table. It will be a big thing when [he's ready] to do that. Maybe she'll help him, or maybe there will be a complication because they do have great chemistry. But it's definitely not something we're going to do in the first few episodes."
Benanti and Perry do, in fact, have pretty good chemistry on screen, although this is the first time they've worked together -- or at least the first time anyone has seen. Benanti, who starred in last season's ill-fated "Playboy Club," says she also auditioned for Perry's last series, "Mr. Sunshine," but had commitments to another pilot (which didn't get picked up) ahead of that.
"It's just like in life -- there are some people you're drawn to, that you feel a connection to," she says. "... I had known Matthew from those auditions and we had a nice rapport, so when I went in for this, it was like, 'Oh, hey' -- like we'd known each other for a long time."
It's revealed in the "Go On" pilot that Lauren isn't a licensed therapist, and her only training in helping others came from Weight Watchers. That the character is not as together as she seems on first blush is part of what drew Benanti to the part.
"I like characters who have a secret, and clearly her secret is she doesn't know entirely what she's doing. But she does have a gift for it," she says. "... My take on her is she genuinely wants to help people -- and there's a reason she was 40 pounds heavier than she is now. She's been through some stuff. I think that's what makes her empathetic, and I think it's also one of the reasons she's cautious about letting anyone get too close to her beyond a professional capacity. This group can help her do that."
"Go On" debuts in its regular period at 9 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBC.