Bret Harrison Dives into 'The Loop'
FOX show's star makes transition from support to leadLOS ANGELES --
"People have asked, 'Do you have this crazy pressure on you? You're in every scene.' But for some reason I don't feel it yet," Harrison, who stars in FOX's midseason comedy "The Loop," said in an interview late last month. "Maybe I will once it airs."
He'll find Wednesday night (March 15), when the show makes its debut following FOX's monster hit "American Idol." It moves to its regular time period Thursday, sandwiched between "That '70s Show" and "The O.C." (both of which, coincidentally, have featured Harrison in guest roles).
In "The Loop" (set in Chicago, in case you're wondering about the name), Harrison plays Sam, a recent college graduate who's landed an executive job at an airline run by the blustery Russ (Philip Baker Hall). In addition to the pressure from him, Sam tries his best to avoid a co-worker (Mimi Rogers) who delights in harassing the new guy.
Then there's his home life, filled with the distractions typical of post-collegiate existence -- which is to say, going out and drinking. Sam is aided and abetted there by his roommates: older brother Sully (Eric Christian Olsen), long-time crush Piper (Amanda Loncar) and bartender Lizzy (Sarah Mason).
The two worlds occasionally collide, leading to complications for our hero.
"A lot of times comedies are really glib, but [Bret] has got this ability to sort of get screwed over and keep trying, and you really like him for it," says Pam Brady, a former "South Park" writer who co-created "The Loop" with Will Gluck ("Luis," "Andy Richter Controls the Universe"). "You feel bad when he gets hurt -- and all we try to do is hurt him as much as we can."
Sometimes physically, as it turns out. In one episode, Sully is trying to help Sam sober up by slapping him across the face. "He slapped me like five times, and to Will and Pam it just wasn't enough," Harrison recalls. "They wanted to hear the slap. I was like, 'I don't care. You guys can put a slap sound in there if you want, but my face is bright red right now.'"
A single-camera show a la "Scrubs" or "My Name Is Earl," "The Loop" packs a lot into its 22 minutes. The first couple of episodes have Sam frantically changing from work to going-out clothes while driving home, digging through a trash bin to find a lost airline voucher and ending up on a beach in Mexico with a girl he barely knows. Harrison, whose previous TV work was mostly in traditional sitcoms -- he was a regular on "Grounded for Life" -- says it was tough sometimes to know how big to play a scene.
"You're always in this constant battle with comedy of where's the line," he says. "Where's the boundary between reality and just chaos?
"Especially because I'm kind of the straight man and the one who sort of jells it all together, I'm constantly fighting that battle of, 'Wait a second -- are you sure?'"
Should "The Loop" stick around for a while, it's clear that the show will delve a little more into the relationship between Sam and his unrequited love, Piper. But Harrison is glad that for now, at least, it's not the show's reason for being.
"I think it's really smart that they held off on it," he says. "Hopefully the show will go for more than one season, but you want to give it a chance to breathe, and you want to see Sam in different situations. Piper's always going to be in the back of Sam's mind, but for the time being he's just having fun."