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Nicki Gostin
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'Bent' Star Jeffrey Tambor Talks New Show, 'Arrested Development' Movie

Posted: 03/14/2012 5:48 pm Updated: 03/14/2012 5:48 pm

Jeffrey Tambor has played many roles over the course of his long career in Hollywood, but he may be best known for bringing two legendary television characters to life: George Bluth Sr. on "Arrested Development," and Hank "Hey Now" Kingsley on "The Larry Sanders Show." Now he's hoping his character on the new NBC sitcom "Bent" will be similarly memorable.

The sitcom, which Tambor calls "cable funny," features Amanda Peet as a divorced lawyer and David Walton as a contractor hired to remodel her kitchen. Tambor steps into a ladies' man role, playing Walton's father.

The 67-year-old actor, who hosts an annual acting class, "Performing Your Life," at South by Southwest each year, chatted with The Huffington Post about "Bent," getting mistaken for Dr. Phil and what's going on with the upcoming "Arrested Development" movie.

You play a womanizer in "Bent."
Well, he is quite a lothario. I don't like the word "womanizer." I think he would buckle at that. He likes the chicks. He's just confident with women ... He's a serious actor and a good dad. I like him.

The show is character driven; it doesn't have a laugh track. To me -- I don't even know what I'm saying when I say this -- but it's sort of cable-funny. It's edgy and great and doesn't have its hat in its hand.

Your character is a struggling actor. Did you have any awful jobs before you started working in show business?
I was once in a chicken suit and I remember thinking, "They'll never film this." It was a thing I did way back and I thought, "Oh, they'll cut this scene" and -- this will date me when I say what I'm about to say -- but I remember the red light went on for the TV camera and I thought, "Oh, this is going to go out there." Fortunately, that project never made it.

At least that was TV work. I meant non-acting jobs.
I've been very lucky. I've been an actor most of my life. The only three variations were, I worked at my father's carpet and tile store, and the very first day I cut my hand with a box opener. I nearly cut off my thumb. I was sent to the emergency room. Cut to my father's face, "Oh my God, what have I wrought?"

Did your dad think he had an idiot for a son?
No, he thought he had an actor for a son. I was a busboy and I spilled a set-up tray on the owner and I sold shoes at JC Penney. I was terrible. That was very tough, because do you know what babies do? They scrunch up their feet.

I've been very lucky. I've been in the right place. I went bald very, very early in my career so I was able to play the old man before I was old in summer stock. Now I'm playing the old man because I am old.

Did you get upset about going bald so young?
No, I didn't. I was OK with it because I was like, "Oh good, work!" I've never had a thing about being bald. I wore a toupee very early in my career, in my first film, "And Justice for All."

Speaking of films, what's going on with the "Arrested Development" movie?
You know as much as I do. It's a "yes." When? I don't know. They better hurry up before I'm in a walker; that's all I can say.

You have such a large fan base.
It's amazing. You have to understand that I'm of an age that I drop my kids off to school and I'm the guy who was in "Tangled," or more to the point, "Yo Gabba Gabba." Then I go and have my coffee and I'm the guy who was in "Win Win," and then somebody yells out, "Hey now!" [from "The Larry Sanders Show."] It's great, and I just did the Phil Spector movie on HBO.

And let's not forget "The Hangover."
Absolutely and that's the high school crowd. Then I have people come up and thank me for "Curb Your Enthusiasm" because they think I'm that guy, or they thank me for giving them great advice because they think I'm Dr. Phil.

That's funny.
It's true. When I had my mustache and I was doing "Larry Sanders," I got a lot of that. I would get a lot of people saying, "Thank you so much, you've changed my life." I'd kind of go along with it because it made me feel better.

You have 2-year-old twins.
I do; one of them is knocking on my office door now. He doesn't understand the niceties of an interview. Aren't kids the funniest things and the greatest teachers? They kill me -- they make me laugh.

"Bent" premieres on NBC March 21 at 9 p.m.

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