If you ever find yourself in a position to have Matt LeBlanc recite his favorite lines or completely re-enact classic scenes from "Friends," I highly recommend you take advantage. I found it hard to believe that he could even rattle off lines from this season of "Episodes" (Season 2 premieres Sun., July 1, 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime), let alone spout dialogue from almost a decade ago ... but that he did.
I caught up with LeBlanc, who plays Matt LeBlanc, a fictionalized version of himself in Showtime's series about the making of another series called "Pucks." Last season's cliffhanger finale -- which involved the fictional LeBlanc bedding one-half of a married couple (played by the hilarious Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan), who are in fact his new TV bosses -- was messy, to say the least.
Season 2 finds him still in the thick of that "super awkward dynamic," with some interesting new distractions, including a very memorable hand job scene, a stalker and a side of famous actors we don't often see: rejection. Keep reading for more on where "Episodes" is heading next ("Someone from 'Friends' is on," LeBlanc teases) and to see which scene from "Friends" -- a show he still remembers as "an ego-free, great environment" -- I had the pleasure of re-living.
"Episodes" seems to have really found its footing. Season 1 ended strong, and this continues that momentum.
When you're a new show, you have a lot of exposition to deal with, and I think we've sort of gotten all of that out of the way. The people that are watching kind of know where the characters are and what the story is and the world that they live in, so with two more episodes in the second season -- nine versus seven [in Season 1] -- it gives us a little more room. And also with the lightened load of exposition, I think it gives us more room to develop characters, and for the support cast, there's a lot more to do. It's opened up the world a little more.
Last season's finale was incredibly messy -- what can you tease about where things pick back up?
Right? So at the outset, there's this super awkward dynamic that we're all trying to navigate, and we have this common goal to get this show running and make this television show that's ... it's just a disaster.
Poor "Pucks"! Holy hell, it really is bad.
It's so bad.
But I think even "Matt LeBlanc," as clueless as they've made him, realizes that it's not a great show.
Right. You know what's interesting about it, too? The way the writers have sort of crafted the "Pucks" character, that's the kind of character that the networks have tried to get me to come back and play. The network in the show has tried to get the Matt LeBlanc in the show to sort of play something that's close to Joey, which I think is an interesting spin. So the Matt LeBlanc within the show that is the actor that plays the character on "Pucks" -- if you can follow me -- is sort of reaping the rewards of having played that character on "Friends."
There was a great line from John Pankow, who plays the network head Merc, like "Oh, it's your first show since 'Friends'!" People seem to forget the other stuff.
[Laughs.] And Matt's like, "Okay ..."
When I watch this show, and especially now seeing more of what "Pucks" is this season, I do imagine that that's the kind of role people wanted you for before you got "Episodes."
Yeah, there's some of that, but it doesn't seem to be as blatant as what we've scripted in the show. I think that character on "Friends" is gonna follow me around forever and that's fine. That's a sign of being part of something that was that popular, I guess.
There are worse fates for an actor ...
Yeah, I mean having to go to work at a waiter's job is probably worse.
There's another great line in the third episode where Matt says something to Morning (Mircea Monroe) about her level of fame ...
Oh yeah, that was a great line -- on the way to the funeral. "Kind of playing fast and loose with the word 'famous.'" [Laughs.]
[Laughs.] How do you remember all of this? Didn't you shoot this months ago?
I was in London from mid-October until February. But, I mean, if it's great, huge, super lines like that, they tend to stand out, you know?
Like getting a handjob in a screening of "Pucks," then proclaiming that getting jerked off while you're watching yourself on TV is the kind of thing actors work their whole lives for?
Yeah, that's the clip we used on "The Tonight Show" the other night, and I couldn't believe that they let that clip go on. Jay [Leno] loves the show -- he really went above and beyond plugging the show. I was shocked at how big a fan ... he watched them all in one sitting, he said. That's what I did when I got them -- I watched them all at once.
You watch yourself?
I watch everything once. I don't, like, sit and watch it over and over and over again, like Gabe Kaplan, I heard, used to do. I heard he used to just watch "Welcome Back, Kotter" reruns like on a loop in his house. It was just always on.
That's maybe the most depressing story I've ever heard.
[Laughs.] Kind of sad, yeah. I mean, I watch everything I do to see how it came out. And, you know, "Friends" is on so often that if I'm channel surfing, I'll see which one it was, and if it was one of my favorite ones, I might watch it.
So you have favorites, too? Because everyone does.
Yeah, I have some favorite ones. Like any of the ones with the turkey on my head -- those are all pretty funny. The maternity pants, getting locked in the entertainment unit when the house got robbed, the baby on the bus was a good one. And when I got the hernia, that was a funny one. That one had one of my favorite lines of all time.
Please, do share.
Chandler comes in and I'm all doubled up on the floor and he says, "Shouldn't you be on the toilet right now." And I said, "No, no, I was lifting weights before and I blacked out, and when I came to I got this thing sticking out of my side. I got this sharp pain, and now I can't really get up." He goes, "You should go to the doctor, that sounds like a hernia." And I go, "No way -- if I go to the doctor for anything it's going to be for this thing sticking out of my side." And he goes, "That's a hernia! You've gotta go to the doctor!" And I look at the dumbbells on the floor [laughs] and I say, "Damn you, 15!" [Laughs.] I couldn't get through it with a straight face. "Damn you, 15!"
The fact that you can quote an entire scene from "Friends" as easily as you can spout lines from "Episodes" is rare.
And there's some great lines in "Episodes." Have you met the stalker yet? I won't spoil it for you, but there's a great line to her right as I'm ... I won't say anything.
When you sat and watched them, did you have a favorite episode this season? Maybe one you think fans will really like?
With "Episodes," my favorite ones are always toward the end of the season because there's an emotional through-line that carries through the whole season -- it's almost like a soap opera in that sense -- so the storylines have all built to a crescendo at the end of the season, and those episodes seem to be the richest, character-wise and story-wise. You're more invested by that point.
We see a slightly different side of Matt LeBlanc this season, for as shallow as he still is. Do you feel like Matt LeBlanc has gotten even weirder this season?
I don't know if it's weirder ... I think what happens is he starts to feel, I guess, sorry for himself as they start to take the focus of "Pucks" away from him, and he sees that this isn't helping get his career back on track like he'd hoped. He kind of throws in the towel a bit and starts drinking too much and eating too much -- he just doesn't care about anything anymore. He goes into this downward spiral that was kind of interesting to play with. To find the comedy in that was fun.
Are we going to get a fat Matt LeBlanc?
[Laughs.] There are moments when I wonder how much is pulled from your real experiences in Hollywood, but then there are such ridiculous stories and scenes that I just sit back and appreciate the comedy of it all. He tells this amazing story about being at Orson Welles' funeral, and a woman named Gloria Heywood ...
That's a great monologue! That's the brilliance of their writing -- they use this big, long, elaborate, colorful, structured set-up for a joke about crabs. [Laughs.] They're so clever. You do not see that punchline coming. You think it's this super poignant speech about how fleeting fame is, and then, "I learned a valuable lesson that day ... how to get rid of crabs."
Exactly. But I think with so many "Friends" references, sometimes you forget to remember it's fake.
Yeah, but if any show is going to make a reference to "Friends," I feel like this one has the right to, because it's David Crane writing it, and I'm in it and I'm playing the guy who was on "Friends." So it's almost like this built-in right that you can kind of blur the line of the truth a little bit here and there and make people wonder, "Wait a minute -- did that really happen? Or was that fake?" You know what I mean? We have this ability to fudge the line a little bit, which has been fun to play with.
What's next for you?
I think I'm being choosier. I start this movie in a couple of weeks, this romantic comedy, and that'll be fun. It's with this director Luke Matheny -- he won the Academy Award last year [for Best Short Film for "God of Love"] and he's a super nice guy. It's called "Lovesick," and it's myself and Ali Larter, and I believe we have Chevy Chase to play my creepy neighbor who hangs out in his robe all day and watches pornos while eating cereal. I watched Luke's movie that he won the Academy Award for and to look at that on paper, you'd say, "This is a silly idea" -- this guy finds some magic arrows to make this girl fall in love with him -- but he injected it with so much heart and emotion and creativity.
And this film that we're doing could easily be a big, broad comedy, but that's not what we're going to go for. It's a clever little project. My concern is it turning into this thing that happens so often -- this little, small movie that has no pressure on it, then it gets cast and the expectations get higher, but the budget doesn't get any higher. I hope that doesn't happen with this, because I think it's an opportunity to make a really nice, warm little movie.
"Episodes" Season 2 premieres Sun., July 1, 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime.
Excited for "Episodes"? See our gallery of other notable "behind-the-scenes" TV shows.