On the March 1 episode of "Malibu Country" (8:30 p.m. EST on ABC), Blake Shelton joins his country music colleague Reba to play her wayward little brother, Blake.
On the show, Reba and Blake haven't seen each other since Reba's divorce from country singer Bobby Gallagher (Jeffrey Nordling), which leads to understandable tension between the pair.
"He's back east and doesn't get out to California much, so since we've moved to California, since the divorce, I hadn't heard from him, hadn't seen him, and he felt real bad about a situation that happened between him and my ex-husband, so that's why he's been pretty estranged from the family," Reba said of Shelton's role. "And he also gives some advice to my son [Justin Prentice], his nephew, which kind of stirs up a little bit of stuff. So he's just that typical little brother where you don't always know what's going on with him."
Since Shelton and Reba have known each other for years -- Shelton is managed by Reba's husband Narvel Blackstock and stepson Brandon, and the two have hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards together several times -- Shelton was eager to make his acting debut on the country legend's series, especially given that he had previously invited her to advise on "The Voice" during the show's battle rounds.
"I think people out there expect certain interactions on this show with some country artists, based on the storyline, so it just seemed natural at some point that she would have me on the show, I think. Or it did to me, anyway -- I had my fingers crossed," Shelton joked on the "Malibu Country" set. "She had mentioned it when they first aired the pilot and the network picked up the show. She had said, 'Man, I want you to do the show one of these days,' and it just came up so fast. This is still the first season, so I'm pumped. I figured if we did it, it would be on down the line, so I'm glad to be doing it. It's a fun part, it's a natural part for me. I'm just a drifter, her brother that's kind of a screw-up and is always in trouble and in bars all the time. I've been that guy before so it's a natural part for me."
For Reba, the decision to invite Shelton onto "Malibu Country" was similarly simple: "I've known Blake for many, many years and I've watched him and his personality grow, not only with 'The Voice,' but watching him on stage and his humor is so good, I thought he'd be perfect for this television show. Narvel manages him with Brandon so we just asked him if he would, he said yes and we got the writers to write him a script."
As for his "Malibu Country" character, Shelton previewed, "He's a musician, but he's one of those guys who has never really followed through with anything in his life -- he's always coming up with these get-rich-quick schemes and Reba's just kind of put out by her little brother. She loves him, but he drives her crazy and he's definitely momma's favorite, and that drives Reba crazy too. He can do no wrong with momma."
"Momma" is played by Lily Tomlin, and one of the main conflicts of the episode is set in motion over -- what else? -- a very special barbecue sauce recipe.
"Momma has a special barbecue sauce that she's made for the family her whole life and it's like the thing that she makes that everybody can't get to the house quick enough to eat, " Shelton said. "She only makes it on special occasions and I'm trying to get her to give me the recipe so we can market the stuff and sell it. And Reba's upset because she's never given anybody the recipe before and with me mentioning the idea she immediately hands the recipe over to me. She'd have never done that for Reba."
Despite their differences, things are sure to end up happily for the talented family -- Shelton even previewed that the pair share a musical number at the episode's denouement: "There's one scene at the very end of the show where we're just sitting around the living room playing a song. We were trying to decide which song we should be playing and settled on a song that Reba and Vince Gill had out together 20 years ago called 'Oklahoma Swing.' Reba and I had performed it many times before at concerts so it seemed like a natural one for us to do here."
"Malibu Country" airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC.
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