Standing six feet and eight and a half inches, Brad Garrett is one towering -- and talented -- standup comic. Garrett has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Diana Ross, but he's best known for his role as deep-voiced Robert Barone on the much-loved CBS sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond."
Now Garrett has a new show, "How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest Of Your Life)," in which he plays Max, an eccentric stepfather. In last week's premiere episode on ABC, Max and his wife Elaine, played by Elizabeth Perkins, see their lives turned upside down when daughter Polly, played by Sarah Chalke, returns home to live with them. Chalke is a single, newly divorced mother of a young daughter.
Huff/Post50 had the pleasure of speaking with Garrett, who turns 53 on Sunday, about his career, his new show and his favorite pastimes.
Huff/Post50: So obviously you know sitcoms. What is it that drew you to this new ABC show?
The character I play is very different. He's comfortable in his own skin. He cares a lot about his stepdaughter. The show seems to be very timely as a lot of older kids are moving back home due to the tough economy. I love the fact that in this show the couple actually loves their empty nest. They realize they weren't the greatest of parents. They are a little loopy. But they want to help. When their daughter returns, they're like, "We'd love to help you ... but how long will you be here exactly?" The whole thing seems very real to me.
You worked with an amazing cast on "Everybody Loves Raymond." How is it working with this new cast?
I know this sounds trite, but we all had chemistry right out of the gate. Elizabeth and Sarah were cast before I came onto the scene. I read the script and really wanted to do it. I did a screen test with Elizabeth and we had an immediate chemistry. I had never met her but I was a huge fan. The three of us are all fearless actors. We all just go for it, comedically. Of course you don't get much more talented than Sarah. And Elizabeth is such a pro. We got very fortunate. The network did some early testing on the show and I think everyone said "Wow, it's like these people have worked together forever."
What kinds of characters are you drawn to?
I love playing people who are flawed and I think we like watching people who are flawed. I like playing people who wear their hearts on their sleeves and who are transparent. So I really loved playing Robert. I used to say about that show, "Ray was really an only child and they just forgot to tell Robert." I loved playing Jackie Gleason. I ran to that role. The first two people who were supposed to play him had other commitments so the role fell into my lap. Gleason was not just a tyrant creatively, but he was a real force at the start of TV. He was so brilliant. With Max, the guy I play now, he's an aspiring actor in midlife who holds on to his dreams. I like that.
So do you keep in touch with the cast of "Raymond"?
Ray [Romano] and I have a monthly poker game. Just like on the show, he's better than me. He beats me in poker and also in golf. We see each other regularly. I also keep in touch with Doris [Roberts]. it sounds cliche but we were all very close. We were lucky. The writing on that show was incredible.
Tell us how you got your start.
I started as a standup at the age of 17. I've always loved standup. I even built my own comedy club a year ago in Las Vegas. I always said that if I ever made it in this business I was going to build a comedy club that treats comics right. It's my payback. I want to give folks a forum to play before people from all walks of life from all over the world. And you get that in Vegas. I do standup at my club one week out of every month. Thanks to the standup, a few acting roles came my way. I am very grateful. I also teach acting and comedy as well. If the acting roles every go away, I'd be happy to just teach.
What TV shows do you like to watch in your spare time?
I really think "Modern Family" is just brilliant. It's been a long time since we've seen writing this good. I also love Larry David. But I really don't get to watch a lot of TV.
I know you are about to turn 53. How is it to be a man in his 50s in Hollywood today?
I really think it's an ageless industry. If you look at women, for example, I really believe that the majority of women over 40 who are acting today are brilliant. If you saw the movie "Amour" you know what I mean about age. I'd put any young actor against the actors in "Amour" any day of the week and the young actors wouldn't stand a chance. The older actors have real life experience. I've always been a character actor and so, with that, I think age has always been on my side anyway.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
Study more and party less. I've always been a grateful person and I'm very pleased about that. I have never taken anything for granted. I didn't when I was younger and I don't now. I was doing standup at 17. I always had that passion. I think you are born with it or you're not. You can learn a craft. You can tell your kid to take piano lessons and they'll learn piano. But it's that person who you can't get to stop playing at 1 a.m. who is going to make it. You can't teach that kind of passion.
What do you like to do to relax?
The older I get the more I'm forced to relax. I really like to work. But I do love being with my kids. That's really my thing. My kids are 15 and 13. There's nothing better than spending time with them.