Can you believe it's been more than 30 years since Robin Williams' last full-time television job (CBS' Mork and Mindy)? After a successful movie career, including high-profile performances in The Word According to Garp, Dead Poets Society, Disney's animated Aladdin and Good Will Hunting (for which he won an Oscar), he's back on the small screen alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar on The Crazy Ones.
"The idea of being funny, I love it," Williams said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Monday. "For me, it's great to have a steady gig after so long. It's wonderful."
In the half-hour comedy, Williams and Gellar play a father-daughter duo who work together in the fast-paced world of advertising.
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Creator and executive producer David E. Kelley said that the idea for the series came before casting Williams, noting that they didn't even believe that they could snag the funnyman, but called him anyway. "We connected over who the character was, not just with his comedic sensibilities, but with his personal flaws and professional insecurities," Kelley said. "We talked about mining both that character and the world and lo and behold, a series happened."
Though Williams is known for his propensity to improvise (to put it mildly), Kelley said the 62-year-old actor has found a good balance on set. "This is the first time I've worked with him." Kelley said, noting that Williams will always perform the script, but then they'll give him a "fun run" of sorts to get some spontaneity. "Once Robin was on board, I knew I'd be a fool to try to lasso him in," he said.
But Williams insists that despite his usual fast-paced style, his character won't be over the top. "I know the line, because you have to establish a character that you buy into. They have to buy into not just my character, but his relationship with everyone else," Williams said, calling improv a mutual sport. "The bottom line is [the writers] write great stuff, it's a great base."
Even Gellar noted that it can be intimidating on set with a comedy legend like Williams providing new and exciting challenges. "He cares more about making everyone else's stuff work," she said, "which is rare."
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But Williams was certainly one of the reasons Gellar came back to TV following her run on the ill-fated Ringer — "I didn't really think that twin thing through," she said. "If you think of top 10 comics of all time, of all legends, Robin is on that list," Gellar said. "The one thing about Buffy that was so wonderful was that we hit all those different [genres] — it was funny, it was dramatic, it was scary. So I had a chance with that. Comedy was something I was always interested in... Ultimately this is really what I wanted to do. I think it's the most challenging."
The Crazy Ones premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9/8c on CBS. Will you be watching?
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