Interview with Fred Willard

Fred Willard recently appeared in the 100th episode of “The Closer”, which aired on December 5th on TNT.  He is known best for his roles with Christopher Guest’s mockumentary films like “This is Spinal Tap”, “Waiting for Guffman”, “Best in Show”, “A Mighty Wind” and “For Your Consideration”.  He also has voiced characters in Disney’s “Chicken Little” and Disney/Pixar’s “Wall-E”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Fred about his appearance on “The Closer”.

Mike Smith: What was it about this particular role that drew you work on “The Closer”.
Fred Willard: Well it was being able to play Santa Claus. I always thought for years that I would make a good a Santa Claus. You always hear about Santa’s being angry and impatient and I said, I would be a good Santa. I don’t know in actuality how long I would last in a mall or department store, but I always wanted to give it a try. But anyway, I also love everything about Christmas and doing a show about Christmas in September kind of stretches the season out. So one problem with Christmas it comes, you know there’s so much work involved and it comes and suddenly Christmas is over. So, it kind of expands the season.

MS: Was there anything in particular you found challenging about playing a Santa besides being in a suit so long?
FW: I was going to say, yes, well I had to play, several scenes I was pretty drunk. I’d you know relax with some alcohol along the way. I mean, as the character, so that was the tough thing because a lot of times it’s shot out of sequence. So I had to be very drunk before I was mildly drunk and then sober, just recovering from a hangover before the drinking scene. I think in all, we had a very good, the director seemed to be on top of it. So I think it flows very nicely.

MS: What was it like working with Kyra Sedgwick?
FW: Kyra was wonderful. She’s just very sweet. I had just a couple of scenes with her, but the nice thing about the show like that; you don’t really feel like an outsider. Everyone in the cast just treated me very friendly like, we’re so glad you’re here and just none of them were standoffish or the only one who told me what to do of course was the director.

MS: I know you’ve done a lot of guest appearances on television shows. When you appear on a show that is established, as “The Closer” is, when you approach the role do you try to get more of a feel of the show, of the cast before you take it on?
FW: Oh yes, definitely. You want to get it because every show has a little different tone to it. So you don’t want to go in you know, over the top, you don’t want to go in too subtly. Plus you rely on lot on, you’re on the set and you see how the other actors are acting and it’s a very realistic show. My character was a bit over the top, but the other performers were playing it very much like a procedure, you know, there had been a murder committed and they were really trying to get to the bottom of who did it. You go in with that, I was a fan of the show anyway. So, it kind threw me a little to be on the set suddenly with all these people some of, a couple of whom I’d known personally before doing the show. But suddenly, you go from reality into a fictional world where these people actually exist and you adopt very quickly.

MS: As someone that is a fan of the show, when you take a role on the show, do you have to kind of lose your knowledge of the show, know who the characters are when you’re approaching character that theoretically is new to them?
FW: Well, yes, my character in the episode comes from a whole different world. I believe I’m Santa Claus and I run a Santa village. And I’ve had a little bit of alcohol over the couple of days during the investigation. I’m kind of acting through that, coming in kind of questioning the authority and being kind of a indignant and sometimes angry and sometimes very silly. So, it wasn’t like the usual where I’m someone who is being investigated and is trying to be cunning or trying to outwit them. So it was a whole kind of a whole different role.

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