We want to introduce you to this week (and next week’s) Man of the Moment Johnathan McClain. If you’re a fan of TV Land’s new series, Retired at 35, you’ll be thrilled at this opportunity to get to know the man behind the main character, David.
Tell our readers more about Johnathan McClain.
I was born in Myrtle Beach, SC. We moved around a lot throughout the state when I was a kid, but the one constant was that I would spend every summer in Myrtle Beach with my grandmother who was the city librarian and one of the top five best people I’ve ever met. From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to perform. I can’t say “act” because when I was a kid I don’t think I fully understood what “acting” was. I just knew I liked the attention that being a hammy little goofball got me. That started to alter when I saw my first Broadway show and I got a glimpse of what it really means to create something artistic. So the beach was my favorite place in the world until I was about, I wanna say nine, and went on my first trip to New York City; and then New York quickly took over the spot of “favorite place.” I didn’t want to go home when it was time to leave; I even told my dad, “I already am home.” I don’t know where that comes from in the brain of a nine year old, but there you have it. So after that, it became my primary goal in life to get to New York and seek my fortune. Sometime later I would fulfill that goal, and I lived for many happy years as a theatre actor in New York. In a lot of ways I still consider NYC my home. My wife grew up in Westchester, just outside the city, so when holidays and vacations roll around everyone asks if we’re going “home,” meaning New York, and it always makes me smile when I say “yes.” Theatre is still and will likely remain my truest love when it comes to acting. The walk from the dressing room, to the wings, to the stage, with the audience waiting in the darkened theatre is probably the time in my life I feel the lightest, the most myself. I guess it just makes me feel like a kid again, only with a thicker beard.
What was your first paid acting gig? How did you celebrate that important milestone?
-My first paid acting job was when I was about 15 and the local public television station in Columbia, SC produced some kind of educational film about the dangers of video games or something. I wasn’t the lead so I don’t completely remember the point, but it was definitely a cautionary tale about the hazards of not studying or falling under the influence of the wrong crowd or some such. I played a jerky teenager who tried to lead our hero astray by getting him to play Space Invaders or something similar. The specifics of the whole thing are hazy to me now, but what I recollect for sure is that I was paid about 50 bucks (a fortune of unfathomable measure), which I subsequently used to buy video game tokens and as part of a failed attempt to get someone’s older brother to buy us beer. – So it was clearly also my first experience with typecasting. – My first paid acting job as an adult was for a production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. As it was a theatre job, and as being a theatre actor pays almost as well as doing volunteer work, I think I celebrated that payday by opening an unemployment claim.
Tell us about your family. Were you the oldest? Only child? How do your experiences growing up influence the portrayal of your characters?
Certainly as an actor, you want to draw from whatever personal experiences you have so that you can tell a story authentically. I had kind of a complicated childhood, and without going into a ton of detail I guess the one thing I can say for certain is that I learned that people are themselves complicated, and dynamic, and very, very rarely just one thing. I suppose I hope what that does in my work is create some sense of levels or layers in the characters I play. Even in the show I’m on now, which is a sitcom and thus has the primary objective of wanting to try and get laughs, I still look for opportunities wherever I can to show some shading and dimension to the character and his journey. I guess I believe that life would be pretty boring if everyone was just what they looked like at first glance and nothing more, and that’s no different for the characters I play. So I simply hope to make them interesting by trying to figure out all the sides of them that make them tick. Sometimes my work is successful in doing that, and sometimes it’s less so, but I hope it’s never boring.
Please tell us about your series “Retired at 35” and your character David Robbins.
RETIRED AT 35 is at its core a show about family. It’s a family comedy in the classic sitcom model. It took us a few episodes to totally figure that out, but in the second season, the family ensemble is on full display. I play a guy called David Robbins who quits his job in New York to move in with his mom and dad in their retirement community in Florida. David’s not a guy who’s very good at thinking through the repercussions of his actions and the effects they have, so he doesn’t consider how his decision is going to impact his mom, and dad, and sister. He’s not a bad guy, just kind of a knucklehead. He was also always the favorite kid between him and his sister, so certainly his big and sloppy decision to move in with his folks gives his sister a lot to hold over his head. It’s ultimately a show about trying to live your life without regret before it’s too late, and how unexpectedly hard that can be.
And his relationship with his parents (Played by George Segal and Jessica Walter)? And his sister Amy?
David is definitely the straight man in his family dynamic. That’s partially because he’s now utterly dependent on the patience, understanding, and generosity (of which he gets justifiably little) of his dad, mom, and sister; and partially because those roles are played by George Segal, Jessica Walter, and Marissa Jaret Winokur, all of whom are total comedy power hitters. Like any semi-dysfunctional family, at any given time one of them is making a mess and the others are trying to clean it up. When you’re an adult living like a child, it’s very easy to fall back into that role, and David certainly does. The cool thing about season 2 is that David and his sister Amy spend a lot of time also playing adult to the sometimes childish behavior of their parents, so there’s ever shifting power dynamics and anytime you have characters not behaving the way they’re “supposed to,” there’s comedy to be found in that.
And a new love interest, played by Danneel Ackles is coming in Season 2. How can we expect that to begin?
- The always lovely and talented Danneel Ackles came aboard for a few episodes in the second season to play David’s girlfriend, Jen. Danneel’s fantastic and she made coming to work a total joy and added a ton to the show. David and Jen bump into one another waiting in a grocery store line and there’s an immediate energy between the two characters, but as always, there are also complications. The most obvious being that David is 35, living at home, and he has no job. Of course, no man in their right mind is going to lead with that info – possibly the worst pickup line in history – so the suspense in how they’re going to work (or not) once the truth is out is what drives their initial interactions. The thing about David Robbins is that even when he manages to get things right, he still finds another way to mess things up. So with any luck the audience is kind of shaking their head while they’re laughing at what a screw up David can be. But this storyline is also great for the character because his stab at a true, adult relationship shows that he has it in him to overcome the circumstances in which he’s placed himself, but it also shows how – and this is true for a lot of people – it can be hard to get out of your own way. (Not me, mind you. I never mess up anything, and have never frustrated or upset anyone. Certainly not my wife. Please believe me.)
What are the differences and similarities between “Jonathan” and “David” ?
The primary, core difference between me and David Robbins is that we operate from extremely different places energetically. He tends to be fairly openly neurotic, whereas I’m probably a little craftier about hiding my neuroses away. I also think David’s kind of oblivious, which is actually something I wish I had a little more of; if anything I’m likely too aware of what’s going on around me all the time and focused on too many things at once. David has a lot of frustration that he lets build up and doesn’t really express it, whereas I will yell at you. Don’t test me! But of course, most of all, David hated his job and quit to get away from his life, and I love my job as much as I love anything and couldn’t imagine ever quitting. I suppose the way in which we’re most alike is that we both get driven crazy by a bad haircut. Erg. The worst.
See Retired at 35 on Tuesdays at 10 PM Eastern. And check back with us next Monday for Part Two of this fabulous interview.
Photo by MARC CARTWRIGHT