When Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence was looking for a strong and dominating actor to play the demanding boss in his new comedy series Ground Floor, he turned to John C. McGinley.
Just like his role on Scrubs, John plays a character, Mr Mansfield, who can strike fear in the heart of those around him with a few choice words.
For the actor, creating such characters starts with the right voice.
“One of the main objectives was to create as much distance between myself and Dr Cox, which in some circles is a kind of iconic TV character,” says McGinley. “I didn’t want to fall into the trap of living in his shadow in any way.
“And so, I started thinking about the voice a lot. Here, I made a cocktail out of George C. Scott and Lee J. Cobb and Jason Robards. I mixed those together and found Mansfield’s voice.”
Ground Floor is a workplace comedy with a romantic twist. Brody (Skylar Astin) is banker at Remington Trust who falls for Jennifer (Briga Heelan), a woman who works in maintenance.
They have to find a way to make their relationship work despite coming from such different worlds. McGinley plays Brody’s boss, who is worried the relationship will be a distraction.
The object of much of McGinley’s humour will be Astin’s character. There is a big difference between their relationship compared with the McGinley-Zach Braff dynamic in Scrubs.
“What’s attractive to me about this series is that he wants Skylar’s character to be his son as opposed to being an unwilling mentor to Zach’s character in Scrubs,” McGinley says.
“This is a guy who has a missing piece and that kind of yearning is something the writers can write for and the actors can play.”
McGinley has brought more to the series than just being a tough boss.
Rene Gube, who comes to the series from the comedy team of the Upright Citizens Brigade, was motivated to work harder on his role as another investment banker looking for the approval of the boss when he saw the work ethic McGinley had from the first day on the set.
“He came with a game that I had never seen before on a pilot,” Rene says. “He gives you so much that if you aren’t delivering on that, it’s a terrible feeling. But, when you are, and things are working, it feels great.”
Skyler Astin comes to the series with a lengthy background in musical theatre. But he is not going to be in a musical episode of Ground Floor in the near future.
In fact, Astin’s musical abilities are being played down.
“There is an episode where we go to a karaoke bar, which is something money managers do,” Astin says.
“I think it’s great that they’ve given Brody a good voice but not make it so showy and indulgent. It should always be story first then comedy and singing supports that.”
In other words, Astin is also trying to find his right voice for
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