With a new show set to premiere tonight on the USA Network, things are pretty good for rising star Carter MacIntyre. The show, Benched, stars Eliza Coupe (Happy Endings) as a corporate lawyer who loses her fiancé, her job, and ends up working in the public defender's office. MacIntyre plays the ex-flame, Trent, a lawyer himself, who now must work with the woman he rejected.
Benched is MacIntyre's first real foray into comedic territory, having finished up a role on Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva as well as other assorted dramatic parts (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The Tomorrow People). The comedy genre can be daunting for anyone so we were excited to speak with the 35-year-old actor about the show's evolution behind the scenes, as well as his own. MacIntyre was good enough to share some trade secrets with us, like how he remembers his lines, preps to get in front of the camera, and what shows he would love to work on.
Zimbio: There are some very funny people working on Benched. Could you talk about what made you believe in the script to begin with?
Carter MacIntyre: I read a lot of scripts and a lot of them are very similar. And, for me, they feel kind of canned which I've never found particularly funny. I've always been drawn to the characters more—like when the humor comes out of the specific point of a view of a character. Michaela Watkins and Damon Jones are the creators. They're Groundlings and are both very funny actors in their own rights, so I feel like they come from that same point of view. The script feels very original, specific to the individuals, and they aren't just trying to say something to be funny. It has a lot of heart because it's about public defenders and the funny side of that system, which is also kind of heartbreaking you know? So I read the script and it was just a fresh take. It had a strong, unique voice and I really wanted to be a part of it from the beginning. And Eliza is so unique and funny, wanting to work with her was a no brainer. But it starts with the script and I know it's cliche to say, but you read so many and this was different.
I noticed Michael McDonald (from MADtv) directed a couple episodes. How did he and the other directors affect the script? Have they enhanced what was on the page?
Michael McDonald is one of those guys who is always funny. He has a great mind for comedy and had great ideas. We all had a blast working with him. All of our directors were really the best of the best in TV comedy land. We were very fortunate.
I've done roles that could be funny within drama, but I haven't done many half hours so it's a different flavor for me, but Michael Fresco did the pilot. He's been doing this a long time and he made it really easy for me to get the hang of the half hour format. With TV shows, the pilot director sets the tone for the series and we got a great one. He (Fresco) knew exactly what we needed to start off on the right foot. Because we're shooting a pilot, but everyone's kind of finding the characters as we go, to some degree, especially my character, Trent. At the start we see him as a foil to (Nina, Coupe's character). He's kind of, in her mind, this "perfect guy" whom she lost. But as we go, what's been fun is finding the quirks in him. The writers are always shouting lines at me to try or ideas to play with. I love that. It's fun to just play as you go and find what works. Because on the day, you're making this soup and you're putting all the ingredients in, the script, the writers, the actors, the director and when you mix it up, you never know what's going to come out. That not knowing is what I love the most about it.
Who was funniest on set?
Everyone's so crazy and hilarious. Eliza is pretty great, incredibly quick and surprising. She can hang with the ladies and she can hang with the broads, you know what I mean? She's a cool chick. Oscar (Martinez, from The Office) is hilarious. He'll say something out of the blue and two minutes later you'll get the joke. And Maria Bamford brings this unique comedy. Jay Harrington is a super cool dude, like a brother from another mother. Jolene Purdy is the sweetest thing in the world. And Fred Melamed—that guy is just awesome. It's really an ensemble of these different flavors you might not expect to be in the same world
What was the production process like?
We shot really quickly. Compared to movies, it's just a different beast. We're basically shooting an episode every four days. That's why the pilot is so important The director's figuring out how the show will look and the different shots you can use. Then everyone else can jump on board and kind of follow the structure.
From when you first read the script, how long was it until you started shooting?
It was shot in June and July. I was a guest star on the pilot and it was probably around this time last year we shot that. And I was thrilled when they decided to bring me on as a regular but that was maybe five months later. So it's been a long time. I think my first scenes were with Eliza when we're going head to head in court. We kind of clicked within ten minutes, we were just rolling and cracking each other up. And with everyone else, it was about the same. It was unnervingly natural . But when you start doing the series, we're shooting so much so fast, you might think about it for a few minutes in the makeup chair, but then you just jump right in. There's really no time to overanalyze it, which can be a great thing.
Did you watch Night Court or any specific shows to prep for Benched?
I saw Night Court growing up, hilarious. And it did cross my mind working on Benched, but I didn't watch it to prepare. I did spend a little time watching the DAs and Public Defenders in downtown L.A. to start to get a sense of their world. And I watched some lawyers-turned-politicians on YouTube to try to steal a few mannerisms, attitudes, and hairstyles.
What's the one current show, besides Benched, you'd love to be on?
I'm very late to the party but I am working my way through Breaking Bad and, of course, that show is incredible and would've been amazing to work on. Currently, for comedy, I'd jump at any opportunity to be on Key and Peele. That show is amazing and so crazy funny and original. For drama, True Detective season two—I will be waiting for your call. Season one was fantastic. I like how it follows its own pace, meandering through that darkness and, visually, it's amazingly captivating. I'd love to do something like that.
What's your process for remembering lines?
I read them over several times, take a walk or two, and I record the other characters' lines—not my own—into a recorder and play them back to cue mine. I take some more walks. Repeat. Sometimes I'll find friends to go over the lines with me. It's a little different if I've already created the character vs. if it's an audition for a new one. In those cases, there're a lot more rolling around in terms of ideas like: Who is this person? How do they serve the story? And how they walk, talk, think, go to the bathroom...
Could you relay a time you almost gave up acting, if there was one?
There hasn't been one... yet. I went to college thinking I'd go into business or law. But as I got into it, I realized I wanted a very different kind of life. I started studying psychology, auditioned for a play in college (Wake Forest), somehow got the part, and I got the bug.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to become an actor?
Make sure you want to do it for worthy reasons. If fame is the only end goal, I don't really have much respect for that and, in my experience, that kind of outlook doesn't create the best actors. If you decide you want to do it, despite the challenges, live and breathe it. Do it, create! Follow what turns you on as actor. These days, getting comfortable auditioning is really essential for most beginning actors. So do whatever you can to master that tricky beast. There are great classes and coaches that can help. And last but certainly not least—meditation helps me a lot in my life and work.
Benched premieres October 28 at 10:30 PM EST on USA. Head on over to the USA Network website to watch the pilot online or to check out clips from the show.