After starring in the short-lived series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matthew Perry is back on primetime in the new ABC series, Mr. Sunshine, premiering Feb. 9 at 9:30. In the series, which he also wrote and executive produced, Perry plays Ben, the ego-maniacal manager of an entertainment arena called the Sunshine Center. We chatted with the former Friend about his triple-hat gig, the inspiration behind the series, and what it was like to make use out of his Lost obsession.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You can now add TV writer to your resume! What motivated you to write your own sitcom?
MATTHEW PERRY: I was sitting at home playing a video game for the third year in a row, and I decided I better try to do something. I’ve done a lot of things in show business, but one of the things I hadn’t done was create a TV show. So I wanted to try to challenge myself and see if I could do it, and I think I did it. I wrote the pilot with Alex Barnow and Mark Firek. I hope it’s a way for me to get my sense of humor out there.
Writer, executive-producer, star – that’s a lot of jobs for one person!
It feels pretty exhausting! No, it’s exciting. I’m proud of the show. I think we did a really good job of making it funny and introducing some great characters. Allison Janney is brilliant. We tried to have the owner of the Sunshine Center be a wacky lady, and Allison Janney plays that to perfection.
Why choose an entertainment arena as the setting?
It all takes place at the Sunshine Center, which is sort of a lower tier Staples Center or Madison Square Garden. All sorts of things go through there, everything from a Bruce Springsteen concert to lingerie football to dog shows. My dad would take me to The Forum and I was always so fascinated by a place that huge with 18,000 people coming in every night for different things. One of the key components for a sitcom is to find a place where a lot of interesting things can go through there. In the first 12 episodes, we’ve had dog shows and BMX shows and concerts. I thought it was a good opportunity to have some interesting guest stars come through. We’ve already had Jimmy Conners, Nick Jonas and James Taylor, believe it or not.
Speaking of guest stars, you have Jorge Garcia on the show, starting with the pilot.
Jorge plays a really funny part. He’s one of the workers at the arena who has to answer to Ben, my character, but you can tell he’s a little smarter than I am. I don’t think a lot of people realize how dry and funny Jorge can be. He’s done 3 episodes for us and we hope to have him back because I love [Lost] and I love him.
What was is like working with him after you were done geeking out?
I never really did get over the geeking out part. At one point, he did a take that I thought was really, really funny, and I said “That was a really good take, dude!” and I realized I had used his [Lost] catchphrase to him, so I had to just go lie down in my office for half an hour and get over what a moron I had just been.
What do you guys think? Will you guys tune into Mr. Sunshine? Could you be any more excited to see Perry back on primetime (sorry, I had to do it)?
Photo: Adam Larkey/ABC