'The New Normal': Star Jayson Blair on Ryan Murphy and his days as a high school 'terror'

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Image Credit: Valerie Macon/Getty Images

What’s scarier — filming a sex scene, or facing a gun-toting Ellen Barkin? Jayson Blair may be the only man on Earth fully equipped to answer that question. Blair — not to be confused with the disgraced ex-New York Times reporter who shares his name — co-stars in The New Normal as Clay, the dopey, philandering husband of surrogate-to-be Goldie (Georgia King).

But the actor insists that his character isn’t all bad: “He’s like a puppy,” Blair explains. “You get a dog, he’s two weeks old, and he pees on the carpet. And your instinct is to be like, ‘What are you doing? No, no, no, go outside, go outside!’ And then he looks at you with those big ol’ eyes, and you can’t help but smile.”

Before the new sitcom’s televised debut, we called Blair to chat about working with Ryan Murphy, the Utah affiliate that refuses to air his show, and getting past his high school Homecoming King days.  Check out the chat below before tuning into The New Normal‘s second episode tonight at 9:30 pm on NBC.

How would you describe your character? When we meet him, he doesn’t seem like a very good guy.
The audience will see a dog, but I think you kind of have to love Clay. Because most importantly, he loves his wife and his daughter more than anything. He just makes a lot of mistakes. But that does not override the fact that he will do anything for his child.

Were you nervous that your first scene was a sex scene?
No! It’s actually really funny, because when I found out who got cast — Jessica Lu, who plays Tabitha — she’s actually a good friend of mine.

I guess that makes it a little less awkward.
Yes. Or more awkward, I don’t know. It didn’t get awkward until, like, she was on top of me.

So what’s scarier: Having cameras film you while you’re half-naked, or having Ellen Barkin point a gun at you?
Ellen Barkin pointing a gun at me is definitely more scary than being half-naked. I’m such a fan of hers, and she’s just so amazing and she gives you so much to work off of — you just sit there and let her control everything, and respond. It’s a dream come true.

It sounds like Ellen’s a little like her character — very take-charge.
Umm, she’s not like her character in the sense of being a bigot, but I know her enough to assume that she probably gets what she wants. She’s a very strong, awesome woman.

Tell me about working with Ryan Murphy.
I was super intimidated at first, just because of his accolades. He’s directed I think three of the episodes I’ve done so far, and he couldn’t be a cooler, more respectful person. He loves working, and he’s very easy to talk to and collaborate with.

I know Glee actors have said that he uses a lot of material from the actors’ real lives in his scripts. Is that happening on The New Normal as well?
Yeah, actually. When we shot the pilot, the bedroom scene, they asked for photos of me in high school. And [Murphy] was walking around the room, and he picked up a photo and started asking me a bunch of questions. I haven’t seen that translate yet, but I’m sure it will.

What kind of stuff have you been telling him?
I was kind of a terror in high school. My character — in the breakdown, it was like, “Former Homecoming King who has his best days behind him.” And I was the Homecoming King and stuff like that, so it was kind of hilarious to read that. But yeah, I was a bad kid, and I found my way in Los Angeles. I got my bearings out here. And I will leave it like that.

What’s your reaction to the Utah affiliate that refuses to air the show?
You know, I don’t understand that at all. The show isn’t [just] about a gay couple — it’s about two families coming together to create this new normal. It’s a great story, and it’s got so many important issues that people struggle with and deal with today. I wish they would look past that [its gay content]. I hope that they do.

Give us some scoop on what’s coming up. How will Clay react when he finds out what Goldie’s doing?
Oh, you will see. I have not met Bryan and David yet, but there’s some fun stuff coming up that I can’t talk about. We’ll see a little more of how Clay feels about his family in the second episode. I love my daughter, and I want to see her — and you’re going to see that.

Read more:
‘The New Normal’ premiere review: Will you be spending more time with this family?
23 Swoon-worthy Fall TV Characters
‘The New Normal’ sneak peek: 5 takeaways

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