Justin Kirk and JoAnna Garcia took the time to chat about their new show on NBC, Animal Practice. Animal Practice premieres tonight at 8 EST. JoAnna plays Dorothy. Justin Kirk is best known for his role as Andy on Weeds. He now stars as Dr. George Coleman. His assistant is a very famous monkey, Crystal the Monkey, who plays Dr. Rizzo. Crystal has starred in Community, The Hangover Part II, We Bought a Zoo, and and several more films. Animal Practice, Wednesday nights on NBC.
Press Conference Call Highlights:
Q: Justin, in coming back to another series, what did you think this could turn into in order for you to do it?
Justin Kirk: Boy, I try not to think about what anything in my life is going to turn into. You just try to decide if it’s going to be an interesting job. I wasn’t planning on doing another show at all. I hadn’t even thought twice about it, but then this one came down the pike and it seemed to be on the one hand very different from Weeds. And then on the other hand something that I didn’t think we had seen on television before, both in terms of a setting and just the – I thought that it could be a very bizarre and unique tone for a new television comedy. And it is definitely going in the direction I had hoped, and it’s been great so far.
Q: JoAnna, what do love about playing Dorothy as compared to before you read the part before the start of production?
JoAnna Garcia: Well, I was really excited once I became a part of the show. I mean, I have the benefit of having seen the original pilot and kind of gathering – well obviously, falling in love with it and everyone that was a part of it. And then gathering sort of what I thought I could bring to the character. And it’s been a really fun collaboration of the (whole) process. I love how quirky and weird Dorothy has become, and getting even weirder. So it’s been a real fun journey. I feel like it’s become very creative and exciting and something very different. I really like her levity and her warmth, and her eagerness to do a really good job. And as you watch further episodes, you start to learn that, you know, there’s a lot of reasons why she really wants to make this work, and some of which are you know a whole personal journey for her, which I really love that sort of aspect that we’re exploring right now.
Q: JoAnna, in an interview you were explaining that you had taken over for another actress who was originally cast. But it was unclear to whether the actual character of Dorothy Crane was not cast or it was just a different actress? And if so, what do you feel that you bring to the show rather than that actress that was cast before you?
JoAnna Garcia: Well obviously, I have tremendous respect for the actress that originally played Dorothy Crane. She was the character in the original pilot and I took over that character. She was wonderful. And I think you know I really had the benefit of, you know, seeing the original pilot and everyone had kind of lived with all of the characters for a moment, and saw really what they wanted to add to the character. And so it was sort of the second generation. You know, they’d already been around the block one time, and so I got the – I had the benefit of that learning curve. But yes, Dorothy was in the original pilot, and yes, I did replace her, but – which is a little awkward, but a part of this business and I’m very grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this show now and also to really bring a little – my own little personal stamp to here in the way of what I bring as comedic actress to a role.
Q: When you did finally read the first draft of the script, did you know that it would be as good as it was? Did it kind of pop off the page? Or, what was your first reaction?
Justin Kirk: The thing about a pilot, it’s different than a movie or a play in that it’s really just a sketch of what a show can become, you know. So you’re taking a leap of faith on – to a certain degree. Yes, the pilot script was great, but you hope that a show is – tonally is going to go in certain directions or – and I think that we really have. We’ve got five in the can now and it’s becoming, you know, the show I think we hoped that it would.
JoAnna Garcia: And, I didn’t have to have as much creativity when I thought about it. I got to watch the pilot and saw how great it was and get really excited about where – how I could fit into the whole puzzle you know. I didn’t have to envision it as much as everyone else did.
Q: Justin, had you finished Weeds completely filming and everything else before this came up? Or did it kind of happen at the same time?
Justin Kirk: No. Well, I was actually in New York doing a play when I got the script for this and we started to talk about this, and then we went to get back and film the last season of Weeds. And actually when JoAnna came in and we did reshoots, I was still doing Weeds. So, it was on my days off of Weeds. And…
JoAnna Garcia: He would actually go to work. He would be like, “I’m off to work, but I’m here to help you.” It was always very sweet.
Justin Kirk: And then we wrapped Weeds and we started production on the actual season of Animal Practice literally I think two days afterwards. So, it was – yes. No time to breathe. Tough problem to have I suppose. Too much employment as an actor.
Q: One more quick question about Weeds. Would you – if you imagine your character in the future, where do you imagine your character’s at now? In 20 years – 10 years ahead.
Justin Kirk: Well of course, the finale took place eight years in the future, so it was 2020. Marijuana’s legal and iPhones are like a – size of a playing card. Yes, I don’t know. The thing I liked about the finale is that there weren’t any big events per se. You know, it was pretty much just there we were eight years later trying to make things work in our lives and put one foot in front of the other. And that’s probably what Andy is going to be doing. I’m just glad he found a good job finally.
Q: Working with the animals, is it easier or harder than you guys thought it would be?
Justin Kirk: It is. You know, every job has a specific little something extra that is new to your life or something you didn’t expect, or certainly something new to a job. And, the animals are definitely – that’s the case in this one. To me, it’s been this crazy gift that I didn’t see coming, you know. Every day we go to work, well there’s a myriad of dogs and cats, but then you know last week I had a skunk and porcupine, and I think we have an ostrich next week, JoAnna, correct?
JoAnna Garcia: Yes, an ostrich.
Justin Kirk: It’s been pretty great.
JoAnna Garcia: It’s been amazing. I mean, I am a huge animal lover, and I’m like the little nerd in class where I’m always up the animal trainer’s, you know, butt saying, “What’s this? What’s that? What – how do they eat?” And I’ve learned how pretty much every animal on our show mates. I know, it seems like a running theme with all of my questions. And that is true. I can really tell you how like a desert tortoise mates. So if you’re ever interested, we can talk about that later. But, it’s been really fun and I love the opportunity to get to work up close and personal with animals. Not just the dogs and kitties – which by the way, so many of these dogs are literally rescued off the streets of LA or – a few of them are from Mexico when they were (shooting) a (Federally-owned) Chihuahua. And it’s the most amazing thing to hear their stories and to see how they’ve been given a new opportunity to – they’re all so happy and you could tell how you know, (lucky they are). And our trainers are so amazing that they’re just so giving. And, everything is very calm and comfortable there because – and the animals sort of reflect that same sort of feeling. And so it makes for a comfortable set rather than a tense set. I’m sure you know when there’s a bear on set or an ostrich, there’s – and a tiger obviously, there’s certain things that you have to worry about. But for the most part, it’s a very laid back environment. These animals are incredible and their trainers are just as incredible. And it gives us an opportunity – I got to feed a porcupine the other day. So it gives us an opportunity to really learn about all these creatures and to hear their stories and what they’re all about. It’s generally fun.
Q: And with the animals, do they usually do it one take or do you guys have to do multiple amounts?
JoAnna Garcia: They’re far better than we are. That’s for sure.
Justin Kirk: I mean – you know, first of all, we also have an actor you may have heard of called Crystal the Monkey, and I think really of her more as one of the ensemble of the show. Other than her there aren’t a lot of tricks happening, so it’s not about getting a dog to jump over a ball or anything there. So it’s not – in terms of them nailing a take, they usually just have to show up.
JoAnna Garcia: Yes. It was really…There’s this one episode where there’s this dog there and he was – the dog of this little boy, and he – his name is Cosmo and he’s actually a pretty well-known dog in the business, and he just had to be cute and adorable the entire episode. But he – on the – on – you know, when the tapes – when the cameras were not rolling, he showed me pretty much all of his tricks. He knows how to fake pee on somebody. He rolls over. He was like, “What do you want me to do. I got it all for you. What do you need?” And we’re like, “Just be adorable,” so it’s pretty cute.
Q: Just a general question for both of you about kind of your comedic leanings and sort of comic stylings. There are a lot of very cerebral comedies that can be very funny, but you know the expression, “You know, keep it simple, stupid.” Do you think sometimes we over think comedy? Like when you just look at a show like this and you say – if you put a bunch of crazy animals, cast a couple of good actors, then you’ve got the one guy who’s kind of dealing with a new boss, how can that not be funny? Do you think sometimes we over think it and maybe we make it too complicated?
Justin Kirk: And look – you know, that’s a good question, but I think our show exists in a very special place. Yes, we have – it’s – I think we’re going to be both broad and clever at the same time. We’ve got five episodes in the can now, and I have no time for dumb. Well, no. That’s not true. I do like dumb sometimes. What am I trying to say, JoAnna? I think it’s a pretty smart and – I – it’s I think we are both a smart and weird show with some sort of great and sometimes dense writing. And then sometimes, we just have Bobby Lee run into a plate glass window.
JoAnna Garcia: Yes.
Justin Kirk: And I like both of those things.
JoAnna Garcia: I mean first of all – I’m going to forever refer to when I do anything in the comedic realm as my comedic styling, so thank you for that. That is…
Justin Kirk: Definitely.
JoAnna Garcia: …forever going to be in my back pocket. But, I mean I – this – I think that for us, we tend to all, you know, really find each other funny. And I think that when you put all of us in a room, the nature of comedians would be to entertain each other. And, I think that that’s sort of where we go from it. I mean, there’s not – I know that there’s always that opportunity. We’re given that freedom to kind of go wild and crazy, and for some of the people in our cast, that’s a lot more up there.
Justin Kirk: All right, the group does really have a lot of disparate styles, you know. I mean…
JoAnna Garcia: Yes. Exactly.
Justin Kirk: In terms of where we come from, there’s a lot of variety. But somehow, it all comes together on the set of Animal Practice.
JoAnna Garcia: Yes.
Justin Kirk: The magical way that America will discover Wednesday at 8:00. Hey. We always – you know, listen, if you want to come for the monkey, come for the monkey. If you want to stay for Bobby Lee, we’ll take you all.
JoAnna Garcia: Exactly. I said when I – when I watched the pilot, I said, this show is freaking brilliant. My mom is definitely watching the show for the monkey. I would watch the show because I think everyone’s so talented. And I – you know, I’ve always – you know, both Justin and I have been blessed in our careers to have been a part of a long-running show. And I think that what makes the show – a show so great is like for me, you know, great actors and writing and whatnot. But it’s like a (unintelligible) of a cast. It’s people wanting to watch you on a journey, and that is something that appealed to me so tremendously when I watched the pilot. And I think that we have it. It’s got a very broad appeal, and somehow it all really works.
Justin Kirk: And all you can try – all you can do is try to make what you think is good and what you think is funny, and you know, there’s nowhere to aim for a broad appeal. But you know, if you – so you just try to come to work and do the show you think is good and hopefully lots of people will agree.
Q: Did they take you to a veterinarian and put you in a place and kind of watch how it went?
Justin Kirk: Well, one of my closest friends in New York is an exclusively cat veterinarian. I will plug his hospital. It’s called the New York Cat Hospital. He was the first person I talked to about this when I got the script for the pilot and talked about the possibilities of what it could become, so I know – I’ve watched him at times. And, we also have a great Vet Tech named (Ryan) on the set. And so any time we have a scene where there is anything that – you know, where I have to look like a real doctor and stuff, he helps us do that. And so, we’re coming from all ends.
JoAnna Garcia: And, he works with all of the animals. In fact, he told me the other day, he’s like, “Have you ever noticed that Crystal doesn’t really like me all that much?” And I was like, “Why?” And he said, “Well, because I have the thankless job of having to brush her teeth.” And I was like, “Oh, Crystal, come on. You got to keep those pearly whites going strong,” but she doesn’t really – she’s like, “Um, I’m over you.”
Justin Kirk: Actually as you will see in the cold open on Wednesday, Crystal – when she stays over at my house brushes her own teeth.
JoAnna Garcia: Yes. She’s pretty talented.
Q: Now, have there been any close calls? Any of them snip at you? Almost bite you? Anything like that?
Justin Kirk: It’s been nothing but inner-species love on the set of Animal Practice actually. No. There’s been nothing like that.
JoAnna Garcia: Even with the animals, they all are very used to each other. In fact, they – I think they worked together. It always amazes me to see – you know, Crystal was looking at the pig the other day like, “Huh? What’s that all about,” but it was not out of fear. It was just like, “Well, you’re new. You’re interesting.” It was very cute.
Q: And do you have pets? You say you’re an animal lover, so I assume you have pets at home.
JoAnna Garcia: I do. I have four dogs. And I’ve had many, many animals at one point in time. Now I’ve found homes for most of them. I tend to take an animal in and anything that needs a home will usually find its way to our house. I also have a horse too.
Justin Kirk: I do enjoy the animals. Alas, no pets here. I live in a…
JoAnna Garcia: Oh, we’re finding him one though.
Justin Kirk: She’s always trying to (force a) – I live in a modest bachelor pad in the Hollywood Hills, and if I work out of town, you know, I leave for months at a time….so I don’t have any. But you know, now they’re there every day at work, so that’s enough.
JoAnna Garcia: I can almost guarantee you by the end of this I will have found some kind of animal for Justin to…
Justin Kirk: All right.
JoAnna Garcia: And it’s not going to take that long. Like Christmas is right around the corner guys.
Q: The monkey, Crystal, do you guys know why they changed the name from Dr. Zaius, which was an awesome play of Planet of the Apes, to Dr. Rizzo?
Justin Kirk: I agree. I think it was just that. You know, it was directly a character from The Planet of the Apes movies, and apparently for whatever reason was not going to clear from a copy write perspective, yes.
Q: Does Crystal favor anybody on the set? Does she have her favorite person, other than her trainer?
Justin Kirk: Don’t get JoAnna and I fighting over this.
JoAnna Garcia: I have resorted to buying Crystal’s love, and I realize that.
Justin Kirk: Yes.
JoAnna Garcia: Justin plays it cool, like he was told to, but I do have to say this. As much as Justin and I like to argue over who she likes more, and I do think…
Justin Kirk: It’s JoAnna. It’s JoAnna.
JoAnna Garcia: …that we both have, it’s definitely me. No, Betsy. She really, really likes Betsy. I’ve taken note – yes. And, it’s a little – it’s quite bothersome for me, except Betsy is so genuinely sweet. Probably one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. It’s hard for me to feel competitive with her about anything, although I do have – I do feel competitive with her. But I’m going to say Betsy. But we (shared a juice) and the other day she stole a Cheeto from my bag and I didn’t tell anyone about it, and we kind of wink-winked and…
Justin Kirk: Betsy or Crystal?
JoAnna Garcia: Crystal.
Justin Kirk: Oh, okay.
JoAnna Garcia: I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I will rival Justin for that love. But, we – she’s really sweet. She tolerates all of us very well, and she – you know, she gives me manicures in the morning a lot. She’ll stick her little monkey fingernails and rub them under each – all ten of my nails and groom me, and I really – I appreciate that.
Justin Kirk: She goes in your hair too. That’s her favorite thing.
JoAnna Garcia: She does.
Justin Kirk: It’s just…
JoAnna Garcia: And your ears.
Justin Kirk: It’s her stuff, yes.
JoAnna Garcia: She likes to groom you. I shared a juice with her the other day.
Justin Kirk: She grooms me too. Come on, man.