When Jack McBrayer hit the scene playing Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock” in 2006, he instantly created one the most lovable characters in TV history. One of the greatest disappointments in the demise of Tina Fey’s sitcom was the fact that we wouldn’t get to see the adorable Southern actor in our homes each week. So we were thrilled recently when Jack made an appearance on one of our other favorite shows, “The Middle.” And more good news was on the way — Jack is back in a follow up installment.
In a recent exclusive interview the 39-year-old reflected on getting the part of Dr. Goodwin the Dentist opposite Patricia Heaton’s Frankie Heck. When asked what got him interested in appearing on “The Middle,” McBrayer jokingly replied, “Un-em-ployment.”
All good humor aside, he answered, “I had actually been a fan of ‘The Middle’ from way back. I know Neil Flynn, who plays Mike, from Chicago days, from Second City, even back when Tina Fey. We all knew each other. That’s why I started watching the show but then I was like, ‘Oh, no, this is my life.’ A lot of things I was able to latch on to, growing up with three kids in the family, two parents who were always working and always very tired and having to fix your appliances with duct tape… So I was very, very pleased when the opportunity came up to join them on the show.”
The congenial actor gave a sneak peak at what’s to come on this week’s episode, “Dr. Goodwin did end up hiring Frankie to work in his dentist’s office. And so that’s a good combination because Dr. Goodwin is a man-child who just really and truly needs a mother around in his life and Frankie’s a good fit for that. But this week Frankie brings her drama into the office a little bit, maybe oversteps some boundaries with how she’s presenting herself.”
But Jack acknowledged that it’s different being the new kid on the block after having been a regular on an established series for so many years. He described the situation, “Coming in as a guest star, as opposed to the past seven years, where I would welcome guests onto my show, I got nervous. I was like, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to come into this well oiled machine with these people who know their characters inward, outward, upside down.”
He added, “I didn’t want to just waltz in there and act like, ‘Alright guys, here’s how it’s gonna go.’ Because believe it or not, as a regular, sometimes guest stars would come in and I don’t know where it came from, insecurity or nerves or something, sometimes they would be a persona non grata. But eventually it would all work out because a lot of people edit well. I’m not one of those people. I was definitely very nervous to come on here. But again everybody was so professional and just so nice and warm. But also, too, I like to pride myself on being able to read the room a little bit. So I tried to gauge how people were acting and then thought, ‘Okay, this is the lead I’m going to follow.’ Hopefully it worked out well.”
Apparently it all did. After all, Jack’s already been invited in for his second episode, which is all right with him. He explained there’s another perk to being on “The Middle’s” Hollywood set, “For me just working in California is such a treat because we would finish a take and I could walk outside and it was sunshiny and there were mountains and I could see blue skies. And I was like, ‘Well, this is not the G train showing grey snow on my head.’”
Still he’s not sure if he’ll be taking the ride any further. Jack revealed that he’s not sure if he’ll be doing any more episodes but admitted, “I would love it if they did bring him back. But I learned very early in my career that you just be happy with whatever you get. And so I have just enjoyed my experience thus far. But yes, God bless, if they invited me back, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
But don’t worry. He’s got plenty to keep himself busy in the meantime. In addition to film and voice over roles, Jack has started to explore some other hobbies. He described some of his new extracurricular activities, “I’m challenging myself in different aspects of my life. I have a keyboard and I’m taking piano lessons. Here I am a grown man, having this person come to my house — in fact he’s coming at 11 o’clock today — and yell at me to get my scales right. So it’s a fun challenge. I’m doing more improvisation. I put the breaks on that when I was doing ’30 Rock’ because I was like, ‘I don’t want people recording me. I don’t want people judging me or saying Kenneth is up there.’ That kind of stuff.”
Jack continued, “I’m trying to make myself cook. I never cooked in my life. I could eat cereal three meals a day. So I’m passionate about challenging myself creatively — musically, performance wise and even in the kitchen.”
But he confessed, “Now that I’m thinking about it, half the stuff I do isn’t really cooking. It’s just like a bean dip, which is essentially just opening cans of stuff. But I’ve tried my Duncan Hines cupcakes. As long as I’m not burning them, I feel like I’m succeeding so that makes me feel good.”
Tune in to “The Middle” on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. Central on ABC.
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