Cat Deeley is known for being the delightfully excitable host of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” but isn’t it hard to act that bubbly all the time? Not really — Deeley’s used to it. Still, she’s excited to play against-type when she makes her scripted series debut on Hulu’s new original comedy, “Deadbeat.”
“Deadbeat,” premiering Wednesday, stars Tyler Labine as Kevin, an underemployed slacker psychic medium. When he’s not eating jelly out of the jar or hanging out with his drug dealer, he helps ghosts deal with their unfinished business so they can move on the afterlife. Deeley stars as glamorous celebrity medium Camomile White, who has built a business empire (including a line of paranormal erotica books) around her “psychic” abilities. When Kevin finds out she’s a fraud and can’t really communicate with the dead, the two become enemies.
We talked to Deeley, a Native of England, about going from hosting a live show to starring on a weekly series; what it’s like playing the bad guy; and if she wishes the TV academy would just give her that Emmy already (she’s been nominated three years in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program).
All 10 episodes of “Deadbeat” are now available on Hulu Plus. The first two episodes will be available on “regular” Hulu at the same time for non-subscribers, and then will roll out one new episode per week until finale.
On her unexpected chemistry with co-star Tyler Labine’s character (described as “the little kid from ‘The Sixth Sense’ growing up into The Dude from ‘The Big Lebowski’):
“It’s a really weird thing — he can’t hold a job, his best friend is a drug dealer. Yet somehow, for reasons that are inexplicable, he kind of breaks your heart and everyone just falls in with him,” Deeley, 37, gushes of Labine’s role as Kevin. The two didn’t meet until their first day filming, and they kicked it off as Deeley’s character Camomile grabs Kevin in an, um, sensitive area while threatening him. Awkward? Well, sure, but the two hit it off right away regardless.
An acting novice, Deeley says she was nervous about whether they would click; as soon as she saw the footage on screen, her fears were gone. “You never quite know whether something’s going to work…but we’ve got really great chemistry,” she says. “It really works.”
On why she decided to branch out into acting:
A former model, Deeley has a long list of TV hosting credits, including British series “SMTV Live,” which she describes as “‘Saturday Night Live’ for kids.” In recent years, she filmed a few bit parts on various shows (HBO’s “Life’s Too Short; Showtime’s “House of Lies”), and increasingly missed doing TV comedy. “It was something I really enjoyed, self-deprecating comedy,” she explains. “Give me a silly wig and some funny teeth and I’m good to go.”
Then last year while Deeley was in India for work, her manager sent her the “Deadbeat” script. At first, Deeley was about to beg off because of too many time commitments. But as soon as she read it (“brilliant” writing, non-stop jokes) she immediately wanted to get involved.
On what it’s like playing the “bad guy” as a fake psychic:
“I get to be a real villain!” Deeley exclaims. “I’m a nasty, manipulative piece of work.” Deeley loved that the character was so evil to Labine’s character while being utterly charming around everyone else. She decided to loosely base the character of Camomile on the scheming Alexis Carrington Colby from “Dynasty” and Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” (“England produces great villains,” Deeley muses.)
She had the most fun going up against the hapless Kevin, who realizes the truth about Camomile’s fake powers: “She realizes she has to protect everything she’s taken the time to build up,” she says. “This loser could crush her empire.”
On the difference between filming “So You Think You Can Dance” and the grind of a weekly series.
The show filmed 10 episodes over several weeks in New York City, and some differences did catch Deeley a bit off guard. “This was massively different for me,” says Deeley, who mostly does live TV; unlike hosting, this gig didn’t start promptly at 5 p.m. and end exactly at 7 p.m. Scripted shows have a bit more leeway. (On “SYTYCD,” she says, “If I’m not ready to go on stage at 5 p.m., I’m pushed on stage in curlers whether I’m ready or not.”)
Though for “Deadbeat,” it was a relief to have a do-over if something went wrong in the first take. That’s one luxury you can’t afford on live TV, if you mess up or fall or drop a mic — all of which has happened to Deeley. She doesn’t stress about those things too much, though: “I think a little bit of self-deprecation and charm actually endears you to the audience,” she says.
On those “win Cat Deeley an Emmy!” campaigns that crop up around award season from “SYTYCD” fans:
“My mother’s been very busy,” Deeley jokes. She’s just grateful at being embraced by the American audience. “I came across from England – you hope people like you and understand your accent and enjoy watching,” she says. “Now for the show to be going 11 seasons later is unbelievable. Never in my wildest dreams [would I have] thought I would be nominated for an Emmy.” (Season 11 debuts on May 28.)
And no, she insists — she doesn’t mind not having an actual trophy, since the show has already changed her life. “It would actually be incredible feeling if I did win one,” she says. “In actual fact, I feel like a bit of a winner anyway.”