If Josh Gad hadn’t passed on “Modern Family,” NBC’s new White House-set comedy “1600 Penn” may have never existed; and no, it is not intentional that show stars Bill Pullman (the president) and Jenna Elfman (the first lady) resemble Mitt and Ann Romney.
These were just some of the fun facts learned in a conference call with reporters/bloggers on Friday. On the call was Gad, creator/executive producer of “Penn,” along with Pullman and Elfman, who star in the series about a dysfunctional first family, plugging the show for Monday night’s “sneak preview” of the pilot — taking advantage of the first night of “The Voice” finale — before the show’s official launch in January.
Gad, perhaps best known for his role in “Book of Mormon” on Broadway, said he first met co-creator Jason Winer, director of “Modern Family,” when the ABC comedy was casting for various roles. Gad ultimately passed on the part (bloggers on the call naturally demanded to know which role, and Gad refused to say, but hinted it was Eric Stonestreet’s character, for which he’s won two Emmy awards).
“My bank account is a lot smaller than it could have been,” Gad noted, sadly.
Still, Winer wanted to work with Gad, and they came up with the idea about a slightly crazy family who happened to be living in the White House — though it ultimately didn’t come together until they hired Jon Lovett, a former Obama speechwriter who moved to Hollywood last fall. Gad said Lovett fit the bill for someone who could “ground [the show] into reality.”
Later, Gad, who plays the president’s son on the show, also insisted that the family on the show is not at all based on the Obamas — and the show isn’t remotely political. He and the cast also shot down the notion that Pullman and Elfman’s resemblance to the Romneys is intentional.
Elfman pointed out that they were cast back in April, so the Romneys weren’t even in the forefront of the news like they were in the last few months. “That wasn’t part of our mindset,” Elfman said.
Pullman agreed. But, “You’re around a lot of comedians here,” he added. “So people here were saying to me, ‘Has anyone told you how much you look like Obama’?”