Unlike Ashton Kutcher, who did not show up for Summer TV Press Tour 2011 because his joining of CBS series “Two and a Half Men” to replace Charlie Sheen is shrouded in secrecy, Ted Danson, who is replacing Laurence Fishburne as the male lead on CBS’s “CSI,” did show up.
He’s probably regretting it.
Things started out well enough – Danson got asked the kind of easy press tour questions that reporters in the room use to play their favorite new game, Competitive Tweeting. The rules are simple: reporters race to see which of them gets up a quote first, or which snarks about it more cleverly and gets the most re-tweets, which earns the winner a high five in the room.
First question: “The kind of acting you’ve been doing in recent years is so nuanced – does this make this particular time for what you want to bring to this character better than it might have been had this come at an earlier time?”
No, we do not understand the question either. Neither did Danson. After a pause, he answered, “Yes?”
Another reporter wondered whether Danson is as surprised as the press that he got cast in a crime drama.
“Well, they still won’t give me a gun,” Danson joshed.
They wanted to know details about his character: Is he a father? Is he still married? Where did he come from? How did his character land the CSI job?
“I don’t know,” Danson admitted, adding, “I’m discovering every day.”
Exec producer Don McGill jumped in and explained the character, D.B. Russell, is a father and a family man, who grew up with “counterculture parents” in a commune and traveled around with them. They were folk singers and they traveled around in a van. D.B. was van-schooled. D.B. “has things really, really in balance: family, work, job, life.”
At the start of the Q&A, Danson had whispered something into the ear of his co-star, Marg Helgenberger that had actually made her laugh. This was quite something. It may be the first time Marg Helgenberger has laughed during a Press Tour Q&A session. Generally Helgenberger is a pill at Press Tour Q&A’s – usually something having to do with the cast of one of those “CSI” spinoffs, riding her coattails.
Anyway, naturally some guy in the room wondered what super power Danson has over Helgenberger that he could get her to laugh at a Press Tour Q&A. So he asked Danson what he’d whispered to her.
“I said, ‘I’m getting a facelift’,” Danson said.
“I’m not,” he added, for the record.
“You look great to me,” the guy said.
“Thank you. And your name was?”
Another reporter reminded Helgenberger she had promised last year that it would be her last on the show, and asked if she’d gotten a “second wind,” and if that second wind was Ted Danson.
Helgenberger proceeded to disabuse the reporter, and anyone else in the room, of the idea that her decision had anything to do with anyone except Marg Helgenberger:
“I was planning on leaving after last season and [executive producer] Carol [Mendelsohn] had mentioned to me at some point in midseason if there’s any way that we could perhaps wrap it up in the beginning of the next season” it would be, Mendelsohn said, “more exciting for us as the writers, and for viewers.”
“And it was the combination of that information, and me having a hard time letting go of this show and this group of people,” she continued. “Maybe I still need it, as part of the process of ‘I’m not done yet playing this character. I’m not done yet letting go.’ So THAT’S why I decided to extend it a little bit.”
But, she insisted, her plan is to leave this coming season.
Then things got weird.
A reporter noted Danson had starred for many years on “Cheers,” which had made a boatload of money for NBC and in syndication. The reporter wondered if Danson had any complaints about how much money he made on the show and whether he might file a lawsuit, or is he “happy with the money that came in.”
“Did you say that I at one point did think about filing a lawsuit?” Danson asked, somewhat alarmed.
Reporter: “No. Have you – “
“ That’s really a good idea!” Danson interrupted.
Then the reporter began asking Danson questions about his bank account and if he thought he was fairly compensated.
“I was OVERLY fairly compensated,”
Danson said cutting him off again. “ It created huge sums of guilt. I think I go around trying to save oceans out of guilt from ‘Cheers’ money. So, no. I was SO compensated that we change the subject.”
“Basically this job, then, is really for the love of acting?” the reporter persisted.
“Yeah. Yes, actually,” Danson retorted. “That sounds like maybe a joke, but no. That’s absolutely right. I love going to work.”