Josh Norman has appeared on multiple magazine covers, provided commentary on Fox’s NFL pregame show and done countless interviews since the Redskins made him the highest-paid cornerback in April, but none quite like the one he did for the premiere of the original comedy series “Here’s the Rub.”
During the episode, which will be released Wednesday on Verizon’s free video streaming platform go90, Norman answers questions in a stable from Russian trainer “Nikolai Popov” about his rivalry with Odell Beckham Jr., his love of horses and what it’s like to be name-dropped by Jay-Z. Popov is an original character developed and played by stand-up comedian and actor Andrew Santino, who co-produced the series with Mandalay Sports Media.
Santino, who starred in the ABC sitcom “Mixology” and made guest appearances on “The League,” “Arrested Development” and “The Office,” started developing Popov’s heavily accented character while working on the MTV show “Punk’d” in 2012. A couple of years ago, he screen tested it for “Saturday Night Live.” When Mandalay Sports Media approached him with the idea of interviewing athletes in character, Santino had the perfect guy.
“He’s kind of crazy, but lovable, and sweet and goofy, and is a massive sports fan,” Santino said. “He’s a fantastic version of a frustrated sports trainer or athlete of old who just wants to get close to these famous people, have a good time and learn a few things about them.”
Santino, who grew up in Chicago and describes himself as an “avid sports fan,” had a specific type of athlete in mind when he started putting together a wish list of potential guests for “Here’s the Rub.” He said he hopes the series appeals to sports fans and comedy fans alike.
“We just wanted to make sure we had people who had large personalities, people who would play well with the character, and people who have a sense of humor about themselves,” Santino said. “Josh was a perfect person to interview, someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously off the field. Off the field he’s super fun and lovable and loves to joke around. He embraces his goofiness.”
Norman, whose love of movies and dreams of becoming an actor are well documented, happily agrees when Popov asks him to act out a scene from a fake Western movie with the help of a Hollywood acting coach. He also laughs off Popov’s lame idea for a phrase to yell at opposing quarterbacks: “Don’t throw here!”
New episodes of “Here’s the Rub” will be released every Wednesday. A future episode features Santino kicking it in a hot tub with former Wizards guard Nick Young. Other guests this season include Brian Scalabrine, Skylar Diggins, surfer Anastasia Ashley and actor Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, who plays “The Mountain” on “Game of Thrones.”