Actor’s Inspirations for Upcoming Web Sitcom Old Dogs & New Tricks
by Leon Acord
The first seed of what would become Old Dogs & New Tricks was planted a couple of years ago, when I learned an actor friend was “second runner up” for the part on Modern Family that Eric Stonestreet was making famous.
I found it odd, because the two actors were wildly different in type: My friend is muscular and sexual and gay; Eric Overstreet is overweight and clownish and straight. It made me wonder if they picked Eric because (in addition to being a great actor) he would make the gay marriage on Modern Family seem non-sexual and therefore safe to audiences.
TV has come a long way since I was a kid, and gay characters now abound. But there’s still a chunk of most gay TV character’s lives that we never see. I wanted to create a show that exposed those things; a show about gay men who talk about things many gay men talk about, in an honest way you’d never hear on any network. I wanted to explore gay sexuality in a straight-forward, comical and non-judgmental way. I wanted to show gay friends forming their own family.
And because I wanted to act in the thing, I wanted them to be a group of otherwise successful, middle-aged gay men – a wildly under-represented though usually affluent (go figure!) segment of the population – and plop them into youth-obsessed West Hollywood and see what happens.
Flash forward to Summer 2010: During a two-month sabbatical from LA at my parents’ Indiana home, I found myself with my laptop and no internet connection, no cell reception, no air conditioning, not even a TV in my room. There were no other excuses—it was time to create what I originally entitled Silver Foxes. (Ugh.)
The characters appeared instantly to me. Neurotic agent Nathan Adler, who’s traded passion for fashion; washed-up rocker Brad Stone, a borderline sex-addict; idealistic Muscles Carter, who’s still holding out for Mr. Right; and conservative Ross Stein, who found Mr. Right twenty years ago but now wonders ‘what’s next?’. There are parts of me in each character, but more than that I won’t say!
I truly grew to love these guys – I couldn’t wait, each night, to sit at my laptop and share time with my four newfound friends. I believe my parents think I lost my mind.
Stories came quickly – some inspired by real events, some total figments of my imagination – so quickly in fact that at the end of my two month’s stay, I had scripts for 30 five-minute episodes (we’ve put the last 14 on the shelf for now).
I thought I’d hire a joke writer at some point to punch up the scripts, but Canadian playwright Glen Rockwell, the only other person I shared the scripts with at this point, said he thought the scripts were plenty funny as is.
I wrote Nathan as newly 50 because, at 47, I thought it would take at least two years to get this thing produced. But after returning to LA, I sent the scripts to a few industry associates, and the response was immediate and enthusiastic. The show took on a life and urgency of its own – like a snowball, picking up staffers and crew members as it rolled, unstoppable, down the production hill. There was a general consensus to strike while the iron is hot.
After lots of development work with wonderful director Arvin Bautista; hard work from executive producer Laurence Whiting and line producer Matt Ladensack; meeting actors practically begging to play a part with producer/casting associate Levi Damione; and a successful IndieGoGo campaign, here we are: shooting the pilot in May 2011, with a great cast and incredible crew, less than a year after I first created the show.
And the pilot will be online before the summer is done. You gotta love the internet!