Bradley Whitford is best known for his Emmy Award winning performance as Josh Lyman on The West Wing. He’s also been seen on the critically acclaimed Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, ER, The X-Files and NYPD Blue.
In the new Fox series The Good Guys, he portrays Dan Stark, who in the 1970s was a big-shot Dallas detective. Thirty years later, Dan is a washed-up detective who spends most of his time drunk or re-hashing the old days.
A man who trusts old-school police instincts, Dan is now partnered with Jack Bailey (Colin Hanks), an ambitious, by-the-book detective. The Crimes Division assigns them to investigate seemingly minor incidents, but their unique style and reckless behavior constantly get them into trouble.
Bradley Whitford spoke of working in Dallas on the new series at the TV Critics Association.
You did a pilot last year that sounded pretty similar to this. Is this a different version of the same show or just a coincidence?
I was so drunk I don’t remember that show (he laughs). No. It was a strange thing. It was a character who was partnered with a younger cop who had a little bit of a drinking issue and a mustache. But it turned out that that show did not get picked up.
It was a blast for me to play a part like that, and it turned out that already in development, based on one of his (producer Matt Nix) old feature scripts, was a thing called Jack and Dan which happened to have a lecherous, alcoholic cop, paired with a younger cop.
So that’s how it came about, but it was not a re-do or a rip-off, but it was a timing thing. It was already in development.
Dan and Jack are kind of knuckleheads in this. Are they playing against type or are they secretly diabolical geniuses?
I think my character is actually a great cop, and we turn out to be wonderful crime-solvers. But there are challenges, there’s a little bit of a drinking issue for me, not too big but enough for some funny (situations) It’s the lighter side of lechery and alcoholism, the fun side.
Dan and Jack share a lot of banter back and forth that we don’t share with anybody else, but for us it’s incredible. There’s a tone to this that reminded me of Elmore Leonard. When I read the script, it felt like a kind of Raising Arizona, a very smart, very funny action-comedy. It had a flavor that I hadn’t seen on TV.
It was a forehead-knocking moment of, ‘Oh, my God. That would be a great show to have that sort of funky, smart, humor combined with action.’
How would you describe Dan?
There is just kind of a ripe wisdom about Dan, which is a horrible combination of words! He’s an old-time guy who cuts through the politically correct stuff that gets in the way, unnecessary stuff, like Miranda rights, all that stuff that keeps you from actually getting to the bad guy. And that’s a fun thing to play.
Colin Hanks is 32. Suddenly I’ve gone from thinking I’m a young actor to feeling like Ernest Borgnine. I think I peaked professionally and biologically in another decade (he laughs).
Did you grow the mustache for the previous pilot? If so, have you had it ever since, or did you lose it and bring it back for this?
It’s actually fascinating growing a mustache, because just this morning I dropped my kids off at school, and women are fascinated and creeped out by mustaches, I don’t know if it’s Boogie Nights or what, but a mother (of another child), said, ‘Oh, are you growing that for a part?’
And my kids hate it. I did re-grow it. The other guy had a mustache. It’s not just a stereotype. Of a certain age of cops, there are mustaches. Just look around. So after the pilot did not get picked up I shaved it. And then I took a lot of testosterone and grew this one.
Is it tough for you to shoot a series in another city – this is being shot in Dallas?
Traveling is tough. I have kids. The good thing about Dallas is being able to pop back and forth, but to me the hardest thing about being an actor is having to make those kind of choices in order to work.
According to the press notes, your character was a hotshot detective thirty years ago, was he like Doogie Howser teen detective?
Thirty years ago, I could have been a young hot cop. I would have been twenty.