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Free Agents – Anthony Head on his same character in a different world

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Free Agents, 1.01 Pilot - Hank Azaria, Natasha Leggero, Mo Mandel, Kathryn Hahn, Anthony Head, Joe Lo Truglio and Al Madrigal
Alex (Hank Azaria), Emma (Natasha Leggero), Dan (Mo Mandel), Helen (Kathryn Hahn), Stephen (Anthony Head), Walter (Joe Lo Truglio) and Gregg (Al Madrigal) © 2011 NBC Universal

Based on the British sitcom of the same name, Free Agents is a witty romantic comedy from creator John Enbom and Todd Holland that explores the trials and tribulations of finding love and companionship – the second time around.

The series stars Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn as Alex and Helen, co-workers who share an ill-fated night of passion and are forced to cope with the awkward aftermath. Anthony Head portrays Stephen, a role he also performed in the British series, the office boss who is concerned about Alex’s emotional stability, yet needs him to focus on his work.

Anthony Head is probably best known for his role as Giles on the successful cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I spoke with him about replaying the role of Stephen in the American version of Free Agents and what that entailed.

I gather you did this same role on the sitcom in England?

Free Agents, 1.01 - Anthony Head
Stephen (Anthony Head) © 2011 NBC Universal

Yes, it was originally six episodes. It was a critically acclaimed gem!

How different is this version and are you playing exactly the same role?

I’m playing the same basic role, which is a guy who owns and runs the office. It was originally set in a management office. Now it’s a PR office. PR is a completely different world.

His behavior is undoubtedly inappropriate on every level. He has a different view of life; he’s an exhibitionist in many ways. So that’s the same, but ultimately it’s translated, because now we will get to see a lot more of what makes him tick. It’s going to be more about the ensemble.

Did they come to you in London and say, ‘We want to redo this show, and we’d like to transfer you to America?’

Free Agents - Anthony Head
Anthony Head at the Free Agents launch party © 2011 Margie Barron

Yeah, which was very nice and very cool.

Why did you want to do it again?

Because it’s a lot of fun playing somebody who doesn’t have a care in the world, and also it’s great playing comedy like this. It’s beautifully written. It’s got a great soul and a great heart to it. You don’t often get scripts like this. Occasionally they come up, and it was a no-brainer.

Did they talk to you about who would be cast?

They just told me Hank and Kathryn were doing it, and I was thrilled, because for me for something like this, which was such a great series, to have not just a second life, but a new life was wonderful.

The show that we made in England is the starting point for this show. It’s a bouncing off place in the same way that they’re waking up in bed together is the starting place for the show. It’s where we go from here which makes it an interesting journey.

I know when you were doing Buffy the Vampire Slayer it was hard for you going back and forth to England all the time.

Free Agents - Mo Mandel, Anthony Head, Natasha Leggero and Al Madrigal
Mo Mandel, Anthony Head, Natasha Leggero and Al Madrigal at the Free Agents launch party © 2011 Margie Barron

My kids are older, and my partner’s work is taking her backwards and forwards, both sides of the (world). In fact she’s doing lots of stuff around Europe, teaching and writing. So we’re more mobile than we were. Both my girls are actresses.

Are you happy about that?

Oh absolutely, because both of them are doing really well. I was hoping they’d be coming out, but both of them have booked jobs in the time that I’m shooting this.

How do you think the comedy here is different from England, as you are seeing something you’ve done made into an American series?

Free Agents - Anthony Head
Anthony Head has a drink at the launch party © 2011 Margie Barron

I think when it’s comedy like this, which is witty and sassy and based on real emotions and the messiness of real life, it translates. It’s the same basically. Both the English show and watching the pilot of this you want to know what happens to these people’s lives.

What is it like being back on broadcast TV the same time as Sarah Michelle Gellar?

I know, that is extraordinary.

You’re not on against each other, are you?

No, I don’t think we are. It’s cool. It’s nice to see everybody working. I keep in touch with everybody. We’re still a distant family. It’s going to be nice being in L.A. and being able to see everybody.

Do you keep in touch with Joss Whedon too?

Oh yeah, I saw him at Comic-Con.

How was Comic-Con for you?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Anthony Head
Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Rupert Giles (Anthony Head) © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

Comic-Con is a bizarre world. It’s wonderful. It’s nice feeling the love, and everywhere you walk you feel the love. But I’m fortunate, [because] my career is very interesting, people can’t put a label on me, which I embrace wholeheartedly.

I’m taken under the sci-fi world’s wing, the fantasy world’s wing, but at the same time I can do a show like this which is about real life. People don’t seem to be able to pigeonhole me yet, which is great.

If you’re in contact with Joss, what are your thoughts on the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie? He doesn’t seem too pleased about it, as he isn’t doing it.

He wasn’t asked. In fact I think they went to great lengths not to ask him. I think it’s a hideous idea. I don’t think you take someone’s concept of something, and then say, ‘Well, actually, we’re going to remake our concept of somebody else’s concept.’ It’s nonsense. Not that I feel strongly about it!