Although he is a member of one of Hollywood's most prominent dynasties, Damon Wayans Jr. is in a league of his own. The actor and comedian, who starred in the film Let's Be Cops and the hit Fox show New Girl, has a new sitcom on CBS worth tuning in to. In his new sitcom, Happy Together, Wayans portrays Jake, a 30-something accountant reaping a modest life with his wife Claire (Amber Stevens West). Their lives are quickly changed when Cooper James (Felix Mallard), an international pop star, shows up on their doorstep looking for a place to stay. In this week''s episode, "Like Father, Like Son", Jake spends some quality time with his father, Mike (Damon Wayans Sr.).
S&A had the chance to sit down Wayans Jr. to talk about Happy Together. The kinetic alchemy he's cultivated with his father over the years and his memorable experience meeting Mariah Carey.
How does the tone of Happy Together differ from prior shows such as New Girl or Happy Endings?
Mainly, the set-up. It's multi-cam. It's shot differently. There's a live audience. Those are two things I've had to kind of adjust to. It's fun though. I do stand up comedy, so the live audience aspect isn't too challenging. What I did have to learn was to wait for the laughs, because you have a certain way in which you deliver dialogue but you can't really talk over the laughs. You have to wait. They'll laugh at the beginning of the joke and you'll still have two more lines of dialogue that you're going to have to wait to say until they're finished laughing.
With Happy Together being a multi-cam comedy. Did you still feel there was an added pressure doing a live comedy as opposed to a show like New Girl?
Not necessarily pressure. There's always a bit of anxiety going into something new, but once you've got the first episode in the can you just lock in. Everybody in the show is so supportive. All the actors are happy and down to play. Even the people off camera, directors, DPs, grips, everybody is super nice and super cool. It's a great environment to be in.
Your character, Jake, is a 30-something year old accountant. He's very happy-go-lucky. Are there any similarities between you and your character?
He's definitely a goofier guy than I am. He's kind of like a heightened version of me, in certain aspects. He actually thinks he's cool. He played college basketball for a while and then he became an accountant. He moved the coolness of being a basketball player and applied it to his job as an accountant, which I don't think you can really do. He's a guy who thinks he's really cool, until someone really cool walks in the room.
He's constantly trying to adapt. But obviously he's not [able to].
This week's episode, "Like Father, Like Son", sees you reunite with your father, Damon Wayans Sr. Can you describe what that experience was like?
It was awesome. My dad is my best friend in real life. It was super easy to act with him in a show with a live audience. With him playing my actual father, we play really well off of each other. We have great chemistry. We have years' worth of chemistry. He knows me, so it's like acting in a mirror.
How is the dynamic between Jake and Mike similar to the dynamic between you and your Dad?
We both do the same job. When he talks about the industry, I'm all ears and I listen. Jake and Mike have the same jobs. They're both accountants. Anytime Mike talks about his accounting stories, Jake is all ears. It's a huge similarity between fake-father and son and real-father and son.
This isn't the first time you and your father have acted together. You guys did Starman and Happy Endings. Was there anything different this time around or was it the same?
It was pretty much the same enjoyable experience. It wasn't really anything different other than the way it's being shot, which is multi-camera. The only difference is that I've never done a live studio audience show with my Dad. He had a show called My Wife & Kids and I was on a couple of those. It was multi-camera, but it wasn't in front of a live studio audience.
On Happy Together, Jake and Claire's lives are thrown for a tailspin when Cooper James, one of the world's biggest pop stars, decides to move in with them. What was your most memorable experience with a pop star?
I met Mariah Carey and I remember her singing. She started singing and I remember being close to her while she was singing. It gave me goosebumps and I didn't like that. I don't like when somebody is that good at their job where you get goosebumps. I grew hair. It was bad. I was like "Stop doing that" and she said, "Stop What" while still singing.
What would you like to see for Jake as the show progresses?
I'd like see more of their past coming back. Not necessary to haunt them, but to introduce more characters. Theyre a 30-something couple, so they've lived a life apart before they got together. I'd like to see more of us go into Cooper's world more. I think that could be fun, with us being fish out of water.
Happy Together airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.
Jordan Simon is an entertainment writer with a degree in English from Fordham University, as well as a screenwriter/director with a passion for producing fresh narratives centered around African American representation. As a journalist, his work has been published in VIBE, Gothamist, Idolator and Untapped Cities. You can tweet him @jordansimon78