Sunday, April 24, 2011

Birthing a Litter of Old Dogs

Actor’s Inspirations for Upcoming WeHo-Based 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 Overstreet 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 wo
rk 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!

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