“Episodes,” one of TV’s funniest comedies, returns with its Season 3 premiere tonight on Showtime.
Stephen Mangan’s Sean Lincoln has finally found his way back to his wife Beverly (Tamsin Greig), and she him, but it won’t be an easy road for the couple. As the Lincolns (a pair of British comedy writers on the series) continue to pen their show-within-a-show, “Pucks,” starring (the fictionalized) Matt LeBlanc, they have some new challenges in store, besides figuring out how to be back together.
Studio boss Merc Lapidus (John Pankow) was fired in the explosive Season 2 finale, and someone new is on the way to fill the position and disrupt the lives of Sean, Beverly, Matt and Carol Rance (Kathleen Rose Perkins).
During a break before his evening performance in “Jeeves and Wooster” on the London stage (alongside Matthew Macfadyen) recently, British actor and funnyman Stephen spoke to AccessHollywood.com about what fans can expect when Season 3 kicks off tonight at 10:30 PM ET/PT on Showtime.
AccessHollywood.com: How excited are you that the network recently green lit a Season 4, even before Season 3 starts airing?
Stephen Mangan: What a luxury. How nice to feel that Showtime and the BBC have such confidence in the show that they’re prepared to do that. We’re absolutely delighted.
Access: Let me ask you about Sean and Beverly this season. Is this the season where they try to figure out how to be back together?
Stephen: They’re gonna try. I think they want to, but stuff has happened and that’s changed the whole dynamic. Poor old Sean, who was quite innocent and puppyish [half] of the couple… [He] has taken a massive blow right between the eyes (laughs). Basically, the show [‘Pucks’] has proved much harder than he thought, his wife slept with Matt LeBlanc, and someone else, so he’s reeling, really, from all this. And, unlike Matt, for example, who would shrug it off and get on with life, Sean is a much more sensitive soul. He really does find it difficult to know how to handle it all, especially having to work so closely with the person who came between them.
Access: As an actor, do you prefer Sean and Beverly together as a team taking on the American entertainment industry, or apart?
Stephen: Friction between them is always more fun to play, more interesting to play. It’s how long the writers, I suppose, keep juggling, ‘Will they or they won’t they?’ in a sort of satisfactory way, and they’re masters of it – David [Crane] and Jeffrey [Klarik] – of judging how long is [too long] before you go, ‘We’ve done enough now of, ‘Will they won’t they,’ or, ‘ Can they get back together.’ … But, yeah, conflict is always more interesting for an actor. The harder a time they’re having, the better as far as Stephen is concerned. But I wish Sean and Beverly nothing but good fortune (laughs).
Access: There are some people who think the writers of the show are British. They’re not…
Stephen: A lot people think Tamsin and I write it (laughs). It’s confusing for everybody. I do have to put them right about that.
Access: Because they aren’t, do you get to change the language in the scripts at all to make it slightly more British, or will they not have that on this show?
Stephen: Oh, no, they’re very keen to have us sound as authentically British as possible. If we come to them and say, ‘I’m sorry, a British person wouldn’t put it like that,’ or wouldn’t use that word, they are always happy to change it. If the word in question is the punch line for an entire scene, obviously they’re not delighted about that because they have to un-pick the whole thing, but yeah, we’re always saying to them, ‘A Brit just wouldn’t quite put it in that way.’ But we have to do that less and less as we’ve gone on because they have fantastic ears for dialogue and they’re always eaves dropping on what we say off camera and they say, ‘Do people really say, ‘Crickey’?’ or whatever it might be, and we’ll say ‘Yeah, yeah. We really do,’ and it’ll appear next time in the script. So, I think our roles as language consultants are going to be getting smaller and smaller.
Access: Merc got fired at the end of last season. Chris Diamantopoulos comes in as Castor Soto. What can you tell us about his character?
Stephen: We lose Merc, who was this sort of… lascivious, charming mess of a guy and we get a psychotic machine (laughs). … The character he plays is a deeply troubled individual who switches personality depending on the medication he’s been given. He couldn’t be more different than Merc and it presents Carol with a whole new dilemma because she now has to work with this guy and her instinct is to get rather too close to her boss, so we’ll see what happens there.
Access: Do the stereotypes on this show always ring true for you based on your experiences in Hollywood?
Stephen: Yeah, I mean, they ring true because… I think all the characters they’ve written are so three dimensional that they’re specific enough in their characters to feel true and real. I don’t know who the characters are based on, but it would be fascinating to know if anyone spotted themselves (laughs) and [said], ‘That’s me.’ Probably not, I would imagine. I think the nature of human kind is not to recognize yourself when you come up against yourself. The impression I get from the community over there is people enjoy the show and they enjoy whatever gentle ribbing there is of the [industry] and the people out there.
“Episodes” airs Sundays at 10:30 PM on Showtime.
-- Jolie Lash