The veteran actors, costars of NBC’s Wednesday sitcom Twenty Good Years, talk for a good 20 minutes about playing — and being — old guys hell-bent on making the most of their time left.
JOHN LITHGOW We’re pretty damn tired.
JEFFREY TAMBOR [Taping Twenty Good Years] is very concentrated work, so when I arrive home at 7:30 at night, I am completely depleted of energy.
JL However, we are not complaining.
JT I have so many friends my age [Tambor is 62; Lithgow, 60] who are not getting gigs. It just doesn’t happen like this. You imagine if we didn’t like each other?
JT Always within 10 minutes of any conversation with John, we end up saying, ”Oh, do you know so-and-so?”
JL I think it was in the late ’70s when we first met.
JT I was walking around on 44th Street in New York City, saw John, and introduced myself. You were the toast of Broadway [in Spokesong]!
JL The weird thing is, we’ve always been circling each other. I was in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and you were literally across the street in Glengarry Glen Ross. And when I was doing 3rd Rock From the Sun here [in Burbank], you were doing The Larry Sanders Show two soundstages down. We’ve always been in yelling distance and yet rarely pass each other.
JT It’s so special how Twenty Good Years came down.
JL [Jeffrey’s] name came up very early, but more out of regret: We thought you were totally unavailable because of Arrested Development.
JT I got this script on a Friday. On Saturday, [Arrested creator] Mitch Hurwitz told me it wasn’t going to return, so I told my agent to make Twenty Good Years happen. That Monday, I came to the set. There are so many signals that said this was right.
JL We’re in a business of getting our hopes up, and your hopes are dashed far more often than not.
JT That first morning — before I even saw John — I get this message from him on my recorder: ”Jeffrey! I want to give you my numbers! Because we’ll be calling each other a lot for the next seven years.” That’s grace. I’m a moody Russian Hungarian. And every day, he’s like, ”Good morning, Jeffrey!”
JL It works in our favor that there is no [TV] comedy remotely like ours.
JT We have this one scene every week where we just love to get into it.
JL Our arguments…
JT & JL [Simultaneously] They’re hilarious!
JL We hurl the most absurd invectives at each other.
JT Over the littlest things, like a tea bag…
JL Or how one of us is more bald than the other. Oh, and we had a caper last week where we had to break and enter a courthouse. [Both start to giggle uncontrollably.]
JT You see what we’re doing now? We laugh, we just laugh. I’m disappointed when he doesn’t just Error: Break shortcode syntax invalid. Then I know it’s not working.