Monk creator Andy Breckman knows a thing or two about offbeat crime solvers, and this fall he’s offering two detectives for the price of one on Netflix’s The Good Cop (debuting Sept. 21).
The series follows disgraced former police officer Tony (Tony Danza) as he returns home to live with his son, Tony Jr., a.k.a. TJ (Josh Groban), who’s a strictly-by-the-book lawman. And of course, they form an unlikely team.
Capitalizing on Danza’s blue-collar ethos and Groban’s nerdier persona, The Good Cop marks Danza’s first time co-headlining a series in decades, while Groban finally gets to lead a TV show. EW caught up with both actors separately in advance of the series premiere to chat about shooting on location in New York, the joys of playing to type, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tony, it’s been a long time since you headlined a show; Josh, this is your first series regular role. Why was this the one?
TONY DANZA: The writing. I’m really intrigued by Netflix. I’m a guy that started on the three networks when TV went off at 12 o’clock. To be on Netflix now is kind of an interesting change. The main factor was I liked the part, and I liked the words.
JOSH GROBAN: I’ve done my fair share of cameos over the years. They’ve all come from somebody texting me. The Good Cop was no exception. [Breckman] wrote me a letter saying, “I’m offering you the title role in my show. I’ve seen some stuff you’ve done. I can’t explain it, but I thought of you when I thought of this role. And the odd couple-ness of you and Tony Danza, I feel it in my bones.”
DANZA: There have been times when we were shooting the show that I actually called up Andy Breckman in the middle of the night and said, “I want to thank you for these words because they’re so much fun to say.”
GROBAN: Just coming off a show in [Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway] where I did 300 performances playing a super bearded, over-weight, drunken existential-crisis-having slob. To go from that to playing this clean-cut, goody-two-shoes NYPD detective felt like an opportunity an actor just doesn’t get.
You’re no strangers to New York City — what was it like filming 10 episodes on location there?
DANZA: It’s just heaven. I’ve been to places in New York that I didn’t even know about and it’s wonderful.
GROBAN: The fact that the show brings us into neighborhoods and allows us to talk to locals in a way I wouldn’t be able to normally really has allowed me to get to know the city in a whole new way. We spend about half of our time on a sound stage. But the other half is on location. For anybody who loves New York, that is the greatest tourism you could ever have.
DANZA: We were in Long Island City and we’re a big operation. Trucks and everything else. I was on set between takes and I noticed off to the side, a little too close to us actually, was a huge construction team. I saw them standing around and thought they must be working for the city. I walked over to say hello to see what they were doing, and it turns out they were extras. They were atmosphere. That blew my mind.
GROBAN: You get to know these little nooks and crannies in these neighborhoods that have such a history to them. People that have lived there have lived there for so many years and have so many stories to tell — the restaurant owners, the shopkeepers, the bartenders. Every time we’d have a break we’d pop into a place. You spend time with real New Yorkers every day and get to know their stories from 10, 20, 30, 50 years of being there. As somebody who loves the city very much, that was one of my favorite parts of shooting.
Both of your characters trade on your respective established personas. How much of yourselves went into the roles?
DANZA: I have an older son. My son’s 47. When you have a kid at a very young age, it could really mess up two lives, but if it doesn’t, it’s fantastic. So, I have this wonderful relationship with this kid and what I tried to do is overlay that relationship onto Josh and me. The beauty of Josh is he just bought right in.
GROBAN: Being called a “choir boy” is not new to me. I’ve always been a rule follower. Growing up I was super nerdy. Still am. The fun part for me was sitting in the make-up chair every day and getting my hair combed to the side and putting on my suit and putting up on my badge and being like, “Alright, there’s Tony,” and just diving into it. Tony sings and dances throughout the show, but my character is tone deaf, so that’s one thing I did leave at the door.
DANZA: I’m doing a show with Josh Groban, and I’m singing and he’s fighting. I even sing the theme song.
GROBAN: I’ve got some pretty hefty fight scenes, and that’s one thing I never expected to be doing in my life. But as my physical therapist these last few months will tell you, I did a lot of my own stunts on the show, and it was fun.
Tony, Josh said he’s a rule follower in his own life — what about you? Are you a bit more of the wiseguy like your character?
DANZA: Rules become more important as you get older. Is that kind of weird? Living up to traditions and mores and the way we’re supposed to do things, I start to be more in favor of them as I get older, not less… I’m 67 and I’m old-fashioned. I realize that. I try to be hip and try to be up on things, but I’m really an old-fashioned guy.
Were you fans of each other before signing on?
GROBAN: He was one of my first supporters when my first album came out. He came to my first concert in Los Angeles. He’s always been a real mensch to me and somebody that I’ve admired and somebody who has just done it all. He’s obviously a legend in the TV world.
DANZA: I’m in awe of his pipes, his voice, his ability. He’s going to be here [New York City] in December at the Garden [Groban will play Madison Square Garden while touring for his new album Bridges], and I’m going to go to his show.
GROBAN: He’s one of those guys who has so many stories. He learned the name of every single crew member on that set. He leads by example to all of us, and I learned a lot from him. Not just from an acting side of things. This world on a set is not something I’ve ever done before and being able to watch how he works and how he interacts with people was such a great thing to be around.
DANZA: Two weeks into the show, I wrote him an email saying, “I’m just so impressed with your work and your work ethic. I don’t presume to be the greatest judge, but I know I’m having a heck of a time working with you.”
GROBAN: I’m so glad Tony and I got to develop our relationship the way we did onscreen and offscreen. Even throughout the on-paper oddness of the two of us together as father and son, as the season goes on, it becomes really apparent where the similarities are. There’s great emotion in it.
Unlike many procedurals and crime dramas today, this show really has a healthy sense of humor. Did that also appeal to you?
GROBAN: So many of these shows, I love them, but they’re all fighting with each other for how in your face and gory and edgy they can be. The Good Cop hearkens back to the shows I watched when I was younger. Shows where you can still have the excitement, you can have moments where there’s action and things like that, but for the most part [it’s] character driven and family oriented. [It’s] stuff where you can enjoy the mystery of it and the characters.
DANZA: What we’re trying to do is a show that’s kind of a throwback. There’s some comedy. It’s not so graphic and so dark. I see a lot of promos for TV shows. It’s just so dark. Oh my God. Godless, Lifeless (laughs). This may be a little bit of an antidote. A counterweight. It’s a sweet show. If it weren’t for the murder, it’d be a family show.
You’ve now entered a hallowed pop culture echelon: buddy cop duos. What are some of your favorites?
GROBAN: I grew up with Police Academy, which I thought was hilarious, and Naked Gun. Naked Gun is one of my favorite cop movies of all time.
DANZA: I’m going to show my age immediately. Starsky and Hutch. Miami Vice. I loved Columbo. Andy’s favorite show is Columbo, so there’s a lot of Columbo in our show.
GROBAN: I was obsessed with Mulder and Scully. I was an X-Files fanatic. I sat by my window in my bedroom and just whispered “take me” to the sky. I even wrote a letter to the government when I was like 10 and insisted I knew they were hiding alien top secret files.
This conversation has been edited and condensed from two separate calls with Groban and Danza.