Bobby Moynihan has seen a lot of changes in quick succession. Fresh from his dream job at “Saturday Night Live”— his comedic home-away-from-home for nine years— he’s shifted to “Me, Myself & I,” a new sitcom on CBS due Sept. 25.
As if that weren’t enough, Moynihan married in 2016 and soon after became a father. His casting in “Me, Myself & I” was swiftly followed by a move to Los Angeles, which came with its own adjustments for the native New Yorker. Such as, say, having a yard for the first time.
“I don’t know what’s going on here,” Moynihan begins a recent phone interview. “But people just are on our lawn all the time. People just walk their dogs and are physically on our lawn to the point where they were right near our front window this morning.
“I don’t know if it’s just socially acceptable in L.A. to just stand on someone’s lawn and let your dog go to the bathroom, or if we’re just soft targets,” he adds with a laugh. “If you come within 10 feet of someone’s property in New York, there’s going to be words.”
It’s the stuff of reaching a new place in his life, canine trespassers and all, and it’s that sense of watching big moments unfold that makes Moynihan uniquely qualified for “Me, Myself & I.” Created by Dan Kopelman (“Malcolm in the Middle”), the series explores one man’s life — that of would-be inventor Alex Riley — at age 14, 40 and 65 and plays with the pivotal decisions and coincidences that shape what follows.
Played as a teenager by Jack Dylan Grazer and a wealthy recent retiree by TV veteran John Larroquette, Moynihan — who turned 40 this year — portrays Alex at mid-life: a father whose life has run aground amid a sudden divorce and work struggles. Though Moynihan’s life is considerably more in order, he still felt an immediate kinship to the character.
“My whole life completely changed in a matter of weeks,” he says, recounting his whirlwind year. “There’s definitely this feeling of ‘I’m just glad we’re here, we made it, and everyone’s happy and healthy. This is it, this is a whole new thing now.’ That’s definitely where Alex is on the show.”
Grazer, who made his big screen debut in the recently released adaptation of Stephen King’s “It,” said he also found parallels to his character.
“We’re both in middle school, we both have our awkward moments with girls and stuff,” he said. “We’re both creative, I’m an actor and he’s an inventor. It’s kind of the same.”
For Kopelman’s part, he was drawn to the unconventional idea of depicting a single life in three stages as a byproduct of an addiction to reading and watching biographies, which can depict the ripple effect of a single moment into a person’s lifespan. While the show’s time-skipping quality drew early comparisons to Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” Kopelman found inspiration in the 2014 movie “Love & Mercy,” which featured John Cusack and Paul Dano both playing Beach Boy Brian Wilson at different stages of his life.
“At no point are you like, oh, I believe one character or I believe the other. They were both Brian Wilson in their own way,” he said, speaking by phone in a separate interview. “I thought, hey, maybe we could do that with a pilot.”
One trait the show shares with Linklater’s film is an earnestness that stands out apart from most TV comedies, which typically tilt a lot darker in the age of “Peak TV.” For instance, a relocation from Chicago to L.A. that upends Alex’s life in the first episode could have landed him with a bullying stepbrother or stepfather, but instead both are immediately supportive, and the stepfather (played by Brian Unger) offers heartfelt encouragement to Alex after a school dance goes embarrassingly awry.
“I’m not interested really in cynicism and darkness,” Kopelman said. “I didn’t want [his new family] to be stock adversaries. I just don’t like watching that in my comedies. You know, life is basically the adversary.”
“That’s why Bobby was so perfect,” he adds. “Even when you dump a million problems on him, there’s still a hopefulness and an optimism just in who he is as a real person that carries over to the screen.”
“Bobby’s very talented,” Larroquette said in a later phone call. Doing double-duty with this series along with his role in TNT’s fantasy-drama “The Librarians,” he travels to L.A. as soon as that series finishes production. “I think the sketch thing happened [for Bobby] at a time when, like many of us in our careers, you sort of go with the river the direction it’s flowing ... but he’s an actor first.”
Moynihan studied acting at the University of Connecticut and was attracted to being able to draw more from that experience.
“After reading the script I went like, ‘Oh, I get to act in this,’ ” Moynihan says with a laugh. “I mean we do acting on ‘SNL,’ but I’m usually in a diaper or some weird costume. So this was nice — to play a real adult male.”
Moynihan spoke of leaning on Larroquette and his costar Jaleel White (a.k.a. Urkel of “Family Matters” fame) to learn the ropes of the sitcom world. Though the memorization has been an adjustment after nine years of reading cue cards, his new gig represents the starkest difference from “SNL,” whose marathon-like writing and rehearsing schedule between shows is the stuff of legend.
“There’s a little tiny part of me that goes, ‘Oh, I could’ve done [“SNL”] for the rest of my life, easily.’ Then there’s also the 40-year-old part of me that loves sleep,” he says. “It’s nice to come to work and know that in 12 hours you’re coming home.”
Considering he joined a show built on the concept of looking back, Moynihan feels reluctant to do so. Though he considers himself a nostalgic person (“Maybe to a fault — I’m a fan of things,” he says), his previous gig is an exception, so far.
“I can’t wait for a time when I can finally feel comfortable enough to go back and watch all the ‘SNLs’ that I did from the beginning and just go, ‘Wow, that happened,’ ” he says. “But I don’t know if that will happen any time soon.”
“I still feel sad about it — I don’t know if sad’s the right word. Proud, but scared to watch again because I’m afraid I’ll miss it too much.”
This story is part of The Times’ 2017 Fall television preview. Check out the complete coverage here.
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