"I love underdogs," says Donal Logue, the versatile character actor who steps into that role in the new ABC comedy series "Knights of Prosperity," which premieres Wednesday.
Logue, 40, plays Eugene Gurkin, who works a dead-end job as a janitor on the late, late night shift. Gurkin lives in a closet-size apartment in New York City and has trouble making ends meet. But when he sees Mick Jagger showing off his extravagant apartment on a TV series, Eugene comes up with the idea of robbing the Rolling Stones singer (who appears in the pilot) to make his own dreams come true.
So Eugene recruits a group of average -- and below average -- Joes who are all looking to better their lives to help him. Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, late of NBC's "Ed," created the series, which is produced by David Letterman's company.
Logue, who has more than 40 films to his credit,including "Sneakers," "The Patriot" and "The Tao of Steve," recently discussed "Knights" on the phone from New York, where the series is produced.
Though you're a Harvard grad, you are generally cast as a blue-collar guy in such films as "The Groomsmen" and TV series like "Grounded for Life" and now "Knights of Prosperity." Since you grew up in a working-class family, do you feel a special kinship with these characters?
My parents are Irish immigrants. My parents actually were from very small villages, but because they were educated they worked their way out. They worked hard, but we never had money by any means growing up.
I went to a public high school on the Mexican border where we had 1,000 kids freshman year and, by the end of it, less than 300 graduated. My whole thing was that I had a chip on my shoulder against people with privilege. I am not saying that's a fair thing, but that's what drove me in high school to achieve and succeed.
Was it hard for you to relate to your peers at Harvard?
[I realized] people are people. There are a lot of great people who have privileged backgrounds, and conversely there are people who aren't cool who don't have privileged backgrounds.
I did janitorial work at Harvard. I did this thing called dorm crew where you clean the bathrooms while you are in school as a student job, which I had no problem with, and I don't think anyone at Harvard had a problem with it. Harvard is one of those places where it's cool not to be privileged or people try and hide their privilege. But it is always kind of honorable to work.
Did you ever run into people who thought you were too well educated for a part?
The only time I ran into it was with Terrence Malick for "The Thin Red Line." He said, "You are too educated to play this character." I said, "You are too educated to direct this movie."
"Knights of Prosperity" is a comedy, but it has a lot of underlying bittersweetness. Eugene is driven to change his life after a good friend dies on the job.
That is sobering. To work in a job where you realize this is all you are doing for the next 20 years until you die ... you can't take it. I think it's very sad. He's coming up on 40, and there is no woman in his life, probably there won't be and if there were, there isn't anything he could offer anyone. He couldn't afford to have kids if he wanted to; it's just heartbreaking.
Weren't you initially going to rob Jeff Goldblum?
They came up with a name arbitrarily because they thought he was the perfect level of celebrity and something about him made them laugh. That was done without even asking if he was available. It was sort of a template.
Mick is awesome ... but he is so fantastically huge that it kind of overshadows everything in [the pilot]. The show is about these guys. But I think people will see that very quickly.
-- Susan King