TNT’s new drama series “Trust Me” revolves around the chemistry between Mason and Conner, best friends who find their lives upended at a treacherous Chicago-based ad agency.
So it was a bit of a risky move for Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh to sign on for the leads without appearing in the same room together during casting. What’s more, the two barely knew each other beyond a few exchanges during NBC press tours when McCormack was starring in “Will & Grace” and Cavanagh was in “Ed.”
“There was definitely some concern,” McCormack said. “If it didn’t work, we were in trouble, I knew that.”
But it was bromance from Day 1.
Audiences will have the final say on whether there’s room for another ad agency drama on TV -- more on that later -- but the kinetic energy, natural banter and finish-each-others'-thoughts style that viewers see on screen is real and spills off set as well.
So much so that at several points during a press interview held in a suite at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills it becomes all but impossible -- and, really, unnecessary -- to keep track of who was saying what as the pair relentlessly and seamlessly melded joint answers to questions lobbed in their general direction.
Take the inevitable comparisons to that other ad show on TV — “Mad Men.”
“Of course people are going to raise it.”
“But they’re not alike.”
“They just happen to be based in an ad agency.”
If it sounds like McCormack and Cavanagh are being defensive, they’re not.
They’ve been peppered with this question -- an obvious one -- at every turn. But audiences will only have to watch the first few minutes of the pilot to know that there’s little comparison between the shows beyond a workplace setting that conveniently provides rich fodder for social commentary.
In the pilot, Mason’s (McCormack) slightly insecure nice-guy demeanor is tested when he earns a promotion that makes him boss over his creative and cocky sidekick, Conner (Cavanagh). “Mason is also a family man, he’s trying to do the right thing, but he’s working in a cut-throat environment where someone saying ‘Can I help you with that?’ is the same as saying ‘I’m about to take over your account, your business and destroy everything you have,’ ” McCormack said.
The early scripts for “Trust Me” reminded McCormack of “thirtysomething” meets “Boston Legal": “The writing is really smart -- the audience is going to have to lean in a little.”
McCormack said he had been holding out for just such a role to mark his return to series television. He didn’t want to do a procedural. Or another sitcom. And he joked that he hadn’t been offered a game show. (“Not yet,” Cavanagh offered helpfully.) The role of Mason allowed McCormack to stretch into drama -- without completely leaving comedy behind.
“Just don’t call it the d-word,” Cavanagh pleads.
That would be “dramedy.”
“Next to ‘ointment,’ ‘dramedy’ is the most disgusting word in the English language,” McCormack said.
Like their ad-agency characters who must watch their work endlessly trotted before focus groups, McCormack and Cavanagh know TV audiences will have the final say on “Trust Me,” which begins Jan. 26.
However, they are confident they’ve picked a winner.
“It was a gamble that paid off.”
“You have to at least enjoy going to your job each day . . .”
“Sometimes it’s 12, 13, 14+ hour days, you have to love it . . .”
“Or you’d kill yourself.”
“Well, not kill yourself.”
“OK. Maim yourself.”
“Yeah. Maim yourself.”