If you have watched television or movies in the past 35 years, you likely have seen Sam McMurray in numerous shows and films. Among his many film credits are Raising Arizona, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, L.A. Story, The Wizard, and Drop Dead Gorgeous. On television he was a featured player on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, played a recurring role as Chandler's boss on FRIENDS, and appeared in THE KING OF QUEENS, Disney's RECESS, FREAKS AND GEEKS, and THE SOPRANOS. Now McMurray is bringing his talents to the web with a two-episode arc on hit comedy series THEN WE GOT HELP!
In Part 1 of our three part interview, McMurray revisted his early career including stints on daytime soaps THE DOCTORS and RYAN'S HOPE. In Part 2 below, he shares his experiences working on THEN WE GOT HELP!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In comparison to your extensive Television and film experience, what was it like appearing on THEN WE GOT HELP!?
Sam McMurray: First of all, I have got to tell you, this is the most enjoyable thing I have done in years. Julie [Ann Emery] is a brilliant writer. She does the whole thing—I mean obviously her husband, Kevin, has a lot to do with it as well, but it's really her baby. She shoots it, she writes it, she directs it, and she cuts it, you know? There's only one ad-lib... have you been able to see it yet?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Yes! Julie let us sneak a peak Tuesday night.
Sam McMurray: I liked it, I really enjoyed it. And there is one ad-libbed line in it that I planned and she just smiled and let it go.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So what is it?
Sam McMurray: It's the one that's very harsh, the “If you have a problem with that I'll be happy to take you outside and sew up your c—t."
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That was a great line! Julie made the most of your cameo—she really put you to work.
Sam McMurray: The whole cast is brilliant—I'm actually going to New York at the end of this week to read a play written by Susan Ferrara, who plays my daughter. At the end of the episode, there's a response, and I think it's just a lovely piece of writing. She wrote, instead of something caustic, or sympathetic, I just laugh and say, “He's funny.” And it's such a wonderful sort of out-of-left-field sort of response.
Basically the script led the whole way with the exception of that one line. Mine was a little more, um, acute. It's an actual line from memory, if you will.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What else can you tell us about the character you play, Jan?
Sam McMurray: He's named after her mother. It's funny... well, she did the Kickstarter program, and one of the premiums was, whoever gave the most got to name a character. And Julie's mother's name is Janice. Who's also the chef—the "queen caterer" as well.
Julie works hard. And I think—I think she's Orsen Welles. I'll give you an example. There was an episode of TREME which was on last week and I think it was the best of the season so far. He's a serious television playwright/writer, named James Yoshimora. It was a particularly good episode and I was writing him about it and I said, “Listen, I gotta send you [THEN WE GOT HELP!],” because he's also, he can be a rabbi to people—he has been to me, with my writing as well. So I said, “I'm sending you this link, because this is how much I think of Julie Ann that I actually would recommend her to someone as learned as you.” And she's a wonderful actress, too.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How is Sam McMurray the man similar to the character of Jan?
Sam McMurray: The guy comes to me. You're doing a guy from the neighborhood, basically. I don't know the specific guy, but years ago I did a TV series in New York called BAKER'S DOZEN which was produced by Sonny Grosso. Sonny Grosso was the real life Roy Scheider part in The French Connection. I've known cops casually throught my life, and there's something about a cop's mentality, I think, that's different than you or I.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch McMurray's first appearance on THEN WE GOE HELP! below.
In Part Three, McMurray gets candid with his thoughts on the future of web entertainment.