Proving to be one of the hottest comedies on television right now, MIKE & MOLLY has embraced fans with its warm humor. In a recent press interview at the WB Mondo International Press Tour, star Billy Gardell candidly shared what he loves about working on MIKE & MOLLY, the struggle to stay fit and the humorous story of how he met his wife.
How are you most like your character, and how do you differ the most?
BILLY: I would say that I identify with him because he’s always trying. He’s always kind. And he’s probably a little kinder than me, but that’s about the only difference.
What surprised you about him when you started him?
BILLY: However the writers want him to grow. I just do what they write.
It seems like the show’s, at its heart, a very romantic show. It’s not just a straight comedy.
BILLY: No, not at all.
Is that something that you and your costar kind of worked together a little bit to bring that connection?
BILLY: The writers, Mark Roberts, our creator, said at the beginning of this was going to be like a little play every week. And the through‑line of this show, no matter what else happens is it always comes down to two people that thought they were never going to fall in love falling in love. So we try to look for that moment every episode. The writers do. They try to find that sweet moment every episode. We call it the MIKE & MOLLY moment.
Writers can write those scenes, but it actually takes the chemistry of the actual actors.
BILLY: Yes, and it doesn’t hurt that my costar’s brilliant. That doesn’t hurt at all.
Do you guys find yourself actually doing extra reads or just to find how to make that proper emphasis?
BILLY: We work pretty hard during the week and we all care about the way it’s going to come together. And there’s a trust on our show that I think allows all that to happen. I really do. It’s the trust.
Do you remember the first time you met Melissa McCarthy?
BILLY: I do. Poor thing, she was pregnant and sitting in the audition room. She was pregnant and holding the script. And I could tell ‑‑ no pregnant women seven, eight months in wants to be auditioning for a show. But, boy, she’s a trooper, man. And we read together for the first time. We just read the dialogue back and forth together, and man, it just worked. And then afterwards, as the pilot started, we both decided we were going to try to make these people as real as possible, not try to turn them into some parody of themselves on television. We tried to put a heartbeat in both of these people. And I learned a lot trusting her, and she taught me kind of how to get to those places. So it’s been a really, really magnificent combination.
Do you feel still working as hard as in the beginning?
BILLY: No. It comes easier now. It’s much easier now. Because we’ve all become kind of friends, too. Our cast is weird. We’re a strange group. We go to dinner together. We go to each other’s kids birthday parties. I always say it’s because most of us are over 40. There’s a little more appreciation going on there. Nobody’s screaming for a latte.
Are you working with a trainer for the show?
BILLY: For me, yeah. I lost 50 pounds. They came to me end of the first season and they said, look, if you want to do this, we’ll pay for a trainer to keep you healthy for the entire season. And I’m starting to like it. It took about six months. I used to hate it. I’d just walk in and tell him, “I hate you. I don’t want to be here. I hate this.” But if someone’s kind enough to pay for that kind of service, then I think it’s my job to kind of show up and try. And it’s great, because they didn’t put any pressure on me. They were like we just want you to be healthy. It’s up to you what you do. If you screw up, we’ll write that into the script. If you don’t, we’ll write that into the script. So it’s kind of a no‑lose situation.
What have they written into the script?
BILLY: They’ve written in that I’ve lost a little bit of weight. And, of course, Carl takes shots at, “Oh, yeah, he’s wasting away.” And it’s that journey, but it’s still kind of an atta-boy thing. So it’s nice.
People like watch special features on the DVDs. Do you watch shows that way? And what do you think about people who will discover MIKE & MOLLY by buying a season at a time?
BILLY: I love it, man. I think that they’ll take the ride with us. I always tell people just give us one episode. If you give us one and you don’t like us, that’s fine. But give us one, and I think you’ll be in with us. Shows that I like to do that with are shows that blow me away acting‑wise or writing‑wise. I was talking earlier about BREAKING BAD. That show, Bryan Cranston, I think, is just ‑‑ I can’t even believe that was the guy on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE That’s how good a turn he made in that show. And I just think it’s brilliant all the way through.
So you watch those?
BILLY: Yeah, absolutely. Because from someone like that, you’re going to learn. I think you’re going to pick something up. And I know when I was trying to break into getting on television I kind of looked at it like, well, I got go look at what the guys I like are doing. I got to read about the guys I like. Because if you’re just trying to listen to a guy that started with you, he doesn’t know any more than you do. So that’s my philosophy.
Have you ever dreamed of taking the route that Bryan Cranston did, go straight from comedy to great dramatic work?
BILLY: I’d just love to keep working. It doesn’t matter to me. I’d love to get into a drama and play a bad guy. I just want to continue my stand‑up, which is absolutely through the roof because of MIKE & MOLLY. I’d like to do this for hopefully another five years God willing. And if that doesn’t work out, I’ll host a game show. Just want to keep working.
Does that up the pressure for you doing stand‑up? Now you’ve got all these MIKE & MOLLY fans.
BILLY: No. There’s a warmth to it that’s wonderful. And I’ve been doing stand‑up for 20 years, so I know how to do that. And it’s really nice to be able to turn them onto my stand‑up. It’s really cool. And my stand‑up translates, because I come from a working‑class place. MIKE& MOLLY is a working‑class show. So the humor is kind of the same.
What about the fans of MIKE & MOLLY?
BILLY: They’re wonderful, fanatics.
The people in the streets, what do they tell you?
BILLY: They love it. My name is no longer Billy in the streets. It’s Mike. And I’ll hear it down the street and I answer to it. I love it, yeah. The biggest compliment we get is, for me anyway, people will come up and go, “This is the show my wife and I watch together.” That’s a pretty big deal. When it becomes a couple thing, that’s a pretty big deal. This is the one that brings us all together, so that’s a nice compliment.
You’ve mentioned love and couples several times. What was your love moment? When did you know that your wife was your true love?
BILLY: I knew when I met her, the day I met her. Old guys used to tell me “You’ll just know.” I knew. I knew. I saw my wife three times in the same day the day I met her. I was at a bank in Atlanta. And then I was at comedy club, performing there, and she was at the show with her sister and I saw her there again. And then there’s a jazz club a couple blocks away and I went to the jazz club and she was in there again. So I figured three times one day, you got to take a shot. And this is a true story. I do it in my act, but it’s absolutely true. I saw what she was drinking. I ordered one. I took it over to her table. And I said, “Hi, I’m Billy. Drink this till I’m cute,” which I thought was very funny. And she looked at me and said, “I’m going to need another one.” I was done for. We moved in together six months later. People told us that we were doing that too quick. We were married a year after that. People said we did that too quick. Then we had a baby two years after that and people said we did that too quick. And we’re coming up on 13 years of marriage
Perhaps with shades of art imitating true life, the world of MIKE & MOLLY is at its core a romance. Fans are invited back to enjoy more episodes as the show returns with new episodes on Monday, January 14th at 9:00 p.m. on CBS.