A simple twist of fate changed the lives of Deb Dobkins (Brooke D’Orsay) and Jane Bingham (Brooke Elliott) forever. Deb died and, after mistakenly pushing the wrong button at Heaven’s door, returned in the body of Jane. This meant one thing: Deb as Jane needed a guardian angel. For the first couple of seasons of DROP DEAD DIVA, Jane was under the watchful eye of her guardian angels Fred (Ben Feldman), then Luke (Carter MacIntyre). But Jane proved to be a bit more of a handful than either anticipated. Now trying his luck in protecting Jane is the latest angel on watch, the enthusiastic Paul (Justin Deeley). In a recent exclusive interview, star Justin Deeley talked about his new role as Paul, guardian angel and newest employee at the firm of Kaswell & French.
What drew you to DROP DEAD DIVA and the role of playing an angel?
JUSTIN: I had heard of DROP DEAD DIVA since it had been on for four years, but I didn’t realize it had been cancelled and brought back when I first auditioned. Then when I got the sides, I just thought, “Wow, this character could be a lot of fun.” I’ve never had an opportunity to play somebody so goofy. So I just had fun with it. It was as simple as that. The audition was basically the scenes from the first episode of this season. I thought it was a fun character and I thought they could go a lot of different ways with him.
In your mind, how do you describe Paul? Who is he besides an angel?
JUSTIN: I like to tell everyone that he’s like a 6-year old in a man’s body and that’s how I see him. This is his second chance at life and he’s just enjoying it. He has from the beginning. He’s trying to find his way and fit in as well. He looks up to Jane, like a little brother would to a big sister because of what she has done with her second chance. He just admires her and wants to be around her. But when it comes to his everyday outlook on life, he looks at it like a child would. Everything is in the moment and its very exciting and he’s just having a blast.
What do you think makes Paul uniquely qualified to be an angel? He’s the third angel that Jane has had. What makes him special?
JUSTIN: I think what’s special about him is that he is very similar to who Jane/Deb is in her soul. He speaks to her — and I think Jane sees that, as things go on. She is slowly beginning to recognize that as well. We start filming Episode 10 this week and as the season progresses with Paul and Jane, you’ll get to see it a little more. I think that’s the biggest different between him and the others.
Each one of Jane’s former angels had a goal they were supposed to achieve, but then failed. What is Paul’s goal that he has to maintain to stay on Earth?
JUSTIN: So far, Paul doesn’t have goals. I know that sounds like he doesn’t want to stay on Earth. But he’s not worried about that because his philosophy is stay in the moment, stay in the present, and life is too short because this is his 2nd go around. The saying is “hindsight is 20/20” and he is getting to go back knowing what he knows. I guess in a way this is what makes him unique, he’s not worried about the rules. He’s worried about right now and what is going on today. He’s worried about Jane. She’s very career-oriented and she’s going through this turmoil with Owen (Lex Medlin) and Grayson (Jackson Hurst). So Paul doesn’t have goals; he’s got today and that’s all he’s got.
Is Paul more of a sounding-board and support system for Jane? So he doesn’t have to worry about keeping her away from Grayson and it’s a little easier for him?
JUSTIN: If he does, he doesn’t know that. I don’t want to give too much away because things are coming up. He’s like that 6-year old that doesn’t really pay much attention to things and he gets in trouble a lot. So that’s kind of how he does it and he cares for the well-being and overall happiness of Jane. On the surface he may seem selfish, he’s really not. He’s not worried about his own particular goals as the season gets going.
Does Paul have a preference? Is he Team Grayson or Team Owen?
JUSTIN: He’s Team Jane. He’s on Jane’s side. He’s got her back and he walks by her side. So that’s his only concern. He’s not either way; he’s just on her side.
We saw Paul get a job at Jane’s firm in this last episode, is he going to be sticking around there?
JUSTIN: Yeah, he’s going to be around and he’s not even getting paid, which is rough. So he’s going to be sticking around the office. I’m not in Episode 5, but I’m in Episode 6. It is great to work with as many actors as you can and it was a real pleasure working with Kate [Levering] in Episode 4. So in Episode 6, Paul is back and that’s who he’s working for as her intern. You’ll see his relationship with her. Kate was so much fun to work with. She’s back in L.A. now and we all wish her the best with her baby that is coming — which is really soon.
Since Paul is so childlike, it seems like he is not aware of the depth of human emotions. So is he looking for romance, or is that something that will strike him over the head at some point?
JUSTIN: As far as the romantic stuff, I don’t think so — at least right now. But who knows what the geniuses at DROP DEAD DIVA will write for Paul. But I don’t see it really happening for Paul. I don’t think that’s his mindset. Because, again, he’s like a child. Kids don’t care about love. They think it’s gross as far as that sort of thing. But I think he likes the attention he gets from girls, there’s no doubt about that. But he’s not looking to get involved. I don’t see that happening. But who’s to say. (Laughs)
What about Paul’s living situation right now? He’s living on Jane’s couch. Is he going to get his own place or does he like the couch?
JUSTIN: I think he likes living with Jane. I don’t know if he’s going to get his own place this season or not. But I know my take on it is that he likes living with Jane and Stacy (April Bowlby). He likes the company. He’s not a guy that likes to be alone. He’s having a blast with them. As an actor, I enjoy working with the both of them in that condo. I have a blast doing scenes in there. So I hope he stays on the couch. He doesn’t mind. He’s young enough that sleeping on the couch really doesn’t bother him.
Living on the couch, we have gotten to see a lot of Paul. What do you have to do to maintain your physique for that kind of role?
JUSTIN: Apples and cigarettes! No, that’s a joke. My philosophy is diet is the most important thing. Most everybody knows what you’re supposed to eat. Everyone looks at the one person who tries to say, “Yeah, I eat ice cream everyday and it’s great.” But that’s just not how it is, especially as we get older, unfortunately. I just watch my diet and I exercise often. I’m not like a gym-rat. I try to do things outdoors. In Georgia, I do a lot of running ’cause there’s great running trails. My philosophy is: do what you love. Just find things that you enjoy doing and I enjoy running. It’s meditative for me. I also do yoga when I’m in L.A. So I just kind of mix it up. But when you keep your diet the way it is supposed to be, the cardio and other exercise just helps you.
You also have the comedy-element on the show. How do you develop that comedy-edge for the character?
JUSTIN: The most important thing I’ve learned with comedy is always physicality. And I’m very lucky ’cause I’m working with Brooke Elliott. I think she really understands comedy very, very, very well and without her, I wouldn’t be able to pull off any of the comedy stuff that Paul’s been doing. In Episode 10, we get back to that; there’s a little more of the physicality and comedy with Jane and Paul. I love working with her for that aspect. Doing comedy is very challenging for me as I really hadn’t done it before. With jokes, you really don’t want to screw them up. But with Brooke, she’s taught me a lot. She really has. We have fun just playing off one another. Anytime we can figure out a physical way or the physicality of the scene, as far as comedically, usually the sky is the limit. We try different things. Again, without her, I couldn’t pull off any of this stuff. It’s all her doing. She’s really helped me just to feel comfortable with everything.
What has really surprised you in working with scenes with Brooke, in the Jane and Paul scenes?
JUSTIN: Anytime you read something on your own, you always see it one way and as I’m getting to know Brooke a little better, once you know some one, you know their style and you can kind of guess where they are going to go. But I think the number of different ways and the number of different takes that we do of the same scene, it surprises me. You don’t normally get that freedom. So the amount of freedom that she and I develop with scenes, I think that surprised me the most. I didn’t expect to be so loose and everything with the comedy aspect. Initially I was extremely nervous about being able to pull it off.
What is the one thing you just love about your character, Paul?
JUSTIN: His child-spirit. It’s fun because he’s very goofy. I’m a pretty goofy person and people who know me well are shocked at how goofy I can be. And I get to do that on a screen which is so fun. For me, I love kids. Kids are the best. They have this freedom and this joy about them that I admire. It’s a shame that most of us lose that because of the responsibilities of life. So, for me, it is so much fun. It’s just been an amazing summer and I love playing Paul so much. He’s a blast.
Would you describe Paul as a prankster?
JUSTIN: It’s funny ’cause I get these ideas to try things and there’s always the gag-reel that happens. But I think you have to earn your gag-reel wings. You can’t just try things. I don’t think Paul’s opposed to a good prank. I think he just does things. He doesn’t mean for them to be a prank, it just happens accidentally. I think once he gets comfortable maybe. But he’s the intern and he doesn’t want to get fired so for now he’s just trying to put his head down, work and not screw up too badly. But there are definitely times when I get these ideas and I think, “Paul would pull this prank.” Mostly just childish things.
What teasers or hints about where Paul’s journey is going the rest of this season?
JUSTIN: I think his journey is going to be a little more directed towards Jane. We are just kind of meeting Paul and Paul is meeting the world. With that comes the honeymoon-phase where everything is exciting and he wants to try everything at once because he doesn’t know when it’s going to end. So I think as it goes on, you’ll see his energy focus more on Jane, her well-being as she deals with the Grayson and Owen love-triangle. As we’re working on these episodes, it’s just fun to play because it’s more concentrated energy and more engagement with Brooke. So you’re definitely going to see him a little more focused on Jane.
To see if Paul can keep Jane from stirring up more trouble for herself and what other fun adventures they find themselves amidst, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of DROP DEAD DIVA on Sunday nights at 9:00 p.m. on Lifetime.
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