A chat with Nate Torrence, She's Out of My League, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
Lee Ukrich

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Nate Torrence has been toiling away in Hollywood for quite a few years now, having done the commercial circuit (surely you remember the poignant performance he gave in his classic Golden Grahams spot), but his first significant break came in 2006, when he earned a spot amongst the all-star cast of NBC’s all-too-short-lived “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” From there, Torrence managed to find himself several high-profile film roles, the most notable being Lloyd in “Get Smart” and, of course, “Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd Out of Control.” Bullz-Eye, however, talked to Torrence in conjunction with the DVD release of “She’s Out of My League,” in which he plays a Disney-loving character named Devon, but we got some insight into his work on the other cited projects, as well as a sneak preview of what we can expect from his new ABC series, “Mr. Sunshine,” where he re-teams with his former “Studio 60” co-star, Matthew Perry 

Nate Torrence: Hey, how are you doing, buddy?

Bullz-Eye: I’m good! Good to talk to you.

NT: Same here!

BE: I was finally able to check out “She’s Out of My League” last night – I’ve got a 4-year-old, so nights at the movies aren’t as frequent as I’d like – and it was great!

NT: All right, man, thanks! And I’ve got a six-year-old and a two-and-a-half year old, so I feel your pain. I still haven’t seen “Iron Man 2” yet…or anything that’s come out since! (Laughs)

BE: So how did you end up in the film? Was it a standard audition, or did they come looking for you?

"We had writers on board throughout the production (of 'She's Out of My League.') There was just something that was happening with the four guys – me, Mike Vogel, T.J. Miller, and Jay – that everyone kind of saw, and they actually started writing more scenes, some specifically for my character. It’s really cool when you can watch a studio and a production company and a director say, 'Oh, this is working, so let’s do more of that.'"

NT: I went in for just a straight-up audition, and…actually, what’s really crazy is that I was a part of a read-through on it about a year and a half before then, and sometimes when a studio’s just looking at a script, they’ll just get people in a room that they like and they’ll have them read it. It was Dreamworks, and they just had a reading of it, and it was funny because it was, like, Jonah Hill reading for Kirk, and a couple of other people were there. And then we waited…it wasn’t two years, but it was quite a while. And when they started the casting, I was lucky enough that they remembered me from the reading to come in and audition for a role. I actually auditioned for Stainer first… (Laughs) …which is T.J. Miller’s character, but then I ended up with Devon. So, yeah, there was a little bit of pairing-up and going back and forth through the process, but I definitely won it the old-fashioned way: by the audition route.

BE: Now, as of when you did the read-through, (co-writer) Sean Anders hadn’t yet had “Sex Drive” come out, had it?

NT: No, none of ‘em had. And, boy, did he have a crazy year! That’s what was crazy: we did this movie a little bit ago. It took almost a year and a half after we filmed it for it to come out, just as far as finding the right placement for when they wanted to release it. And, so, in addition to “Sex Drive,” it just ended up that Sean ended up having “Hot Tub Time Machine,” which he also wrote, come out within a few weeks of “She’s Out of My League!” (Laughs) So kudos to him. That worked out nicely for Sean.

BE: So how developed was your character prior to you coming on board, and how much did you bring to it?

NT: You know, it was really an amazing process where you get lucky, specifically with the director, and then to have…we had writers on board throughout the production. Some of them would come in and go as far as to do punch-ups on some of the scenes, and we were rehearsing, and there was just something that was happening with the four guys – me, Mike Vogel, T.J. Miller, and Jay – that everyone kind of saw. And they actually started writing more scenes, some specifically for my character. I actually had a couple of scenes added, like the Aladdin scene. A lot more Disney references were added, because they were, like, “Oh, this is really playing well with this character.” So it’s really cool when you can watch a studio and a production company and a director say, “Oh, this is working, so let’s do more of that.” So it was kind of cool to be in that situation, where they just kept writing more bits for me. (Laughs) I was pretty excited!

BE: It was weird at first to see Jay fronting a movie like that, and I say that even as someone who’s been a fan of his since “Undeclared,” but he handled it really well. I was really impressed.

Crispin GloverNT: I thought he did a great job. And he’s a good guy. I mean, like I said, I know a lot of people always say this when they come off work, because they’re kind of trained to say it… (Laughs) …but with this one, we all really got along, and I think that’s what helps our chemistry on screen so much: we thought each other were funny, and we even liked to hang out afterward, and that played well. And Jay… (Starts to laugh) …has such a great ability to be so neurotic! He was a great leader.

BE: Had you worked with anyone else in the cast prior to this?

NT: Um…let me think. I don’t think so. I knew T.J. from Upright Citizens Brigade. We had a mutual friend that I had done a show with and he had done a show with. But it was mostly just surface stuff. And that’s another thing that’s crazy. Usually, when you’re coming in completely blind with who you’re working with, you don’t know if you’re going to get along, nor do some people put the time in to try to get along. We were all in Pittsburgh, and we did do, like, two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting, and in those two weeks, we hung out a lot…and, luckily, it went good rather than bad. (Laughs) Because sometimes it’s just awful, and you’re going, “I can’t stand that guy!” So we were lucky.

BE: I wanted to ask you about a few other things you’ve worked on, the first being “Get Smart.” You had the bonus of not only being in the predominant film but also in the simultaneous spin-off as well (“Get Smart’s Bruce & Lloyd Out of Control”).

NT: Yeah, our little spin-off! (Laughs) Me and Masi (Oka)! That was awesome!

BE: So what was that like? Because it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it was an interesting tactic by the studio to film and release it at the same time as the regular “Get Smart” movie.

NT: Yeah, it was one of those things where they knew we were going to do it from the beginning. Even when we were auditioning for it, they were telling us that they were going to be pairing us up and that it was going to be the movie and the spin-off, so they were taking a lot of time doing it. We just auditioned so much. But, literally, when we got to it, it was crazy because “Get Smart” was just taking up so much time that…we were supposed to do it simultaneously, but then it just kept getting it pushed and pushed, and we finally ended up having to do it afterwards. But no matter what, it was just cool to see the writers be aware of it. Plus, what was really cool was that me and Masi, we got to do all the “Get Smart” press. Even though our parts weren’t that huge in the film...they were okay, but, y’know, we weren’t, like, the leads in the film or anything…we still got to do all of the press with Steve and Anne and Dwayne! When you’re on a jet, flying to Comic-Con, and you’re surrounded by the Rock, Steve Carell, and Anne Hathaway, you’re, like, “I don’t know how I got into this, but thank you, straight-to-DVD movie!” (Laughs)

BE: So did you and Masi know each other from working together at NBC? Because I know “Heroes” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” kicked off at the same time.

"('Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip') was like Shakespeare, in that each of us had a script supervisor assigned to us to make sure that we were getting every word right. They would stop takes if you messed up even a little bit of your dialogue…which, for a comedian who likes improv, was a really different environment. But at the same time, it’s such a great skill to have and learn."

NT: Yeah, we came out the same year. We had done a couple of galas when they were introducing the shows and stuff like that, and then Masi actually did a small guest role on “Studio 60,” where he acted like he was the host of the show within the show. So we knew each other from that, but what was even funnier was that, when “Get Smart” started to film, I was on the Warner Brothers lot, and that’s where we were filming our last three episodes of “Studio 60,” so I would actually have these two trailers that were two studios away from each other… (Laughs) …and I’d just walk back and forth. Masi, I think, was downtown, ‘cause that’s where they were filming “Heroes,” so he had a little bit of a commute. But it definitely worked to my benefit that I was on two Warner Brothers lots!

BE: I wanted to ask you about the “Studio 60” experience, because here at Bullz-Eye, we loved the show.

NT: Oh, that’s awesome!

BE: Yeah, I think many of us honestly expected that it’d be the one to win the battle of the TV series based on the backstage antics of a late-night show.

NT: I know! Wasn’t that crazy? Yeah, I think everyone did. I think that was one of the causes of our demise, actually. We came out, and everyone thought we were Goliath…. (Laughs) …but everyone enjoyed watching our downfall too much! The thing is, I loved that set because I learned so much just as an actor. Specifically, to work with Aaron… (Sighs) …oh, man, it was like Shakespeare, in that each of us had a script supervisor assigned to us to make sure that we were getting every word right. They would stop takes if you messed up even a little bit of your dialogue…which, for a comedian who likes improv, was a really different environment. But at the same time, it’s such a great skill to have and learn. And then the pacing…he loved pacing, he loved big shots. I mean, some of those walk and talks…there’s nothing worse than when they do a five-minute shot, and then you’re at the end of it with one line. (Laughs) If you blow your one line, they’ve got to re-do everything! So, yeah, I learned a lot on that set. Did you hear about “Mr. Sunshine”?

BE: I did, actually!

NT: Yeah! That’s Tommy Schlamme, who directed and is executive-producing, and then there’s Matt (Perry), Allison Janney, and me. So, yeah, there were a lot of “Studio 60” alumni on that set!

BE: So are you going to be a regular on the show?

NT: I am!

BE: Okay, awesome! I knew you were in the pilot, but I didn’t know if you were going to be a regular.

Crispin GloverNT: Yeah, and it’s a pretty good role. Matt actually wrote it for me. We worked together on another pilot one for Showtime called “The End of Steve,” so it was really cool that he kept me in mind. We filmed that together, and then that didn’t get picked up, but then this year he submitted another pilot, this one for ABC, and he wrote another role for me. So, yeah, I play Allison Janney’s son, and I’m basically slowly becoming his best friend in the show, even though I’m this completely…it’s kind of like Brad (Whitford) and him on “Studio 60,” except that I bring absolutely nothing to the table. (Laughs) Except the comedy. Otherwise, I have nothing to give but enthusiasm.

BE: Well, maybe I’ll see you this summer, then. I’ll be there for the TCA tour.

NT: Oh, okay! Well, they’re going into production in September, but they haven’t nailed down our start date yet, because they’re playing around with, like, “Are they going to be on the big ‘Modern Family’ / ‘Cougar Town’ evening?” They’re trying to find the perfect space for us, so they actually bumped us out two months. I think we’ll start in November, just ‘cause they’re going to keep an eye on a couple of shows. But, yeah, we’re excited no matter what. I just saw the pilot two days ago, actually, the finished product, and it’s pretty good. It’s funny. It’s really funny. I’m proud of it.

BE: And, lastly, what’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on but didn’t get the love you thought it deserved?

NT: Wow, that’s interesting. You know what I would honestly say? “She’s Out of My League.” I really thought that, with this movie, even though it obviously has its raunchy sex-comedy moments, it was much more mainstream than what everybody probably assumed it would be. We’re obviously ecstatic with how it did… (Laughs) …because, I mean, we’re in the black, and that’s all that matters! But at the same time, I do think that it has so much more heart than a lot of the crazy sex comedies do, and in that, I just thought, “Oh, I think a lot more people would’ve liked this if they’d have given it a try.” And hopefully they will with the DVD. I think it’s going to do really well on DVD.

BE: All right, well, I think that’s everything from me.

NT: Cool, man! Good talking to you!

BE: If you’re on the TCA panel, I’ll see you there.

NT: Awesome! Be sure to say “hey”!

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