Matt LeBlanc doesn't mind being forever Joey

LeBlanc
LeBlanc
Posted: August 02, 2012

EPISODES. 10:30 p.m. Sunday, Showtime.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The Olympics aren't the only show coming out of London this summer.

There's also Showtime's very funny "Episodes," a satirical look at the TV business that's set in sunny Los Angeles but largely filmed in not-so-sunny downtown England.

In the winter.

"It's really hard. I mean, I don't know if you've been in London lately, but doesn't look anything like L.A.," said Matt LeBlanc at a CBS/Showtime party this week.

The former "Friends" star plays a version of himself in the show, created by Bala's David Crane ("Friends") and by Jeffrey Klarik ("Mad About You") and is about what happens when a couple of British TV writers (Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig) are invited to come to Hollywood to remake their hit show for an American audience. The writers, who are married to each other, quickly find themselves caught in the kind of studio and network politics that Klarik once said had made him feel like "a puppy in a dryer."

In the show, the writers are the fish out of water, LeBlanc the local who's showing them the ropes (and possibly destroying their marriage in the process).

In reality, it's been LeBlanc who's had to relocate for months at a time, as "Episodes" is a co-production with the BBC.

"The first season, because we shot in the spring, summer, we were able to shoot outside. But the second summer, we started in October and we finished like the end of January and that does not look like L.A. at all. So we had to come here, and we shot a week of exteriors here," he said.

"I threw a party at my house and they were like, ‘God, you can be outside at night? With no jacket?' I was like, ‘Yeah, I don't know what you guys are doing over there. It sucks there.' But I shouldn't say that. I had a great time in London. It's a great city."

It's also a city where a lot of people have apparently seen "Friends." Though LeBlanc hears that the second season of "Episodes" is doing well in Britain, "when I walk around London, they're still yelling ‘Joey!' Because it's on, I don't know, five times a day there," he said.

"It's funny ... This new generation is discovering ‘Friends' right now." He laughed. "To be walking around as Joey with gray hair is really hard on the ego. Because they say, ‘God, you're so old.' "

Gray or not, he seems like a young 45, but old enough, at least, to appreciate what he's had and what he has now. When a reporter suggested LeBlanc might once have wanted to distance himself from the hit that made him a household name, he bristled a bit, while sounding more like Joey than ever.

"Hey, hey, hey! I've never made a move to separate from ‘Friends.' I didn't want it to end. It was the best time ever, and if people always think of me as Joey, in my opinion, it means I did my job, you know what I mean? If people think that the guy on ‘Episodes' is what I'm really like, then I've done my job. An actor's job is to make an audience believe you, right?"

The way he sees it, it's also his job to keep things light on the "Episodes" set. "Any time you do a comedy, in my opinion, I don't know, an army of one right here, it's all about goofing around and having a good time. You can't take it too seriously I don't think. You take it too seriously, it's a drama. And you know Stephen went to RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art] and Tamsin went to another big university [Birmingham], so they're very serious. So I like to steal their script and put salami on it," he said.

"I have a good work ethic, I think. I come from a very blue-collar background. Everyone in my family goes to work with some tool in their hand. You know? So for me to be able to do this for a living, I consider myself very lucky."

Contact Ellen Gray at 215-854-5950 or graye@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @elgray and read her blog at EllenGray.tv.

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