David Schwimmer hasn’t had a lot of luck with leaving behind Ross from “Friends." So he’s trying to switch it up —and it seems to be working.
After winning raves for his recent nuanced turn as Robert Kardashian on “The People vs. O.J. Simpson,”this Sunday, Schwimmer will take another confident step forward as alcoholic sommelier Tommy Moranon AMC’s new drama, “Feed the Beast.”
Moran is neck deep in drama: He's raising his son alone while opening a restaurant in the Bronx. His partner(Jim Sturgess)happens to be his best friend and acokeaddict.
Harold Dieterle was the first-ever winner of “Top Chef.” Ironically though, it was his skills as a New York City restaurateur that “Feed the Beast” called on for the show.
“In the first couple of episodes, you see what a s—hole this place is, and it’s also a metaphor for Tommy’s inner life,” explains Schwimmer, duringactual dinner service inside Thirio, the fictional upscale Greek restaurant of the show built entirely on a soundstage in Queens.
“Complete disorder, it’s a mess, everything is broken. And as he gets his life back together, you see the actual restaurant slowly take shape.”
Though Schwimmer waited tables for seven years before getting his break into acting, his previous career wasn’t much help in preparing for this role. He recalls having all of two days before shooting to learn how to be a sommelier, which he got some help with from his friend Josh Nadel, a real sommelier for seven restaurants in New York including Lafayette.
“Watching him open a bottle of wine is a beautiful thing,” he says. “I know about 1 percent of what he knows; somms require a natural talent, and I don’t have it.”
“Feed the Beast” is by the producers of “Dexter” and “Nurse Jackie,” with a similar mix of dark comedy, emotional drama and a criminal element —Sturgess’ character Dion Patras burned down his last mafia-owned restaurant, and they haven’t exactly forgiven him. For Schwimmer, it came down to the quiet resonance he felt with Tommy, whom he describes as "a good man having a bad year."
“At this point in my life, because my first priority is being a dad for my daughter and a husband, to take a job like this I really have to love the character,” he says. “I liked Tommy; my heart went out to him as a father, as a guy who’s broken trying to put his life back together.”
But the show is not all gloom. To keep things from getting too gritty, “there’s magical realism,” Schwimmer hints. At the heart of it all is the intense friendship between Tommy and Dion forged from growing up together. Making room for a little levity was a challenge, but one that Schwimmer was excited to take on.
“I know how to do broad comedy or situational comedy, so to do something this dark and this restrained, but also know it’s going to get a laugh in a really dark way, is very exciting,” he says.
“The humor is coming from such a place of pain that it’s like a welcome relief when these guys finally joke about something because they’re both so f—ed.”