Nathan Lee Graham is a true talent. He is a Grammy Award-winning singer, an acclaimed musical theater actor, and has made numerous appearances on TV (The Comeback, Absolutely Fabulous) as well as the big screen (both Zoolander films). This year Graham is making a big, and well deserved, splash as a series regular on the hilarious new Fox sitcom, “LA to Vegas”.
The show follows the weekend flight crew of the fictional Jackpot airlines, who are known for taking a direct route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas filled with degenerate gamblers and other wild characters in tow. Graham plays a flight attendant named Bernard Jasser and joins an ensemble cast including Kim Matula, Ed Weeks, Peter Stormare and Dylan McDermott.
The show was created by season TV writer and producer Lon Zimmet (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Happy Endings) and is produced by “Modern Family” creator Steven Levitan as well as Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
I recently spoke with Graham over the phone about what it was like to work with such a high pedigree of performers and writers for this show.
“It’s like having ‘Modern Family’ on a plane,” says Graham, “Steven (Levitan) likes things at such a fast pace. The jokes are very intricate and we say them so fast and without any hiccups. You will purposely miss somethings but that gives you an opportunity to watch an episode again. There’s a lot of pauses and go back moments. That’s what happens when you work with Steve Levitan. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay add this subversive tongue-in-cheek nature to everything. Having done both Zoolanders with Will (Graham played Mugatu’s assistant Todd), this is such a treat for me. It’s just Amaze-balls!”
The situations that Graham’s character is forced to mediate, alongside the rest of his flight crew, get more bizarre with each episode. Ever since filming, Graham has become “hyper-aware” of the insanity that real life flight attendants have to deal with on a regular basis.
“As an actor, I consider myself in the service industry,” he explains, “I’m accustomed to feeling out how people are, sensing how the audience is, and judging where people are mentally and physically. I feel as though flight attendants have to do the same thing. I’ve sympathized with them and I’ve always have, in a sort of actor kind of way. We’re very similar because we have to deal with the public in that kind of way.”
Moving from the stage to the screen
As such a veteran of theater and an accomplished singer (his album Songs of Innocence and Experience earned him a Grammy in 2005 for Best Classical Album), how does Graham enjoy being a regular on a network sitcom?
“I have to say, in this particular instance, because I’ve done a fair amount of television as well, that this is the one experience that has been the closest to being on Broadway,” Graham explains, “Usually you have a day off or two in television because they are working on one scene and you are not in it. But because of the nature of the plane being one of the only sets and me being a series regular, I work five days a week. It’s almost as if I’m doing a theater schedule. I’m working from 6 am to 6 pm. I think because of my theater discipline, to be quite honest, I’m able to make the transition really easily.”
When asked about whether we could expect more music from Graham in the future, he explained that it was all about fitting recording in between his busy schedule. And with “LA to Vegas”, Graham has been busier than ever.
Who knows… with a Grammy already under his belt, he only has four more awards to go for an E.G.O.T.!
LA to Vegas airs every Tuesday night at 9:00 pm EST on FOX.