LOS ANGELES — Veteran TV actor Ted Danson has been enjoying something of a career renaissance with his work on Damages and now on HBO’s Bored to Death, something Danson chalks up to a rekindled interest in television and acting in general. He sat down with Metro to talk about returing to TV, getting older and how to get American politics back on track.
Are you enjoying being back on television?
Yes, starting with Damages. Damages really kind of turned a corner for me. I got excited about acting again, and I was doing something a little different. I think I had stayed at the half-hour situation comedy party too long — for me, because I was boring myself. I felt like, “Ugh, I’ve done that.” And to do something very different and very creative like Damages gave me a new lease on life. And Bored to Death followed along that line.
You’re something of a scene-stealer in Bored to Death.
Well, if you’re 63 — I’m 63 now — and you get to smoke dope and chase after women at an inappropriate age, it’s hard not to steal a scene.
It must be hard to get through a scene with co-stars Zach Galifianakis and Jason Schwartzman without laughing.
Especially Zach. I mean, Jason is incredibly talented, but Zach has one of those faces that as soon as he says anything you have to check whether or not you should be laughing or taking it seriously. You never quite know with him. Everybody says they love going to work, everybody says the cast loves each other. We really do. We really do have fun seeing each other.
You have a pretty serious plot line in the second season.
I do. [laughs] But done in such a way that it’s hysterical. I am diagnosed with prostate cancer by this rather beautiful urologist. My old urologist retired, and in walks this beautiful woman to give me my exam. And we fall madly in love. But it’s one of the funniest scenes I think I’ve ever been in in my entire life. Keep your eye out for the urologist exam scene.
Are you afraid of illness in your real life?
Yes. Why not? Yes, of course. And I don’t want to be left behind by young people. This part was written for me. I am working with people who are my kids’ age. Jason just turned 31 or 30 or something like that. I have a 31-year-old. Zach’s a little older, he’s maybe almost 40. But I watch them treat me like my kids treat me. They include me — sweetly — but they include me. And it’s like, when did I have to be included?
What do you know now that you wish you knew in your 20s?
I wish I had the wisdom I have now then. That would’ve been fun. But I don’t even care about that. I wish I had my young body now with the wisdom. That’s what I’d rather have — or at least my knees. I’ll settle for my knees.
You’re known for being politically outspoken. Do you think politics in the U.S. have become too heated?
Yes and no. I mean yes, absolutely yes. I think it’s a really bad mistake by certain entertainers who are talk show hosts to make use of people’s fears and angers to make money or to get power. Because you totally understand the fears.
But then when you have somebody who’s getting paid up the wazoo to stoke the fires and the fear and the anger, that’s wrong. Our country has gotten — the truth, reporting things as factual -- we’ve gotten so far away from that. When we blended entertainment and news, we went down a real slippery slope. It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth anymore. All you have to do is say what you want to say, especially on cable. Hopefully we will learn to pull it back. Words count, you know? Words count.