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February 16, 2018

It’s a Musical World

Variety of roles leads Scott Michael Foster to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Dinah Eng
  • The Riker Brothers
  • The CW
  • The CW
  • The CW
  • The Riker Brothers

It was song and dance that drew Scott Michael Foster into the world of entertainment as a youngster.

Little did the actor, who fell in love with musical theater in seventh grade, imagine that years later, he would be dusting off his dancing shoes for his current role on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Foster, who joined the show in its second season, plays cold-and-calculating attorney Nathaniel Plimpton, a love interest for Rebecca (Rachel Bloom) who may not be the bad guy he seemed to be at first glance. The actor, who previously starred as Wick Briggs on ABC’s Blood and Oil, has had a number of regular and recurring roles since moving to Los Angeles in 2004.

The parts, ranging from Kristoff on ABC’s Once Upon a Time to Captain John Paul “Cappie” Jones on ABC Family’s Greek, have exercised Foster’s dramatic chops, as well as comedic timing.

TelevisionAcademy.com recently spoke with Foster about what it’s like playing the villain on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and what he’s learned about life from being an actor.

What made you decide to go into acting?

Back in 1997, when my family moved to Texas, I joined musical theater in public school. I had been home schooled until seventh grade, which was a tough year to start public school, but I found my groove in musical theater. My mom joked that I was always sad and moping when I wasn’t acting.

I was always a big fan of watching movies. I’d watch Braveheart three times in one day, and wanted to be in films. Acting is about being part of the human experience, sharing emotions, and portraying a character’s story. I like bringing that storytelling to people who don’t know you.

I’ll do a comedy and play a silly character, then I’ll want to be in a drama. I like having a broad range of characters. You explore your boundaries.

Your love of music led to playing in a band called Siren’s Eye? 

I started it when I was 20 years old and barely knew how to play the guitar.  I would write the songs and sing. I was fortunate enough to surround myself with very talented musicians so the band wasn’t relying on my guitar abilities.  We’re no longer together now.

How hard was it to break into show business?

When I was young, I thought people would want to find me, and quickly found out that wasn’t the case. In the beginning, I started doing commercials, and was working at a restaurant as a waiter. I was turning down auditions to keep my job, until one day, I decided I didn’t come out here to be a waiter.

When you want something bad enough, you make the sacrifices. So I quit, and three months later, I got the audition for Greek. I was broke when we shot the pilot, and had to ask for an advance check so that I could pay my SAG dues. Eventually, it worked out.

Greek was your first really big gig.

Before that, I’d only done commercials and a couple of indie films that no one ever saw. I’d never been on a TV set before Greek. It was scary. We were all young, and when people said let’s go out drinking, I said no, thanks. I wasn’t about to blow that opportunity during the pilot for a couple nights out and a social life.

So what did you learn on that first series?

I learned how to work with other people, the camera, and the crew; how to be respectful to people who are working longer hours than you. I’ve been on a lot of sets now, and see a lot of people who don’t appreciate the opportunity they have. They act like they’re God’s gift to acting, and treat crew members like garbage.

You can be gone in a minute in this industry, so why would you risk being an asshole? I want a long career.

What happened after Greek?

I was 25 at the time, and my girlfriend and I pitched a web series and sold it to Comedy Central for a half hour comedy pilot. We never shot the pilot, but it taught me that anything’s possible. You’ve just got to have a balance of optimism and healthy skepticism.

I did Blood and Oil two and a half years ago, and that got cancelled – prematurely, in my mind. I decided I wasn’t going to go out for network pilot season and held out for nine months. I’d never gone that long since Greek without working. I was in a bad place, thinking maybe I wasn’t that good after all.  But then Crazy Ex was cast by the same person who cast me as Tyler in Californication. They contacted my rep, and I went in for an audition.

So now you’re back in musical form.

I hadn’t done any singing or dancing for 12 years, but I love it. Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone is a good thing. I think it’s important to grow as a person, too, not just as an actor.  So it’s important to experience new things that will help you in life and in your career. They go hand in hand, in my opinion.

Talk about how the musical numbers are filmed on Crazy Ex.  Do you rehearse ahead of time?  How is doing these numbers different, when you’re doing them for TV rather than for stage performances?

Time is the big difference. For a stage production, you usually have weeks or even a month to learn and perfect the show. With Crazy Ex, you may have a week at most, and sometimes as little as a couple of days, to learn a song or learn choreography. You have to be able to adjust and perfect a number on the fly. It’s scary; amazingly fun, but also scary.

What do you like about playing Nathaniel on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?

Nathaniel was clearly a villain who provided conflict for the people around him, and to see him be capable of having thoughts and feelings – to be capable of loving – was great. Villains don’t think they’re villains. Everyone thinks they’re on the right side of society. People want to do good.

The producers told me he was going to be a villain to Rebecca, but I didn’t know if I was going to be a fling, or a bad decision. Nathaniel just wanted to have a relationship with someone who truly saw him. He’s human.

What has playing Nathaniel taught you, personally?

It pays to wear custom suits. The costume department got me all new bespoke suits this season and I had no idea how amazing a custom suit is! It’s worth every penny. 

Any particular goals after Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?

I’d like to produce my own TV series and do more film work, but right now I’m focused on Crazy Ex.
 

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