Richard Robichaux on the set of Big Shot
It is rare that an actor has so much in common with their character that they even share an occupation.
However, on the new Disney+ original comedy Big Shot, Richard Robichaux didn't have to stretch too far to imagine the life of an educator: he was already living it.
As a professor teaching acting at University of California San Diego, Robichaux was no stranger to faculty meetings and classroom discussion. These experiences proved extremely useful as he settled into his role on the series, which aired its first episode on its home platform this week.
"If I hadn't been doing this show as an educator, I don't think we'd be talking today," Robichaux said, "I think the particular juncture where I, as a teacher, am now playing a teacher, has been instrumental for me in the development of how I'll move forward as an actor and as an acting teacher."
Working within that intersection, Robichaux developed the drab and critically vigilant character of George opposite series star John Stamos. It's a dynamic that, for Robichaux, was the key to unlocking a great deal of narrative potential.
"George is the school counselor. George is none too happy about Marvin coming into our school," Robichaux said, "The idea that he was not safe to be around grown college men seems like, 'Well then why on Earth would we bring him into this high school?'"
Big Shot has certainly set the stage for serious friction between its primary characters, and with plenty of drama sure to ensue on screen, Robichaux spoke glowingly about his relationship with Stamos between takes.
"John and I... it's sort of an odd couple setup, and we have a lot of fun together," Robichaux said,
"John is sort of one of those actors where - you know, as actors, we're always asked: 'Well, what was so-and-so like, and what was so-and-so like,'" Robichaux said, "John is one of those actors where you go, 'He's everything you want him to be.' Everything you thought he was, he is. He's incredibly good looking, and he's so nice, and he's funny, and he's by far the best number one I've worked with on any show."
Stamos was similarly happy to work with Robichaux on the streaming series, and noted that the two actors' opposing roles served as a creative springboard, not just in front of the camera, but for the development of the story as a whole.
"Richard is one of the most pliable actors I've ever worked with, and that is a high compliment. On our new Disney+ show, his character George started out one way, then David Kelley decided to take a complete 180 with George, and without missing a beat, Richard created a character to rival my Marvyn, resulting in some of my favorite scenes in our show," Stamos said.
Stamos is not the only actor that Robichaux interacts with in the new series, however.
Robichaux also highlighted his experience working with Yvette Nicole Brown (Community, Avengers: Endgame) who plays Westbrook High School principal Sherilyn Thomas on the show.
"Yvette makes everyone she works with better, and I mean you want to be a better person, not just an actor," Robichaux said.
Similarly, Brown spoke on Robichaux's versatility as a performer.
"Richard is joy walking. He makes every day on set fun. And he's such a great actor that even if I know what his lines are, I never know what bit of silliness or gravitas or magic he's going to bring to them. The gift of working with him has been a masterclass," Brown said.
That's high praise coming from two actors who made their careers with hit shows such as Full House and Community, respectively. But for Robichaux, exploring George's full potential wasn't only about interacting with his castmates, it was also about looking to the past, and to his own career as an educator.
"There would be times where I was playing that I was in a faculty meeting on a television show, and then the next day I would be in a faculty meeting for two hours," Robichaux said, "Also, there's the reverse to that question. I think actors who teach have a responsibility, when they work, it's (about) what do they bring back to the classroom?"
Responsibility, as it turns out, was a key aspect of how Robichaux approached the role of George in each episode of Big Shot. Over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the nation and the world, teachers have been on the front lines of maintaining education and health protections in their communities. For Robichaux, this makes the portrayal of educators in 2021 that much more important.
"I think what the show shows is that teaching...it doesn't just happen in the classroom. And so, if you want to be a teacher, you have to know that that's a lifestyle, because the young women in this show are having issues which need and require education and educators and mentors and teachers 24 hours a day," Robichaux said,
"The actual time when you're actually teaching is the smallest amount of time in your day. The rest of it is the real heavy lifting. I know this from being a teacher... that that's also the most rewarding."
Despite being an educator both in the classroom at UCSD and in Westbrook High School on Big Shot, perhaps the most profound takeaway from Robichaux's time on the show is what he himself learned about what it means to be both a teacher and an artist. While tempted to see his dual roles as two entirely different realms, for Robichaux, the real lesson was in learning to keep a foot in both worlds.
"I often have to wear two hats, and there's this sense that we kind of have to take one off and put the other one on," Robichaux said, "And I think what I learned shooting Big Shot, and maybe for the first time in my career, is that, no, I wear both of those hats, because that's what I do. I just am Richard Robichaux. I can simultaneously wear both of those hats without apology."
Big Shot is currently streaming on Disney+.