Zach Braff Back With New Show Alex, Inc. on ABC
If you’re a fan of Zach Braff you’re going to be excited about his new show premiering tonight on ABC Television. During the #WrinkleInTimeEvent we had the opportunity to screen two episodes of the show and sit down with Zach Braff (“Alex Schuman”) and Tiya Sircar (“Rooni Shuman”) and Executive Producer Matt Tarses.
About Alex, Inc.
Based on the podcast StartUp, Alex Schuman (Zach Braff, “Scrubs”) is a brilliant radio journalist, husband and father of two who is about to do something crazy – quit his job and start his own company. He quickly discovers it’s going to be a lot harder than he thought. Zach Braff stars directs and is executive producer with Matt Tarses (“Scrubs”) and Davis Entertainment (“Dr. Ken,” “Blacklist”).
Matt Tarses is the writer and executive producer. Zach Braff is the director and executive producer. John Davis and John Fox are executive producers of the series, from Davis Entertainment, as are Alex Blumberg, Chris Gilberti and Matt Lieber (Gimlet Media) in association with Sony Pictures Television and ABC Studios.
After the screening, we got to sit down and talk about the show with Zach, Tiya, and Matt. We jumped right in asking Zach about his reasoning for choosing a show like Alex, Inc.
Zach Braff: I went to meet with the producer, John Davis, and he said you gotta hear this podcast. I’m not even sure if you wanna act right now, ’cause I had been directing a bunch. And I said I don’t know. He said it’s the best podcast I’ve heard in a long time. Everyone’s talking about it. We optioned it and we wanna turn it into a family comedy. And on my drive home from the meeting, I listened to like two episodes and then went into my house and kept listening. And the podcast is called Startup, and I just found it fascinating. And I thought it would be a great TV show.
And I said to them I’m in if you can get my friend, Matt Tarses, who was one of my favorite writers on Scrubs, to write it.
Matt Tarses: Well, and I think what applies to this, he won’t say this, but he’s not as young as he was when he played that J.D. character on Scrubs. And I think the idea that he has kids. And the idea that this was a story about a guy with a family doing this thing that was sort of hard to do even if he didn’t have a family, it’s that much harder with a family plus you have that much support on the other side of it. It was something that appealed to him. I think being a dad and he’s really good with children.
The husband and wife on this show is a multicultural couple. You have Zach’s character and Tiya’s character who’s Indian American. It is such a beautiful thing to see people of color on the screen, to remind us that we are a part of the fabric of society. We asked where did the idea come from to choose a multicultural family dynamic.
Matt T: Well this is based on this real podcast and the real couple that it’s about a guy, but his wife she’s a Persian-American. And we just wanted to preserve that. We looked for all kinds of actresses, but we liked the idea of this. There’s a little bit in the podcast, not a lot about her — kind of about her parents and about their difference inthe different cultures.
And so, we tried to find the best actress we could find who was the same, who’s different, have this kind of multicultural, multiracial and Tiya was the best one we found.
I mean she’s so good and they are good together. And I feel like we found these two kids who are incredible actors and who look like they could be their kids. That’s almost my favorite part of the show is just that picture of the four of them together.
During the process of talking about Tiya’s role in the show, Zach mentioned how they invited her parents to the studio so they could ask them questions about their culture and how they could apply that in the show. It’s amazing that they were that detailed in creating this show.
Tiya Sircar: Well that’s another amazing part of this story for me anyway. They wanted to get to know me and they wanted me to get to know the writers. And as we were talking, they were asking a lot of questions about my parents, ’cause, the episode you just saw, they knew they were gonna be writing that and wanted to get some more information. And so I was talking about my parents stories that I’ve grown up listening to, and I happened to mention that my parents were coming in town the next day to visit.
And these guys were like would they maybe wanna like sit down with us. And I was like absolutely. Are you kidding? For sure. So, I brought them in. They had a whole like, you know, sit down, talk. My dad — my parents are professors. There was a dry erase board. My dad gets up and starts like giving notes on a map of India.
Both Tiya and Matt talked about how Zach was working with the kids on the show. We asked Zach to give us more details about working with the kids on set.
Zach Braff: As you see more episodes you’ll see that the kids are truly special. I have this joke with Matt, because — I don’t know if you know this — but Family Ties was intended to be a vehicle for Meredith Baxter Birney, and Michael J. Fox completely stole the show. And I’m like that kid is gonna Michael J. Fox me. I’m gonna be a supporting character in the show.
But they’re both. I specify him because he’s a little bit older and his personality is even more developed. But they’re both such special actors. And I think it was great, because as Tiya was speaking about us wanting to know more about her, I think one of the things that Matt and I learned that was really successful in Scrubs is that the writers would often take a human, an actor, and then run with who they are and obviously tweak it. But Donald Faison and my characters’ became such a fan favorite because he was really mining our friendship.
And so, I think we saw like let’s get to know these actors. Who are these people? Let’s write to who Tiya is. Let’s write to who Elisha, the little boy is, and Audyssie, the little girl. And he’s a very, very smart young man and he actually has his GED.
The show focuses on two working parents and the struggles that come with one parent in a traditional job and the other working on a startup or something that may or may not go as planned. We wanted to know how that will grow in the show.
Matt Tarses: Yeah, I think that’s the main tension in the show is like he started to do this thing that’s incredibly time consuming that takes him away mentally all the time, and it’s a shift, ’cause he had a job before where he was much more available. And she’s a great supportive partner, but I think that leads to a lot of issues and it gets to a place at the end that’s we hope’s surprising.
Zach Braff: Their roles were swapped since he had so much more flexible hours, they kinda had the routine down. He could be home to do bedtime and he would do dinner and they had it all dialed in. And when he throws it all up in the air, really the season one is largely about them all adjusting to this new paradigm.
Tiya Sircar: And I kind of love that there is this general role reversal where there are two working parents, but it’s the dad who has historically been the one that sort of handles the day-to-day parenting everyday things.
And suddenly because this situation has shifted and now he’s got this very demanding adventure that he’s trying to embark upon, suddenly Rooni is faced with like PTA meetings and field trips and juggling her very demanding career that she’s very successful at. But suddenly she’s like I have to bathe these kids before they go to bed. Huh? What? I’m calling my husband trying to figure it out. I just love that it’s flipped on its head a little bit and it’s not like the normal familial dynamic that we generally see on network television.
Alex, Inc. premieres WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28 (8:30-9:00 p.m. EDT). “The Unfair Advantage” – With the help of wife Rooni and their children, Alex Schuman quits his prominent job to start his own podcast company telling real stories that matter. He hires his cousin Eddie and former producer, Deirdre, to help achieve his dream. Meanwhile, Ben performs magic at the school talent show which teaches Alex an important lesson about his future, on the series premiere.
“The Unfair Advantage” was written by Matt Tarses and directed by Zach Braff.