Justin Kirk on ‘Animal Practice’

The former costar of “Weeds” tells us about his new comedy series on NBC.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

TV viewers will have a nice transition period with Justin Kirk. The final episode of “Weeds” aired last night on Showtime and his latest show, “Animal Practice” will begin on NBC on Wednesday, September 26. On “Animal Practice,” Kirk plays a doctor in a veterinary hospital full of kooky characters, human and animal.

At the Television Critics Association summer press tour, we spoke with Kirk about taking on a new comedy series.


CraveOnline: Is this the Dr. Gregory House of veterinarians?

Justin Kirk: I have seen that printed.

CraveOnline: You mean I’m not original?

Justin Kirk: No, I saw it as a synopsis for the show. I have nothing but love and respect for Hugh Laurie but I think we’re going to try to go from scratch for this one.

CraveOnline: Your character doesn’t play by the rules either.

Justin Kirk: That’s true. Believe it or not, it’s the first television character ever not to play by their own rules. Yes, I think it’s a rather chaotic atmosphere at the hospital.

CraveOnline: Do you work hard to upstage Crystal the monkey in your scenes together?

Justin Kirk: I’m sure that moment’s going to come. You know, believe me, in the beginning, I won’t lie, there was some jealousy, a little competitiveness and that was just from her. I think we both think we’re the star of the show but I had a breakthrough recently and this is quite honest, she’s my best friend and I think she only serves me and I her. That’s this job. That’s part of something I was looking forward to actually.

CraveOnline: Do you have animals at home?

Justin Kirk: I don’t have animals at home because if you’re not doing a TV show or if your’e doing movies or plays, you have to leave for long periods of time and I don’t want to stick my dog in a kennel.

CraveOnline: Did you grow up with any pets?

Justin Kirk: Oh yeah, dogs, absolutely. Big dog that looked like Old Yeller. I had a three legged dog. I grew up in a rural area when I was a kid. So our dog, we found her after having her leg caught in a trap.

CraveOnline: So a rescue?

Justin Kirk: Yeah, well, rescue, I mean, not rescue rescue. We lived in the middle of nowhere so that was real rescue, yeah.

CraveOnline: Did you ever have to shadow a veterinarian for your role on “Animal Practice?”

Justin Kirk: One of my closest friends in New York is an exclusive cat veterinarian so I’ve spent some time with him and I’m going to continue to do the same while I’m here, yes. That’s probably important.

CraveOnline: How do you adjust your performance when you’re working with animals? Do you have to think about scenes in a different way?

Justin Kirk: No, I mean, acting is just trying to respond honestly to what’s going on in the room. In this case, this guy’s a veterinarian so we just sort of go with it.

CraveOnline: What do you love about this guy, that you can see yourself playing for a while?

Justin Kirk: Well, it was a very strong specific character that I knew I would know how to act, and it was also 180 degrees from Andy Botwin on “Weeds.” So that was exciting.

CraveOnline: In what ways is he 180 degrees apart?

Justin Kirk: Well, they’re just totally different characters. Andy Botwin takes life at full speed and loves everything around him. This guy maybe is not as emotionally generous. He has a smaller emotional range I think but maybe that’ll come out in interesting ways.

CraveOnline: What are your roles in Vamps and Mr. Morgan’s Last Love?

Justin Kirk: Vamps will be out November second I think. That’s an awesome movie. I’ve already seen it with Amy Heckerling. I play a sex addict Ukrainian vampire. It’s Amy Heckerling so I was super excited to be part of the Amy Heckerling canon. Mr. Morgan’s Last Love I did with Michael Caine just last “Weeds” hiatus. I think they’re still in post production so I don’t know when that’ll be out. I’m his son and we have a lot of father/son angst. Really great, really exciting.

CraveOnline: What are you enjoying on television, current or classic TV?

Justin Kirk: Sure, for me it all goes back to “SCTV.” That’s my biggest childhood inspiration. Right now I never miss “The Daily Show” and Stephen Colbert. I also love Lisa Kudrow’s show right now, “Web Therapy” on Showtime. I loved “Girls,” “Mad Men,” blah blah blah.

CraveOnline: Who was the SCTV person you admired most?

Justin Kirk: The thing about “SCTV” was a true performer, all of them geniuses and they were all starting out. Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis, Martin Short. Every one of them are my heroes and I’m hoping some of them come and join us.

CraveOnline: On “Weeds” you got to do everything with no restrictions. What is it like when you have to be more clever to communicate edgier stuff under network standards?

Justin Kirk: Well, that’s the key. We don’t get to swear or show boobs but I’ve done a lot of that in my career so I’m looking forward to [it.] Listen, “Parks and Rec” is I think the best sitcom on TV right now, so funny is funny and quality is quality, so hopefully that won’t restrict us.


CraveOnline: Did you ever dream "Weeds" would last this long?

Justin Kirk: Who knows, right? Who knows about those things.

CraveOnline: Or could you imagine where it went?

Justin Kirk: Well, I think that’s the reason why it went on for so long is they had the courage to re-invent it every couple years, because who wants to see the same show in season eight that it was in season one?

CraveOnline: Were you looking to get right back into another series?

Justin Kirk: I wasn’t at all. I was doing a play in New York and I got an e-mail from Bob Greenblatt who used to run Showtime. He said, “It looks like you’re winding up over there. Do you want to come do something here?” And I said I don’t know. Then the Russo Brothers, and Brian and Alex came to New York, saw the play and we went to lunch and they said all the right things about what the show could become and the directions they wanted to go into so here we are.

CraveOnline: Are you ready for a long term commitment again?

Justin Kirk: Well, you never know in television, right? All you can do is take it one day at a time.

CraveOnline: Are you excited to go from ensemble to being basically the lead of a show?

Justin Kirk: I’m not married, I don’t have kids so I’m okay with long days of work.

CraveOnline: Was it an odd experience to reshoot the pilot?

Justin Kirk: It was, but you know what, it was really beyond lovely, Joanna [Garcia] coming and doing what she does on our show. It just was a great opportunity to, having seen the first one, say oh, we could do this a little bit more like this. We could take this out. We could tweak this word. So it just streamlined it and I think it’s better.

CraveOnline: Now that you’re back in LA will you do more Thrilling Adventure Hour?

Justin Kirk: Yeah, I go when they ask. I’m not a regular cast member so when they ask me to come do it, I do. That’s Saturday nights. Paget was on “Criminal Minds” every day for 14 hours a day and she does it every month every time we do it.

CraveOnline: Real life veterinary work isn’t funny. Where does the humor come from?

Justin Kirk: I suppose you could say that about a lot. I’m guessing probably selling pot may not be the funniest profession you can have but you have to set a show somewhere.

CraveOnline: There has been a precedent for stoner comedies though.

Justin Kirk: That’s true, that’s true. That’s another thing I’m excited about the show is that on one hand, it feels kind of like classic television but on the other hand we’re going places that haven’t been gone before.

CraveOnline: Do you want to hang out with more veterinarians?

Justin Kirk: Absolutely. I mean, not every day, but I think it behooves me as I play one on television. Whatever character I get the chance to do, you want to try to do that sort of stuff.

CraveOnline: When they told you the idea for the show, what did you get from their pitch?

Justin Kirk: I just liked the way that they thought about what a show should be. It wasn’t specifically storyline based. It was just the way that we talked about the things that we liked or the things that we looked for and stuff. That’s when I decided.

CraveOnline: For example?

Justin Kirk: Oh, I can’t tell you that. Just general, we sat down, had lunch and talked about shows that we like and the way we like to make things and what we think is important in storytelling and they all lined up.

CraveOnline: What is it like working with Tyler Labine?

Justin Kirk: He’s just a really solid actor and I think it’s an interesting role for him because he often plays the sort of crazy guy and this part he’s sort of the sensitive straight guy, but he can do pretty much anything. He’s just kind of a straight ahead great actor.

The whole cast, that’s what excites me. Two are major comic performers. One of the things I’m really excited about the most is the introduction of Betsy Sodaro to America. She’s never been on any TV or film. She does sketch comedy at UCB and she’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.

CraveOnline: What would you most like people to know about “Animal Practice?”

Justin Kirk: It’s on Wednesdays at 8 and I’m on it.

CraveOnline: Do you have a favorite animal on the show?

Justin Kirk: I worked with a big lizard the other day. That was pretty exciting but I guess I should probably say my costar, Crystal.