“Franklin & Bash” is a new lawyer show on TNT. It is about two brash, rule-breaking best friend lawyers who join a very conservative, old-school law firm. It is sometimes silly but it is sexy, funny, and fun. And it stars two guys who have been acting since their teens, Breckin Meyer (“The Craft,” “Clueless,” “Garfield,” “Robot Chicken”) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (“Saved By the Bell,” “NYPD Blue,” “Passing the Bar”). Like the characters they play, they do not take themselves seriously, but they take their work seriously.
I spoke to them about what they learned as child actors and how practicing law is like being in show business.
What did you do to get comfortable with the legal language and procedures?
Gosselaar: I was on a show called “Raising the Bar” for two seasons. The creator of that show was a public defender in the South Bronx. That was much more letter of the law — he was on set all the time and tried to make sure we stayed as true as possible because it was so important for him. He wanted to teach America about what it was really like. I interned for a week at the Bronx defenders’ office. So the set-up was not at all like what we’re working with now but Bill Chase, one of the co-creators is an attorney and we have questions or don’t understand something or a pronunciation he is there.
Meyer: Yeah, like “objection” — how do you say that? And this word, “law…..”
Gosselaar: We’re much looser on this show, of course, but the law is the catalyst for the stories. You get the great stories of struggle and conflict and the way our characters relate to the clients. And in a way, putting on a trial is like putting on a play.
You play long-time friends but you did not know each other before the show. How do you create that sense of history and chemistry?
Meyer: You always cross your fingers that first you even get along with the other actor, second that you have something in common. Mark-Paul and I had more in common with each other than we even knew. We both started acting very young and have consistently worked. We’re both family guys, both have kids.
Gosselaar: Our personal lives parallel each other, too.
Meyer: And our work styles. We both show up knowing our stuff, and then we will have fun with it. We take the work seriously but not each other at all. That’s where the fun comes from on the show — the drama comes from the cases and having now been bought up by this white-shoe law firm, how do you stay true to fighting for the underdog when your firm is working for the corporation you are fighting against? But the fun is in these two guys and we were lucky that we really get along. We are shooting in LA but we shot the pilot in Atlanta and it helped a lot, being “sequestered” there away from our families. Normally we finish and go to our houses. In Atlanta we’d have dinner and work on the script — part was we had nothing else to do but part of it was we loved the show and wanted it to work. The script was so good — if we could elevate that, it would be amazing. We worked non-stop, more than on anything else I can think of, around the clock, and neither one of us ever said, “Uncle.”
Tell me about working with the wonderful Malcolm McDowell (“Clockwork Orange,” “If…”), who plays the head of the law firm.
Meyer: He’s everything you want Malcolm McDowell to be. He’s funny, he’s intense, he’s terrifying, and he is so sweet! He is a living legend. He’s done a thousand movies and is 287 years old. [Laughs] If anyone has earned the right to be a diva, it’s him. But he showed up on set exactly the way we do, knowing his stuff and wanting to have fun. It sets the bar for everyone. It sets the tone for a really nice set where everyone’s free to try and fail. And he has the greatest stories known to men. He’s worked with everybody.
I’ve seen the first episode, but tell me about what’s coming up later in the season.
Meyer: Beau Bridges comes in as my dad, a litigator. James Van Der Beek comes on as the ADA’s fiance, who needs a lawyer. We go into the backstory.
Gosselaar: Our characters evolve. We began with the personal injury and smaller-time pot cases. Now we’re doing more corporate, some murder trials, and in the third episode a woman who was fired for being too hot, but it isn’t your conventional vision of what hot would be.
Meyer: That’s one of our favorites.
Gosselaar: And Jason Alexander comes on as a Bernie Madoff-type character.
You both began as child actors so you have had a lot of opportunities to observe the way that movies and television work. What did you learn from watching the grown-ups around you?
Gosselaar: Don’t be an ass.
Meyer: Don’t be a jackass. It’s a job. Know your stuff.
Gosselaar: Take pride in what you do. It has to stem from what we saw around us at home. Our parents instilled in us how important it is to take pride in what you do.
Meyer: No one in my family is in the business, no one in his family is in the business. That helps, too. Even though we were in the business, we grew up out of the business. There are times to have fun and goof off and we were kids, but it was a job and we saw it that way. We were looking at the work, so we avoided the sense of entitlement. There’s a lot of luck to it, too, but you have to be determined, and we both were. And it’s the only I knew that I am mildly good at.