NEW YORK — With A-listers such as Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts and Halle Berry jumping to TV, actor Bradley Whitford marvels at how show-biz stigma of the small screen is now a thing of the past.
Whitford is best known for his role as Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on NBC’s critically acclaimed series “The West Wing” (1999-2006).
“I remember thinking, oh thank God there’s this snobbery about TV,” the 54-year-old actor said in a recent interview. “I was getting better writing by an exponential amount than Meryl Streep when I was on ‘West Wing.’ I was so grateful.
“Now unfortunately, all the movie stars, the big flossers, have realized that not only do you get great writing, (but) it’s a really satisfying way of storytelling. ... It’s not about blowing stuff up.”
He hopes this trend won’t mean qualified actors will be overlooked for someone with a bigger name.
“If anybody had any idea that ‘Breaking Bad’ was gonna be a tenth as successful as it was, (creator) Vince (Gilligan) would not have been allowed to write it,” Whitford said. “Bryan (Cranston) would not have been allowed to be in it. None of that beautiful cast would be in it. Same with ‘The Sopranos.’ We never would’ve met James Gandolfini if anybody thought it was gonna be successful.”
Whitford said that was true to a certain extent with “West Wing.”
“Nobody thought it was gonna work. ‘You can’t have a fake president. It’s about politics, that never works,’” he said. “People found it and it grew to be much bigger than we ever thought it would be.”
Whitford stars on the ABC comedy “Trophy Wife” (airing Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.) on which he plays an older husband with a younger wife (Malin Akerman). His character has two ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins).
Despite the show’s title, Akerman’s Kate isn’t a stereotypical piece of arm candy for Whitford’s Pete, much like TBS’ “Cougar Town” isn’t about older women paired with younger men.
Ratings for “Trophy Wife” have been so-so, but Whitford is hoping for a second season. He said he was “looking to do something different and comedy was definitely something I was looking for.”
He also wanted to work with Harden. He has seen her Tony-winning performance in Broadway’s “God of Carnage” four times. “It was bordering on stalking,” he said.
“By the way,” Whitford added, “on ‘West Wing,’ I was one of the young guys and now (on ‘Trophy Wife’) I’m Wilford (expletive) Brimley. It’s prostate jokes and stuff! There was no segue way!”