Skylar Astin started out making calls as a telemarketer in high school. However, his role as an investment banker in TBS’s new sitcom has him calling the shots.
After striking a chord opposite Anna Kendrick in 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” Astin is now pitching ideas at board meetings in his role as Brody in “Ground Floor.”
The show, created and penned by Emmy nominees Bill Lawrence, known for his work on “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town,” and Greg Mallins, of “2 Broke Girls” and “How I Met Your Mother,” is a modern day Romeo and Juliet set to the backdrop of corporate America. Instead of falling for a Capulet, though, Brody of the top floor falls for Jennifer (Briga Heelan, “Cougar Town”) of the firm’s ground crew. By the reaction of Brody’s co-workers, though, the pairing of Brody and Jennifer makes out to be an unthinkable relationship of differing ranks.
Lawrence and Mallins write Brody as a “confident, rich, money manager character,” Astin explained, but does not create him to be a villain with “slicked back hair.”
Instead, the antagonizing force of the firm and Brody and Jennifer’s relationship lies in Brody’s boss, Mr. Mansfield, played by “Scrubs” alumnus John C. McGinley.
“I love ‘Scrubs’ and I loved (John C. McGinley) as Dr. Cox, but I think as (Mr.) Mansfield … he’s a little softer even though he seems the most, the toughest out of everyone in the room,” Astin said in an interview with The Lantern and other college media. “When he’s with Brody alone, that’s when you get to see his softest side and his paternal instinct. And I love that. It gives him such a likeability to his character that he can get away with all of his crazy comments that he makes around the office.”
Mr. Mansfield and the distance between Brody and Jennifer’s desks in their office building isn’t the only obstacle in the storyline. The dynamic and logistics of the characters’ relationship, Astin explained, is something Brody and Jennifer have to work on from the ground up.
“What’s fun in the show is that we explore the difference in their lifestyles. We get to see things that Brody takes for granted that … are completely new to Jenny and vice versa,” Astin said. “But it’s also one of the most exciting — and sometimes challenging — things about being in a relationship when you have differences and you’re brought up differently and you learn to grow.”
Astin might not play a threat in “Ground Floor,” but in real life, he’s a triple threat.
Acting in numerous TV shows and movies, including HBO’s “Girls” and 2013’s “21 & Over,” while also utilizing his vocal chops and dancing skills in Broadway’s “Spring Awakening” has allowed Astin to appreciate the many ways to deliver a scene.
“I’m a huge fan of musical theater. When it’s intentional … I think it’s a beautiful expression. I think that it’s a really, really difficult transition that a lot of people take for granted when someone just starts singing all of a sudden,” Astin said. “And then, there’s something really great to just, yes, being able to deliver a scene … or an emotional speech or a funny monologue.”
A workplace romance between the ground floor employee and her higher up is not a unique tale to the sitcom. In Astin’s opinion, it is a storyline pertinent to offices worldwide.
“I know I’ve spoken to people in interviews that have said, ‘It’s so awesome that this is coming out because this is happening all the time.’ Like in New York especially, people are saying, ‘In these kinds of office buildings, there’s romance in them,’” Astin said. “That’s what happens, I guess, when … people are just starting out and there’s all this excitement and there’s attraction.”
“Ground Floor’s” relatability is not just limited to its audience, though. Astin also says he identifies with his character.
“(Brody and I) certainly have a common thread and we … do have a big heart and big conscious and that’s what really attracted me to him. I loved playing (him) because he is often conflicted with what he should do in his relationship and his job. And I relate to that,” Astin said.
Sunny Bloomberg, a first-year in mechanical engineering, said Astin’s new TV role is a surprising addition to the actor’s résumé, figuring he would stay singing in movies.
Lindsay Agnew, a first-year in environmental engineering, though, said “it’s pretty cool that (Astin) wants to broaden his horizons.”
“I can definitely see (Astin) in the lover-boy role,” Agnew said. “He’ll probably bring the viewers from (‘Pitch Perfect’) to the TV show.”
“Ground Floor” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on TBS.
Michele Fugate contributed to this story.