“It happened for a crazy reason [and] show business doesn’t usually work this way,” says Reiser, 63. “I know Chuck from years ago and just e-mailed him and told him how much I loved the first season [of ‘The Kominsky Method’] and that I was very happy for him. I congratulated him and said, only half-jokingly, ‘Why don’t you and I do something like that?’ Periodically, we flirt with the idea of doing something together. He answered me back and said, ‘Funny you should say that. Let’s do lunch.’ ”
Reiser went into that lunch pitching ideas for a new show, but Lorre had another plan. “He said, ‘Would you like to join this cast?’ I said, ‘Yes please,’ ” Reiser says. “He didn’t tell me anything, he just told me he had an idea for a character.”
That character turned out to be Martin, the bald, pony-tailed much-older boyfriend of Sandy’s (Michael Douglas) thirtysomething daughter, Mindy (Sarah Baker). He’s a paunchy, retired LA schoolteacher who writes (self-published) books, enjoys making pottery, smokes dope and knows way too much about herbal supplements (particularly for prostate issues).
“All Chuck told me was that I’d be the older guy who goes out with [Sandy’s] daughter so that Sandy has to eat a little crow,” says Reiser, who was offered the part last November (shooting began in January). “Then he broke it to me slowly and said, ‘We want to age you up — make you bald and give you an extra gut.’ I said, ‘I already have a gut’ and he said, ‘No, we’re going to make it even bigger.’ The good news is now, after ‘The Kominsky Method,’ people say to me, ‘You look great! You look like you lost some weight.’ ”
Martin is a key character in Season 2 of the Emmy-nominated Netflix series, which continues to relate the anecdotal relationship between longtime friends: renowned LA acting coach Sandy Kominsky (Douglas) and curmudgeonly agent Norman (Alan Arkin). Norman lost his wife to cancer last season and has now discovered a new love with an old flame, the recently widowed Madelyn (Jane Seymour, donning a gray wig for the role).
“I don’t think Chuck knew where he was going with Martin,” Reiser says. “He laid it out nicely: ‘You’re this guy, here’s your history, you’re an older guy with a younger woman and your purpose is really to be a thorn in Sandy’s side and to give Sandy another buddy.’ It’s such an education working with Michael.”
Reiser mentions a scene in which Martin visits Sandy’s acting class and is put through his emotional paces by the acting teacher. “Sandy pushes me a little bit into a self-therapy thing and puts me through a bit of torture and he’s sitting in the audience,” he says. “It’s an education for me to see [Michael] act without saying anything — just his looks and his intentions and intensity. He’s so subtle. Man, there’s a reason this guy’s a big movie star. He’s really, really good.”
Reiser, who will star with Helen Hunt in a revival of their ’90s-era NBC sitcom “Mad About You” (premiering Nov. 20 on Spectrum), likens “The Kominsky Method” to “one long movie in eight little pieces.”
“This is my favorite type of comedy,” he says. “It’s not going for jokes — it’s going for laughs but they’re so swirled into all the other emotions. It’s an interesting experience to watch this show and to be taken in any direction at any given moment.”
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