Inevitably, most couples will have that awkward conversation at some point in their relationship about the repercussions a breakup might have on their mutual friendships. ABC’s new comedy series, Happy Endings, explores one such worst-case scenario when a tight-knit group find themselves at the center of two friends’ failed engagement. Actor Damon Wayans Jr., who appeared in Adam Mckay’s The Other Guys last year, plays the role of Brad, the lucky guy married to the sister of runaway bride Alex (Elisha Cuthbert). According to Wayans, a former staff writer for the network’s 2001 premiere My Wife and Kids, Happy Endings strikes gold with a cast of easily relatable characters.
You’re a descendant of the infamous Wayans Bros. Was there ever any doubt that you would get into acting and comedy? I started out wanting to be an animator but once I found out how much they got paid I decided—screw that. No, I’m kidding. I tried doing stand up, I loved it and everything took off from there.
Do people in the business have certain expectations when they learn that you’re a Wayans? There are people who expect something but I don’t even think about that, I just try to do my own thing. If I pay attention to that I feel like it will stifle me, so I just do me and hope people like it. For example, I’m more random than my dad [Damon Wayans] is because I’m a little bit weird and quirky. I’m left-handed, so I automatically think oddly, but that’s probably the biggest difference—otherwise we can be very similar.
Last year you appeared in The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. What was that experience like? That’s a close second to filming Happy Endings. Will Ferrell is my favorite comedic actor so it was a real pleasure to work with him and be in scenes with him. To make him laugh in the middle of scenes was unreal and the movie’s director Adam McKay, he’s a friggin’ genius, he’ll just pitch jokes constantly. His motto was pretty much, “Let’s see if we can get it on script once, and then we’ll just do whatever we want after that.”
What’s the premise of Happy Endings? The show is about a group of six lifelong friends that viewers tune into at their worst state. Two of the friends are about to get married but one of them runs out on the other, so it’s basically us trying to figure out how we’re going to stay close, the way we’ve always been. Viewers see us at a really vulnerable state in our friendship and everything builds from there. It’s different from a lot of shows because it’s pretty honest as far as characters go, it shows the weird things about people instead of just trying to create “TV people.” It’s very three-dimensional, showing you the flaws in each character just like real life.
Will relatable characters be the big draw? We’re all in our mid to late twenties, so I think younger people will have that connection with us. You can look at our show and see somebody that relates to you, that’s the beauty of these six people: There’s a gay guy, there’s a black guy, there’s a—not necessarily the “ho” but she’s in the fast lane—there’s an interracial couple, that’s kind of the world we live in now. I think it’s awesome. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to choose sides between friends who separated? I’m the guy who’s allegiance is always to whomever I’ve been friends with the longest, so I usually have the guy’s back. But I also didn’t have a group of friends where people started hooking up within the group, and then broke up. I only have one close girl friend, so she’s very precious.
How would you describe your character Brad? Brad is the fun-loving guy. He works really hard and he’s the only guy with an actual full-time job, but when he’s not working he always wants his time with his friends to be special. He thinks he’s the life of the party but he’s probably not. He’s also married to the sister of the runaway bride, so it’s really complicated, it’s not like he can just leave the friendship. I have to know these people for the rest of my life.
You were a staff writer on My Wife and Kids for a few years. Did that change the way you read scripts or how you decide what o audition for? Writing helped me to understand characters better and it helped me to understand what a good script is from beginning, to middle, to end. Now, I’m definitely more picky than most actors are, I feel.
How does that translate to the set of Happy Endings? Do you read the script and stick to what you see, or are you free to pitch ideas? We were able to pitch ideas during the entire shoot and just in general, I tend to do that all the time. I’ve been blessed to be around people who are down with the improvisation or the rewrite of something to make it funnier and writing has helped me with that tremendously. I think it’s the reason why I get a lot of my roles, because I just bring my own thing to the table.
Photo Credit: Jason MacDonald