Chris O'Dowd and Ray Romano team up in TV remake of Get Shorty
Irish actor and writer Chris O'Dowd has revealed how he drew inspiration for his latest TV character from fictional crime boss Tony Soprano.
O'Dowd, who plays a hitman turned movie producer in the new SoHo comedy drama Get Shorty, says, "I loved The Sopranos. I loved that you could have a character at the centre of a crime family who was also seeing a psychotherapist (and) trying to get through the mundanities of everyday life.
"I rewatched that and kind of tried to bring like the domesticity of everybody's life to a much broader, odd situation. That was definitely something I drew on."
In the series, which takes its inspiration from the 1995 John Travolta/Gene Hackman movie of the same name, O'Dowd's Miles Daly enters into a partnership with B-grade movie producer Rick Moreweather, played by Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano.
The series takes Romano a long way from his sitcom roots. So is he surprised to be cast in a more serious role?
"The question is are you surprised?" says Romano, claiming he is taking a break from mini golf in New Jersey to join a video conference link in Los Angeles.
"After Raymond, I didn't want to do a sitcom again. I always wanted to keep comedy in my work but, yes, I was more attracted to maybe something dramatic but it was small, it was little baby steps.
"It's very hard to get people to forget the character they have seen for nine years.
"So am I surprised? I guess the answer is yes because I'm surprised I can do anything. I'm very insecure about all of this and it's a learning process and with each job I get, with each role I take, I kind of discover that I can do something a little more dramatic.
"I did Vinyl (a 70s rock'n'roll drama) last year ... I was delving into something very dark and I had no idea whether I could pull it off. Every time I do something that is considered good or successful it is a surprise to me but it's fun.
"It's fun to try it and whether or not I can do it is still yet to be seen."
What is obvious, though, is the lack of comedy competition between Ray Romano and Moone Boy and The IT Crowd star Chris O'Dowd.
When asked who is funnier, O'Dowd deadpans, "He always conceded I was the funniest," before adding, "No really, I think we both love comedy but neither of us are massively competitive.
"I work with people like that sometimes and it's kind of fun but I'm not a massively extrovert person, particularly in a role like this where I'm just trying to acquire a slightly different skill.
"Ray is equally not that competitive. He'll be more interested in talking about capitals of the world of which he knows them all."
It is the first time O'Dowd has played a character who is physically intimidating, albeit one changing his life in a desperate attempt to win back his wife and family.
"For people to be physically fearful of you is something I've never experienced before so I took up boxing to try to get into the spirit of it," he says.
It is his first major role in an American TV series, although he has won fans worldwide thanks to a starring role as Kristen Wiig's love interest in Bridesmaids and parts in This Is 40 and Thor: The Dark World.
He says of working in America, "Thankfully, because so many wonderful Irish and British actors have come here before, we are all given universally more credit than we deserve.
"I like to work in both places because I think there are different things that they can do for you.
"I was always reticent about doing American television because it takes so long. British and Irish shows, we tend to do six episodes you don't have to sign up for 20 years and it feels more natural but I was really tempted to do this one because I felt it was a character that was going so many different places."
In the original movie, the hitman role was played by John Travolta as the super cool Chili Palmer. O'Dowd describes his look as more 'hardman chic' and says he watched the movie only after filming wrapped on the TV series.
"I probably would have wanted to watch the movie but I thought it would be unhelpful," he says. "Now I've watched it I really enjoyed it and I wished I had watched it earlier because I would have just stolen everything they had done."
Get Shorty, SoHo, starts Tuesday August 22.
- TV Guide