A Chat with 'My Name is Earl' Jason Lee and Greg Garcia

One of the best comedies on network is "My Name is Earl", an award-winning hit here and abroad with fans in Germany, the UK and Australia. 

The show anchors the NBC Thursday night lineup with the (mis)adventures of Jason Lee's befuddled Earl, Jaime Pressley's scheming Joy, Ethan Suplee's dim Randy and Eddie Steeples' lethargic Darnell as they try to do right, most of the time.

Due to the recent WGA writers' strike, only 13 of the 20 episodes originally planned for the third season were filmed. NBC will now present new episodes beginning April 3rd. The series is produced by Greg Garcia's production shingle, Amigos de Garcia and Twentieth Century Fox Television.

The return of “My Name is Earl” on April 3rd will feature a one-hour episode from 8:00 to 9:00.

Lee and Garcia

Lee and Garcia

Monsters and Critics joined a few onliners and spoke to creator and executive producer Greg Garcia and series star Jason Lee about the series. 

What was it like to get back to work after the strike? 

Greg Garcia: It was very hectic for us.  The writer’s strike ended on a Wednesday and the following Tuesday we had a table read.  So we basically hit the ground running when we got back and we kind of had some ideas of what we wanted to do but we had to really put it in overdrive and get the scripts ready and in order to do nine episodes coming back, we’ve had to continue, kind of keep up that pace.  And hopefully the quality of the show doesn’t suffer.  So far I’m real happy with the things we’ve been doing.

Jason, how about you?  How did you spend the time off?

Jason Lee: Wondering when I’d be back to work because, you know, there’s a lot of speculation when there’s something like a strike happening.  Some people say a couple months and it’ll pass.  Some people say a year, you know.  So there was a lot up in the air.

And yeah.  I mean, I was happy to get back to work.  I enjoyed the break.  It was a nice little break but then I was told that we were going to do nine episodes and possibly consecutively, which would have been nerve-racking because the most we’ve ever done consecutively was seven.  So we ended up doing three with a week off and now we’re doing six in a row.  We’ve crammed a lot in to finish season three for the audience.

What was the atmosphere on the set that first day back?

Jason Lee: It was literally just like, you know, a weekend had passed and we were all back to work.  I think we benefit from having a very loose, fun, high-energy, friendly set and it was just very familiar.  And I think everybody was relieved to have jobs again.

What was it like working with Alyssa Milano and Paris Hilton?

Greg Garcia: Well that’s probably two different answers.  This is Greg.  I’ll say that, you know, Paris just came in for one day and did a quick little thing with us and really had a great sense of humor about herself and played herself.  And I’m looking forward to the audience, you know, seeing her quick little cameo.

And Alyssa, well Alyssa , you know, we’ve worked with now so much that she’s kind of just – feels like one of the gang.  It’s – we don’t even introduce her at table reads anymore as a guest actor because she’s here – she’s here a lot and we actually found some really fun things to do with her this – these nine coming back after the strike.


Jason Lee: Yeah.  Well, having had a huge, huge childhood crush on Alyssa Milano, it was very surreal meeting her and getting to work with her.  I was pretty fascinated with how kind of short she is.  She said she’s 5’3” on a good day and, you know, I thought she was very cute.  And she kind of definitely fulfilled those sort of – the vision I had as a kid of, you know, what it would be like to one day meet.

Greg Garcia: And I actually had a childhood crush on Paris Hilton.  So I’m trying to arrange a double date with the four of us to go out but Paris, I think, is not interested and my wife’s not interested and…

Jason Lee: Yeah, I kind of get the feeling that – with Paris Hilton, it was one of those, “Oh, I love the show.”  Guarantee you, she’s never seen an episode.

Jason, tell us a little bit about how your chemistry with Jaimie developed over the years.

Jason Lee: I don’t – I just think Greg Garcia was smart in terms of casting who he cast.  Just one of those things that you know is going to work.  And, you know, I think Jaime being from the South and Eddie’s sort of inherently being a bit slow, I say that as a compliment.

And Ethan and I have been friends for many, many years.  And , I knew I wanted Ethan from the very beginning because he has a sweetness and a likeability.  I think we’re all just kind of approachable, accessible people that like our jobs and we’re not afraid to embarrass ourselves on film.

And there’s nothing fancy about what we’re doing.  And luckily, Jaime is not vain.  She likes to make fun of herself and she doesn’t care how ridiculous she looks with some of those hairdos.  So we’re all just regular folks just having a good time.

Greg, I wanted to know about you and Dava, your casting director, worked together in the casting process, when you were initially ramped up with the show – did you hire Jason first and then the other characters or did you put them together in an ensemble to see how they played off each other?

Greg Garcia: The main goal was to find Earl.  We were cast contingent on that.  We couldn’t even – I don’t even think we had the green light to even start casting the other roles until we had Earl cast. 

And it was a process of going out to Jason very early and trying to get him interested in doing a T.V. show and hearing he wasn’t interested and then spending two months reading different people and knowing in the back of your mind that Jason would still be the best person for this role.  And then ultimately, him getting a copy of the script and liking it and having a meeting with us and - so once we got Jason on board, then it was a matter of, okay, let’s fill out the rest of this ensemble.

And from there, like Jason had mentioned he’d had been friends with Ethan for a long time and actually had suggested him to come in and read on the same day that I was already having him come in and read because I had seen Ethan in some stuff and was a fan.  So we thought that that was kind of just fate that we both thought of it right around the same time.

He came in and nailed it.  And Jaime came in and got the role with one line.  She came in and just completely nailed it.  It is just a combination with Dava of working with her with me throwing out names of people I’m familiar with and then her going out and finding people like Nadine that I had no idea who she was.  And they found her and brought her to me.

It is kind of just a collaborative process with the casting.  It continues to be so as we do guest casting and everything.  A lot of times we’ll have ideas of people right off the bat that we want to go and try to get but more times than not, Dava will have some people we’ve never heard of and bring in some great folks.

Jason, Is there somebody that you would love to have guest on your show that hasn’t yet?

Jason Lee: Well, we had Burt Reynolds, which was great.  We’ve been trying to get Steve Buscemi but I guess he’s never around.  I’d like to get John C. Reilly on the show.  I’d like to get Harry Dean Stanton on the show.

Jeff Bridges, because his brother Beau plays my father on the show.  I just like the idea of getting…anything goes with Earl.  And all the great character actors that we – all the great film character actors that we like, I mean, would be so well-suited for a show like ours. 

And all the people that I’ve always admired – the left of center actors like John C. Reilly and Buscemi and Harry Dean Stanton – I’d love to get Tom Waits on the show because again, the backdrop, the world that we’ve created, it’s network television but because it’s sort of our own world and Greg’s created this bizarre thing that somehow fits on television, we can really afford to get these – we can kind of do whatever we want because we’ve got the fans and it’s really grounded in enough reality to where we can really afford to sort of play and go out on a limb.
So those are the kind of actors.  But unfortunately, I think a lot of actors of that caliber are – aren’t interested in television as much as they are about – in film. 

But, you know, we’ll keep trying.  In the meantime, we’ll settle for Giovanni Ribisi and…

Greg Garcia: Yeah, I mean, we have some really good people, as we keep going and we get more and more people to come on and have a great time, then more and more actors who sometimes are reluctant to do T.V. I think, go, “Oh, hey, you know. 

Wow.  Look at Giovanni Ribisi on there.  And he’s, you know, he’s doing a great job and he gets to go in there and have fun.  You know, maybe I will do it.”  And we’ve got Ben Foster in the beginning of the year, who was fantastic, and we’ve got Michael Pena doing a role for us this week.

It's  like Jason was saying, the more people that you don’t necessarily see on T.V. that we can get in here to come play with us for a week, we always welcome the opportunity.

Jason,  how long does it take to grow out the hair and the moustache…

Jason Lee: Five to six weeks. To get it full, yeah.

What’s Paris like to really work with?

Jason Lee: She was here for 15 minutes…and she was playing herself and doing her thing.  And she was a trooper.  I mean, she knew what she was  what it was all about, that she would be playing herself and she just went along with it.

Greg Garcia: Yeah. She was really nice.  I mean, like Jason said, she wasn’t here that long and so we don’t have a lot of dirt on her or anything like that.  I can just say that she came in, she knew what to do and she was very professional and very sweet and nice to everybody.  There’s a couple people on set that I think knew her from before.  I believe Ethan knew her and Jaime seemed to have known her.  So , it was just a nice little friendly hour here.

Greg, I was just curious, what’s the trick or the key to writing a successful television comedy?  Do you have a simple answer?

Greg Garcia: It’s – the trick is luck.  It’s luck.  I mean, you write a script and obviously you need a script to get everything – get the ball rolling.  But then it’s, you know, luck based off of that.  I mean, sure, you can write a script that people want to come and do but you have to – the right actors need to be available and interested to come in and do it.

And then, you’ve got to find the right director to come in and create a vision off of this thing and to create a visual template that we work off of, which is a huge part of what Earl is.  And then, you’ve got to surround yourself with very talented people who can keep the thing going.  And we’ve been very lucky around here with – we’ve got the right people.  We’ve got a lot of hard-working people and, you know, there’s no – unfortunately, there is no trick or formula or you’d see everybody doing it.  It’s just, lightning has to strike.

How did the strike affected the rhythms of the show?

Greg Garcia: I mean, from a writing standpoint, it actually, I think, ultimately helped us.  We had – we kind of knew where we were going for the most part of the season, but towards the end it kind of felt like story arc wise we were kind of be – going to be petering out a little bit. 

And by having this break, it kind of forced me to – we were having a little abbreviated season. We were going to do 26 and now we’re going to do 22, which is still a full season and we’re happy that we’re able to get to that number.  But it did make it a little shorter and I got to kind of rethink things and kind of throw a whole new wrinkle into the second half of our season that we weren’t going to have.
And by doing so, I think we got a lot of fun stories out of it. 

It gave some of our characters the opportunity to do things with Earl's list that they would never have gotten the opportunity to do before.  And so I think ultimately, it actually worked out – that little break worked out creatively as a plus for us.  But, we’re half way in the middle of doing those things so hopefully after the nine, I still say that.

Why is it important to get to 22, 24 or 26? 

Greg Garcia: No, I mean it’s not – it’s - I mean, I’m sure there are considerations like that.  For me, it was just, you know, the original order was 26.  When we came back, they said well, we’re only going to order episodes until May 15 so how many can you do between now and May 15? 

The smart answer probably was six.  But having a crew that hadn’t been working and everybody here, I just thought, well let’s do everything we possibly can to really stretch it.  And we did nine.  And that just happened to put us at 22.

You mentioned the list – you’d gotten away from that as a kind of a weekly device.  Has that been hard to get away from or is that still an essential part of the show?

Greg Garcia: Yeah.  I mean, the list is always an essential part of the show.  It’s always the backdrop.  I mean, even in prison, there was stuff having to do with the list and there’s certainly bigger things going on in life for our characters in the second part of this Season Two, but the list is still very key and crucial to the plot.  And I can see, you know, Season One was all about the list.  Every single episode was list-driven and every episode was in and of itself kind of its own little story.

Season Two, we really started doing the arcs with Jaime’s legal problems and stuff, and how Earl was involved in that.  And then, obviously, we did the prison.  Season Three, I can see us getting back to basics.  You know, perhaps in Season Four we’ll see where we’ll driving to but I – part of me kind of misses, you know, the concentration on the list and so I can see us going back to it a little bit more.

What about Jeff Zucker.  Where did you find this guy?  What future do you see for him?

Greg Garcia: I think he’s got a big future in television.  I think he came in.  He nailed his lines.  He was very believable as Jeff Zucker.
All completely our idea.  I called him and he was very gracious and ready to come on and play himself and have a little fun and it actually turned out really nice.

NBC Thursday night comedy has been such a great tradition for so long.  Does it still mean what it used to?

Greg Garcia: Yes.  Comedies are still on Thursday nights on NBC. I think ratings wise it’s certainly not what it used to be.  I think quality wise, it’s as good, if not better than it’s ever been, in my opinion.  You know, when you really look at the whole night and…it depends who you talk to. 

It’s – obviously, it’s all a matter of taste.  But I would say that , you know, in the years where “Friends” and “Seinfeld” were on, and whatever was on between – in those half hours from time to time, personally I’d put up the night that’s up there now against it and those were two great shows.

But I think with these four shows, you’ve got a great night of television.  Honestly, I wish more people were watching it.  But we certainly don’t - if you just look at the numbers, it doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Is that a big goal to get back to the kind of numbers that Thursday night comedy – or is that kind of thing out of your hands?

Greg Garcia: It’s not something I worry about.   I mean, we have our hands full with making the best show we possibly can make every week.  And then, it’s really that’s a responsibility for the network to get the eyeballs there and get people watching it. 

I would consider it our problem if I felt we were doing shows that were not good and that were the reason.  But, I know that we’re doing the best we possibly can and we’re very happy with the quality of the show.  So, you can’t beat yourself up about the ratings and you kind of just have to leave that up to the network and hope that they can get more eyeballs on.

How would you compare that Monday night block compared to what’s going on Thursdays?

Greg Garcia: I think it’s just two completely different styles of comedy.  And, you know, obviously they’re both successful and I don’t know the numbers.  I don’t know, certainly somebody could look it up and look at the demographics and the people are watching and is it the same people? 

I don’t know.  I know that they do well with their Monday night block and NBC does pretty good on their Thursday night block. They – I think they have more competition than is on Monday night. 

But, you can’t take anything away from those comedies that CBS is doing because obviously you look at the numbers and they’re doing really well.

Jason, can you comment on that?  You’re involved in a show that is non-traditional in terms of how you approach the sitcom.  Why is that something you’d want to do than say, maybe the more traditional comedies that we see on, say Monday nights on CBS.

Jason Lee: I guess I just never had much of a traditional approach.  I knew, you know, I didn’t want to do television to begin with.  I just wasn’t interested.  That’s why it was such a tough decision to ultimately decide to do “My Name is Earl” because it was television.  But I just kept going back to how good the script was and how different it was.

My concern is, as I’ve voiced to Greg at the very beginning, was how much can we do, being that it is on a mainstream network television station like NBC.  But they gave us the freedom and Greg ran with this crazy idea.  And lo and behold, the fans kind of came on board and we created our own little thing amidst this kind of very sort of corporate, you know, well-oiled machine, you’ve got the outcasts, you know, part of it and they’re getting along just fine.

I’m perfectly comfortable being on a show like this where it’s got just enough respect.  It’s got the fans – and they’re very diehard fans and I think it’s a good balance. 

I really have to credit Greg with that and at the end of the day as goofy and kind of out there as it can be, the characters are all likeable and there really is a message and there really is a heart at the core of it.  And I think that’s what keeps people coming back and watching it.

What are the restrictions of a traditional sitcom?  Is it content or is it the fact that there are some places you can’t go?

Jason Lee: I – yeah, I mean, body movement, right?  The set, you know, waiting for the audience to stop laughing before you can say your next line.  I don’t know.  I mean, I’ve never done sitcom but, you know, this is – we’re out on location.  It feels like we’re shooting a film. 

The physical comedy, the stunts that we get to do, the special effects, it’s like shooting a little movie every week where we all look forward to the next script.
what crazy, bruise-causing things are we going to get to do this week?  And you just can’t do that when you’re on a stage in front of an audience.

Greg Garcia: there’s a lot of shows that lend itself to being a four-camera show.   “Two and a Half Men” is a great four-camera show.  “Raymond” was a great four-camera show.  “Yes, Dear” was possibly the best four-camera show ever to come around.  But, you know, a show like ours where it’s, you know, he’s got this list and he’s running around and he’s crossing things off, it’s just like you could never do it.

One, you couldn’t tell the stories you want to tell with those kind of restraints set wise and also the way our characters are, you put them in a four-camera world and they’re just… it’s not going to feel subtle in places. 

You end up playing to the audience and I think everybody would feel a lot less real than they do, at least in my mind how they feel real on our show.

Do people approach you guys telling you that they identify with the characters so much that they have made their own lists like Earl?

Jason Lee: Not in those exact words.  I mean, I haven’t experienced that myself but you do hear stories about a friend heard a DJ on a radio station talking about karma, how they’ve started their own lists, you know.  It started getting popular.  I think the idea of karma, the word being used a lot more. 

It felt that way, anyway.  And Greg’s whole point at the very beginning was, there’s this, we’re talking about karma.  We’re talking about redemption.  We’re talking about a low-life dude trying to turn his life around.  Why not make it mean something you know?

If that’s ultimately what happens at the end of the day, great.  I mean, you know we’d never pretend like it - that that’s not important, it’s just about the jokes and the characters and the moustache. 

There can be something to take from it without being too preachy and I think it’s because the show is very accessible.  The characters are very likeable and at the end of the day you find yourself wanting to root for Earl.  And I think people have  really grown to like the show a lot and if it makes them feel good, that’s a bonus for sure.

Greg Garcia: I’ve read a couple things online about people making their lists and stuff.  I’ve never had anyone actually come up to me and say that, but the - some things that I have experienced that are pretty cool, is like, I’ve had people clip out things and bring them to me or come to me and say, they were at church and the sermon, the guy was talking about an episode of Earl and this and, you certainly don’t – that’s not your intention– your number one intention to do the show.  You’re making people laugh and we don’t take ourselves too seriously at all.

But if they want to use an example of something we did in a sermon well that’s pretty cool.  And if people are going to watch it and go, “Hmm.”   If somebody out there goes, “Eh, I did something to somebody,” and this show’s about redemption and maybe I will go make that up.  Well if that happens, that’s fantastic.  But obviously our first goal is to make you laugh.

Do you believe in Karma now?

Jason Lee: I’ve always just, I mean I’ve always believed in it in different forms.  One , just common sense that if you’re doing good things then obviously you’re working hard and doing good things…But certainly, we work very hard at this show and everyone treats everybody on the show with respect and we treat each other like family and so far we’ve been able to keep doing it.  So I guess that’s a good example of karma.

At the end of the credits of each show, a different picture is shown of someone wearing a sombrero. 

Greg Garcia: That’s my production company logo and I started that on “Yes, Dear” and I did 122 different pictures and then I started, you know I kept the tradition going on “My Name is Earl” and it’s called Amigos de Garcia Productions – Friends of Garcia.  And I ran out of friends, I think, around episode 10 of “Yes, Dear.”  I didn’t – I don’t have that many friends.  But I just filled up with various friends and their kids and then people that work on the show and maybe the writer of the episode.

I don’t repeat people, although – I try not to repeat people, although my kids – I’ve put them in a couple times as they grow older.  But , it’s just anybody – for the most part, lately it’s been people working on the show.

What can you tease for us about what is coming up in the last nine episodes?

Greg Garcia: The most exciting television you’ve ever seen in your entire life, just to sum it up.  It will go down in history.  I always get into trouble when I try to talk about it because then I’m like, oh, I don’t want to say that.  I don’t want to say that.  Like, I’m so bad because like, when I watch shows I like don’t want to know what’s coming up next. 

I won’t watch previews of movies.  It just ruins it for me.  Everybody gets so saturated with what’s going to be on that it always bothers me.  But one fun thing that we’re doing for a little while is we go into this alternate universe a little bit which we’ve never done on our show and it’s actually an opportunity to actually show a version of our show in a four-camera sitcom world, which will be – that’ll be in that first episode and we’ve been having a lot of fun with that.

And what else can I say story wise?  I mean, we pick up where we left off with Earl laying in the road, having been hit by a car and Alyssa Milano being hit by the car.  And Earl is in some jeopardy and his friends are going to do everything they can to save him.  Now that’s lame.  That doesn’t even sound good, does it?

Jason Lee: You know what?  Every Oscar winner of the last decade and great director is going to be on the show.  It’s going to be the most star-studded event of the last 100 years, I think.

What other shows do you watch on T.V.?

Jason Lee: I don’t watch much T.V. but I do watch “Dexter.”  I’ve seen every episode and I’m just waiting for the new season.  Other than that, yeah.  I mean, of course I watch, “My Name is Earl”.  It’s on NBC on Thursdays.  Yeah, I like “Dexter.”  I’m a big fan.

Greg Garcia: I think I watch a lot more T.V. than Jason does, because that’s all I’ve ever done.  I watch a ton of T.V.  I don’t watch a ton of comedies.  I watch some.  I watch “30 Rock…” and The Office and I’m not just being a company man.  I do watch those and I watch “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Reno 911” are comedies that I enjoy.

Jason Lee: I’ve heard “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is good.

Greg Garcia: It’s very funny.  And then, but then I watch a ton of dramas because if you just do comedy all day long, it’s like, you’re working in a donut factory.  And donuts are great, but if you come home, you probably don’t want to eat donuts.

So, I watch a lot of dramas.  I watch anything on HBO.  I’m saddened that “The Wire” is now over.  That was probably my favorite show on T.V.

Jason Lee: Wow.  I didn’t know that.

Greg Garcia: Oh, it’s fantastic.  It’s fantastic.  And I’m with Jason, too, you know, I watch “Dexter”.  I watch – but then I watch reality too.  I’ve never watched – missed an episode of “Survivor” and…

Jason Lee: Wow.

Greg Garcia: Yeah, I – whatever I can watch, I watch.  But my problem is, is I get home at night and I have to wake up at like 4:30 in the morning the next day to go to work so I take an – I have to drug myself with an Ambien, which gives you amnesia.  So I watch a show – I watch the same show every night for a week and like – and my wife keeps coming in the room telling me, “You watched that last night,” but I don’t have any memory of it.

Do readers and fans impact what happens on the show?

Greg Garcia: We’ve done some stuff where we’ve like planted fake people on TelevisonWithoutPity and then have them been characters on our show and blow everybody’s mind on the blog.  But I go on there because it’s like instant feedback.  It’s hard not to.  You don’t want – like sometimes I’m like, I’m not even going to look and see what they thought of the episode last night.  But then it’s like, you know, it’s just right there.  You know it’s there and you do this to get people to, you know, entertain people, so you want to know how they liked it.

But I try not to let anything they say influence directions in where we’re going or anything.  And usually, we’re so – story wise, we’re pretty far ahead of things, so it’s – even if they have like a comment of what they’d like to see happen, we usually already have a direction we’re going anyway.

But I do remember one time reading something on there and thinking, “Oh, man.  That’s a good idea.”  And then, like in the room I was really hesitant to do it, because I was like - I felt like I was cheating. 

Like it was this small little thing, but it was just some small little thing someone mentioned.  I felt like I was cheating and then I was like, screw it.  It’s not cheating.  It’s funny.  So I think we ended up doing it, but I don’t remember the specifics.

How do you keep the show funny and fresh?

Jason Lee:  Well, at the end of Season One, we started talking about, “Hey, maybe we should start kind of branching out and doing more with the other characters.  Because if we isolate each episode to one list item, we were kind of feeling that it could perhaps, if somebody missed an episode they wouldn’t necessarily miss anything else having to do with the storyline.

And so, we started serializing the show a bit more, going into Season Two.  Joy’s whole court, getting in trouble, her three strikes, the whole thing.  And then, you have some stuff going on with Randy and Catalina.

And so I think the list is always the driving force.  But it seemed like when we started branching out and making it more about following stories  that were happening with all the characters instead of just Earl and one list item. It kind of - I can’t speak for Greg but I’m assuming that it sort of made things exciting and opened a lot of doors in terms of possibilities.

Greg Garcia: We’ve taken some bigger swings with stuff and – which certainly opened doors.  Tthe prison thing.  That was a big swing to send after episode – Season Two, to send your main character to prison and then also say, you know what? 

We’re going to keep him there for half a season.  And we didn’t know going into it how many episodes we’d be able to get off of that.  And we just sat down and we figured them out and then we just figured we’d had enough and we’d get him out at a certain time.

And we hope people enjoyed that.  We hoped people enjoyed going into that world for a second.  And everybody kind of knew the audience knows we’re not going to stay in prison forever.  The series didn’t change but it’s a new venue to go to and it certainly keeps things fresh for us with stories and stuff.  So we’ll continue to take swings like that.

What we’re doing for the second half of the season is pretty different with the predicament that we have Earl in as well.  I think it’s a combination of that and how we tell stories.  Because even just telling the list stories each week, if you find different ways to tell them, it just keeps things fresh. We’ve done episodes where we have somebody else narrate and we do it with their version of the story and we kind of do like a puzzle pieces episode.

And we did a story last week where we kind of did the whole thing backwards and flashed back.  It was just interesting storytelling devices, I think, also keeps things fresh.

Can you talk a little bit about keeping it fresh for yourselves?

Jason Lee: I think hopefully anyway, we have the trust of the fans and we have very dedicated fans and I think it’s absolutely fantastic.  I think they want to see us kind of surprise them and go out of our way to do something really funny, different.  And I think it affords us to really play and get silly. 

I don’t think it’s ever a thing where the real fans anyway, would ever really question it or be thrown by it.  Because what we’ve given them already is much different than you normally see on television.  So I think it’s actually kind of encouraged, I feel.  I don’t know if you agree with that, Greg.

Greg Garcia:  I think it keeps things fresh for both the writers and the actors as long as we don’t get into, 'oh, well this is exactly what this character would say now.'  And we’ve learned everything we’ve learned about these characters, so now they’ll just fall into the routines of now it’s time for me to insult you and you’re going to insult – I mean, I think for a long time, people are used to that with their sitcoms.  There’s a comfort level of just getting to the point where two characters are looking at each other and you don’t even really have to write the line.

But at the same time, it’s nice to continually learn things about characters.  I mean, we’ve created these people that are very diverse.  And to keep learning more things about a guy in the pilot like Crab Man, to slowly learn that he’s in the Witness Protection Program and then to spoon out why he’s in the Witness Protection Program and then we’ll go on further next year to reveal why that is and what that means. 

This is a guy that just was saying, “Hey, Earl.”  “Hey, Crab Man,” in the pilot.  And – but the writers have found great ways to really build on everybody’s characters.

Where are you at on Earl's list? 

Greg Garcia: I think we’ve got like 240 some – we just walked off a stage where it was actually – where it was just mentioned.

Jason Lee: 274.

Greg Garcia: Two seventy-four.  Yeah, where it was mentioned in dialogue.So I have to actually sit back and see because sometimes we’ve crossed off one an episode.  Sometimes we’ve crossed off four or five.  Sometimes we’ve added and then crossed off. 

So at the end of this season…we’ll definitely know what that exact number is…and how much he has left to do and what not.  We are keeping track.  I have a ballpark figure.  I can’t tell you the exact figure.  But I think we're making some progress on it.

It’s always a thought of ours that, look.  It’s not like you’re going to make this list and that life around you is going to stop.  And that’s why we’ve kind of concentrated on not only our side characters and what’s going on with their lives, but what’s going on with – in Earl with his life, and what obstacles are going to be in his way of making this list – whether that’s prison or getting hit by a car and being unconscious or becoming romantically involved with somebody. 

These things are all still going to happen in your life as you’re trying to do this big life-changing thing.

How do you keep it together on the set and are there ever times where you just cannot do takes because you’re just laughing so hard?

Jason Lee: I think we have probably a combined 45 minutes of outtakes on both first and second season DVDs.  Yeah, we’re all friends.  Everybody gets along, fortunately. 

Everybody likes to poke fun and it’s never a serious matter when we bust up laughing and can’t keep it together, unless of course, it’s 20 minutes of it and we’re wasting everybody’s time. But  I think it’s a bad thing when you can’t do that on a set.

Greg Garcia: Look, we’ve lost time before.  It’s late at night and we’re in this motel set and Jason and Ethan just had enough and they’re just dying laughing and they can’t get through something and we’re all crying laughing and enjoying it and yeah, sometimes you’ll lose a little time and Jason and I have said a number of times,  keep us here and extra hour once in a while if we have to be and with this light, fun atmosphere on the set, than get out a little earlier and have people like pissed off because you can’t get through a line because you’re laughing.

I can say some of the things that make me crack up.  There’s a variety of different characters Jason will sometimes go into, which crack me up.  Jaime has a thing where she just is half-way through a line and then she just says, “Mm-mm,” and then she starts it over again and then she messes up, “Mm-mm.”

Jason Lee: Yeah, when she messes up, she corrects herself.  She says, “Mm-mm.  Mm-mm.”

Greg Garcia: “Mm-mm.  Mm-mm.”  And then Jason giving Jaime like fake pep talks in the middle of her messing up a line always cracks me up. 

Like, “Don’t’ be so hard on yourself.  It’s just your first try.  You’ll be okay.”  And Jason and Ethan are constantly trying to hurt each other, which is fun to watch for the rest of us too, where they’re playing these games where they’re squeezing each other’s hands or doing whatever until the…it’s very brotherly.  And it’s fun to watch.

There’s a lot of Maryland references on the show.

Greg Garcia: I think wherever you write is influenced by where you’ve lived. I do a lot of Maryland references just because I have a fondness for the Virginia/Maryland area so – and I’m just lazy to think up fake names sometimes, so we just use those.

But I’ve always kind of thought in my mind that Earl could – this Camden County could be in perhaps Waldorf, Maryland.  It was a place I kind of thought of when I was first writing it.  In fact, I think there was some actual references at one point in the pilot script to Waldorf, Maryland but then, you know, you shoot it out here and there’s palm trees all over the place and so we’ve done everything we can just to kind of keep it as a fictional world that they live in.


Further Reading on M&C

Jason Lee Biography - - Jason Lee Movies -