Friday, February 15, 2013

5Qs on Friday: Jerry Trainor

iCarly's Goofy Spencer is (Almost) All Grown Up on Nick's Funny Wendell & Vinnie

Ask a teenager to rattle off the names of TV's goofiest older brothers and odds are they'll say Spencer from Nickelodeon's iCarly. Jerry Trainor played Spencer on the long-running sitcom until its series finale last year. Before that, Jerry was Crazy Steve on Nick's Drake and Josh.

But 36-year-old Jerry is ditching the big brother roles, sorta, for the funny and sometimes touching Wendell & Vinnie (Nickelodeon - Saturday, 8pm). The show has the feel of a straight-up multicamera comedy that you can't help but root for - the show has no pretensions other than trying to be a funny family-friendly show.

It also touts some Hollywood heavy hitters both in front the camera, like Mad TV's super-funny Nicole Sullivan, and behind it. Executive producer Jay Kogen has been producing great sitcoms since Tracey Ullman in the 1980s, including The Simpsons and Frasier.

Jerry spoke with TVFirstLook about Wendell & Vinnie, playing grownup roles and his appearance on Jimmy Fallon.

TVFirstLook: OK, so I have seen Wendell & Vinnie and it's really funny, but can you tell us about it anyway?

Jerry Trainor: I play Vinnie who is the uncle to Wendell. He has lost his parents, so I'm basically the new parent. And I don't know what I'm doing. He's a smart, earnest, sweet, nerdy kid and I'm nothing like that. I just want to go to a baseball game or a movie or to a party.

So, we're an unconventional family.

There is a little, "Will they or won't they?" with the neighbor, Taryn (Haley Strode). And there's an episode where we imagine what it would be like if Wendell was staying with Wilma, played by Nicole Sullivan. So, we explore all the avenues.

TVFirstLook: All right, most people know you for playing roles like the goofy older brother. What is it like to make the jump to being the adult?

Jerry: The difference is in the struggle. On iCarly, Carly is kind of an infallible character, so Spencer could just do things like goof off and make sculptures all the time. It's like Carly's the adult and Spencer's the kid.

Here, Wendell does have problems. He is bullied and picked on and he doesn't know how to get the girl. So, Vinnie's struggle is that he tries to step up and be a good parent. But he doesn't know what he's doing ... time and again, every Saturday at 8pm.

TVFirstLook: On Wendell & Vinnie, you work with some incredible people, both the cast and crew. What's that like?

Jerry: It's amazing. It's a little disgusting how much we all loved each other immediately. Nicole Sullivan cracks me up nonstop. She's hilarious. Our rapport was just fantastic from the get-go. And we have Dan Castellaneta in the pilot, which is so cool.

When I was leaving iCarly, I was reading scrips from all the networks. I didn't know I'd stay at Nickelodeon. It just so happens that I liked this script the most. It was the funniest and thought it was the best choice for me.

But, then, I was like, "Uh, who's Jay Kogen?" And, then it was like, "Oh, he did Frasier, George Lopez and The Simpsons." That's amazing.

TVFirstLook: OK, so about a decade ago you were on Nickelodeon's Drake & Josh. Was that your big break?

Jerry: That was where it all started. But I was a guest player on Drake & Josh, so I always had day jobs. It wasn't until iCarly that I was able to quit my day jobs and work full time as an actor. So, I owe everything to Crazy Steve on Drake & Josh, but my big break was iCarly.

I wanted to be an actor since I was in high school. Then, in college I majored in theater. I came out to L.A. and, since 2000, I was auditioning for roles. You just toil away until something hits. I got small parts here and there, like on Malcolm In the Middle.

TVFirstLook: OK, so last thing. Last year you had a pretty memorable appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. What was that like?

Jerry: The good thing was I had met Jimmy Fallon before. He was a guest on iCarly. There was an episode where the kids go on Jimmy Fallon, so we shot it on his stage. I had a chance to meet him. So,when I was asked to go on Jimmy Fallon it was fun, but I was very nervous. Luckily, I had met him and the other people on the show once before, so it was great.

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