When the forces of evil threaten a small town, it’s up to the former sheriff Stan Miller to save the day! John C. McGinley (‘Scrubs’) stars are Stan in the new horror-comedy ‘Stand Against Evil’ that is coming to IFC this fall from writer-producer Dana Gould (‘The Simpsons’)! Stan finds himself teamed up with the town’s new Sheriff Evie Barret (Janet Varney, ‘The Legend Of Korra’) and his daughter Denise (Deborah Baker Jr., ‘2 Broke Girls’) to fight off evil spirits that are seeking vengeance against the lawkeepers of their small New England town! If you’re into horror-comedy films along the lines of ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, then ‘Stan Against Evil’ is sure to be right up your alley as it walks the thin line between being hilarious and scary as hell! We were recently able to sit down with series star John C. McGinley at New York Comic Con 2016 to talk about his role on the show and what he brings to the table as Stan!
What attracted you to the role of Stan in ‘Stan Against Evil’?
John C. McGinley: I thought it was really hilarious on the page, and most of the stuff I’m sent really relies on me pulling a rabbit out of my ass every single day on the set, and that is a hard way to make a living. Because you’re playing “guess your best” every day because someone was too lazy to sit down and write out a three act structure. When Dana Gould sent it to me, I thought it was hilarious! It’s funny, when I got it, my wife and the girls were going to Boulder to see Nicole’s mom. So I read it, and I sent it to Nicole and said “this is really funny, but it goes in Atlanta and it’s a conflict with me going to Dublin with my Brothers”, and that trip had already been booked! It’s important that we go to Dublin, because my youngest brother was on the 68th floor of the second building on 9/11, and he made it out, but everybody on floors 72 and up died, and it kind of re-prioritized that when we say we are going to do something, we f*cking well do it. So I really felt inauthentic calling my brothers and saying “hey you guys, can we reschedule” but everybody has kids, everyone coaches soccer, everyone has stuff!
There are a million reasons not to go to Ireland for ten days and be with you brother who almost died. So I called Dana back and said “this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read, and this is not a poker play, I don’t want more money or a bigger trailer, but I’m going to be in Dublin, can you move the schedule?” Which is a preposterous thing to ask! There’s a guy waiting over in the wings to play Stan, and who the hell are you? So Nicole calls me from Boulder, and she says “uh, you should do this”. But I say “I want to, but I’m going with Mark and Jerry to Dublin” and she goes “you think that’s a good move?” So I say “yes”, and that’s Wednesday. That’s Wednesday, and I told this to Dana, but on Thursday I’m starting the pace in the house and it’s like “who do you think you are McGinley?” I’m talking to myself. This is like a catapulting role, as I’ve been doing Broadway plays and movies for the last five years since ‘Scrubs’ ended, and I’m dying to get back into a show because I like the grind! Nicole says “it feels like it was written for you!”. It was not, but I’m like “nope, I’m staying”. Thursday night it’s like “you’re such a jackass”. Then they call me the next day at noon and say “we can push three weeks, but no more than that. If you can fly from Dublin to Atlanta”.
The effect that had on me, is that when I showed up in Atlanta I was willing to eat nails for you, because of what you did for me. By accommodating me being with my brothers… that’s a big deal to me. So I showed up in Atlanta, loaded for god damn bear. And the lens knows all this! When the lens turns on you, and your commitment to Stan, I put that shit on like I owned it! And the lens knows that! And it felt really good. That was my entry into ‘Stan’.
Dana (Gould) has said that much of what he wrote for ‘Stan’ was based on his own father, how much have you brought to the role? Have you had the chance to do a lot of improv with it, or are you sort of playing it straight from the page?
JCM: I play mostly from the page, especially when it’s something this good! Like when you’re on ‘Scrubs’ and Billy Lawrence is writing something, or if Oliver is writing ‘Wall Street’, I like to stay on the page. But I bring a little flavor in the transitions. Everybody likes to think I’m Mr. improv, but I’m not! I just like to add a little flavor in the addendum of the scene. But first I like to say whats on the page if its good! So what did I bring? Unbeknownst to Dana, what he wrote was a guy who is more injured than maybe what Dana meant. In the first three minutes of the show, we find out that this guy has lost his wife of thirty years and he’s been fired from his job that he has done for twenty-seven years. He’s injured, and he’s hurt! And I love shrinks, but Stan doesn’t have a shrink. He doesn’t have a shrink, he doesn’t have a priest, he doesn’t have a rabbi… he doesn’t have anybody that he can go and lay his burden down to. We have got to play that loss. You know, when you’re with a shrink it’s called ‘loss processing’, and he doesn’t know how to process loss!
So in the first episode, I was one of the producers on it, and I wanted to maintain the integrity of Stan’s loss. Not up on a billboard, because it’s a comedy-horror, and I didn’t want to make it morose. But Stan is hurt, and that’s a big deal. Like Archie Bunker, if he’s going to be an equal opportunity disparager, we have to find out why we love him. We love Archie because of Edith. Edith is Archie’s soul! We have to love Stan because of Clair. I just want to explore Clair! All of the answers are in his relationship with Clair, and his devotion to her, and that loss. Even though it doesn’t have to be a whole episode about it, it is to me. And then you can take these poetic licenses like Archie when he disparages these different groups… it’s all at his expense because he’s a jackass. Same with Stan, but we can still love him, because it’s at Stan’s expense. So what did I bring? Dana didn’t know that Stan was as injured, and I wanted to explore that injury. When he comes home for the first time in thirty years, and he closes that door, the one thing he’s not hearing echoing throughout the house for the first time in thirty years is “honey is that you?”. That’s an empty house. Then when he touches her keychain, there was a note that said “oh that’s too sad” and I said “you’re f*cking right it’s sad!” He misses her. When he says “we can’t go into your mothers room because that’s where her stuff is and she’d kill us”, he can’t even finish that statement. Because it’s just like “I haven’t been in that room in thirty years” and that is his truth!
The show has such a good mix of comedy and horror which has to be executed perfectly, could you talk a little about that? It’s just such a different feel than like when you were on ‘Scrubs’ which was completely comedy, now you have the horror aspect, how does that fit in?
JCM: Like in ‘Scrubs’ when you’re trying to straddle “comedy in a hospital” and not invalidate people’s pain and loss, that is to ‘Scrubs’ as ‘comedy and horror’ are in ‘Stan’. What I mean is, I want the show to be funny as hell, and scary as shit! Like in “An American Werewolf In London”, for the comedy not to invalidate the monsters! So when a witch comes, the witch isn’t a shrug to Stan. I doubt he’s ever drawn his weapon in his twenty-seven years of service. So how he resolves this, it’s going to be good! I gave Stan, you know as someone who loves acting and teaches it and and I love to empower actors and a geek about acting, the uber-objective I gave Stan was the most passive thing I have ever given a character. And it is, “Stan wants to get back to that recliner”. He is exhausted, he’s lost his wife, he’s tired, he’s fired, he wants to get back to that chair, put on the TV, watch The History Channel, and have a beer. But now you’ve got to fight witches? That’s great. Nobody else is going to do it! Well, Janet (Varney, who plays Sheriff Evie Barret) is going to do it, but she can’t do it alone! And that uber-objective kept yielding profound dividends. He didn’t want to go be the hero, he didn’t want to go save his daughter… what is she still doing at home anyway? And I was kind of reluctant to give him that “that is what I want to do”, but man did it pay off! Because it’s authentic! It’s true!
Be sure to tune in to see the premiere of ‘Stan Against Evil’ on Wednesday November 2, 2016 only on IFC! The series is currently set to run for eight episodes throughout the fall season!
Jordan is a Toy Columnist & Staff Writer here at ScienceFiction! Journalist, Musician, Toy Collector, and Overall Awesome Guy! For more on Jordan’s thoughts, toys, and wacky adventures, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.