“Mr. Sunshine” features one of the more unlikely friendships on TV between the mildly misanthropic Ben (Matthew Perry) and the kind-hearted, hopelessly naive Roman (Nate Torrence). The story of how Torrence and Perry became frequent collaborators is pretty interesting too.
The ABC show is the third project Torrence has worked on with Perry. Torrence co-starred in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” and after that show ended Perry asked him to be part of a Showtime pilot called “The End of Steve.” When that didn’t go forward and Perry moved on to co-create and star in “Mr. Sunshine,” he again brought Torrence along as his comic foil — for which Torrence is more than a little grateful.
“You know, I still kind of question it,” Torrence tells Zap2it about how he and Perry clicked. “I don’t know. I’m beyond thankful about it. I think as an actor, you’re hoping to find someone who just has chemistry with you — and I do think we have that. … And I know that in the last two projects specifically, he’s playing such a pessimistic character” — Perry’s “End of Steve” character was in some ways a darker, even more cynical version of Ben in “Mr. Sunshine” — “and we play off each other because I’m such an optimistic character on the show, and kind of in real life. [Laughs] And he’s kind of like [Ben] in real life.”
That chemistry gets a workout in Wednesday’s (March 9) show, which has Roman moving in with Ben after Ben finds out Roman is essentially homeless.
“I’ve been living in the candy room of the Sunshine Center since I got there, because my mom [Crystal, played by Allison Janney] didn’t feel comfortable with me living with her,” Torrence says. “So Ben brings me in. … You see Ben really reach out and make his life worse by trying to help someone, and in turn we get to solidify our friendship a little bit more.”
So what kind of a roommate is Roman? “The worst,” Torrence says with a laugh. “He’s like a babysitter to me. I have night terrors, and I’m really scared to sleep by myself. Those can read as stereotypical situations, but I think what we did well is that he’s embarrassed to have these nightmares, so it puts Ben in the awkward position: How nice is he going to be, and where does he finally draw the line?”
Torrence says he actually puts a lot of thought — and credits the “Mr. Sunshine” writers for doing the same — into making Roman more than just a stock sitcom sidekick.
“Characters like him have been alive for so long, and I don’t want to fall into that stereotypical, two-dimensional aspect of, ‘Oh, he just doesn’t get anything right.’ The writers are going to give it a little depth, but I do take it seriously in that I try to give Roman a little bit of a soul. And he just has a lot of heart. That was kind of my whole goal with him.
“And I think as the series progresses, we start to tape into that a little bit more. … But yeah, I do think there’s quite a bit of depth to Roman, even though he can maybe tend to look like the stereotypical chubby dumb guy on a sitcom.”
“Mr. Sunshine” airs at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday on ABC.