When we first saw the “Partners” pilot, we were charmed — but our main concern was Brandon Routh‘s character, Wyatt. A male nurse with an oblivious, almost childlike demeanor, Wyatt is Louis’ (Michael Urie) partner.
Sure, we giggled at his “I have a heart on” joke, the first time, but we weren’t convinced that the dumb jock in scrubs would be sustainably funny, particularly when Louis is so sharp and occasionally mean. It seemed to be a battle of wits way outside Wyatt’s weight class.
We sat down with Routh and costar Sophia Bush this summer, and we asked him about whether he was concerned that Wyatt’s “stupid pretty guy” shtick would wear off for the audience — or potentially become tiresome to him as an actor. Routh explained that, for the purposes of the pilot, which focuses heavily on Louis’ relationship with Joe (David Krumholtz), Wyatt may have been oversimplified. In fact, he has a rich backstory and a unique outlook, which will be further explored in this week’s episode, “Chicken and Stuffing.”
“Wyatt was a model and an alcoholic. Now he’s a reformed, sober, vegan nurse,” Routh reveals. “So I think his history will creep back into the present a little bit.” As for the stereotype — we’ll come to learn that Wyatt isn’t an idiot, he’s just got a particular innocence, which is where the comedy comes in.
“There’s a tendency that it can be one note if I’m just playing him ‘dumb'” he says. “There are actually many facets to it. It’s his sincerity, the fact that he trusts everyone, even a stranger that he met off of the street, out of the blue. That’s where these situations come in — out of trust, not out of a lack of intelligence necessarily. It’s a misunderstanding, or he didn’t quite hear everything, or he’s overzealous.”
Bush notes the inherent challenges in playing a character like Wyatt. “I think you have to look at what it takes technically to play someone who is lighter in their natural disposition. Wyatt is not a dumb guy, but if you want to look at how much talent it takes to play a role like that, look at Matt LeBlanc in ‘Friends,'” she says. “He is one of the most brilliant comedians who is so adept at timing and shifting. I sort of feel like [Brandon] nails parts of Wyatt that are innocent in the way that [Matt] did with Joey being dumb. It’s [his] own version, but it’s so genuine, and that’s why I think it’s so adorable.”
“I think it’s a focus. It’s intention. He’s got a strong purpose in mind. He’s just not walking around going, ‘I’m dumb,'” adds Routh. “Joey had a strong — like, he was just really into the girl he saw across the way, or he’s really into something. He was invested in whatever it was that was happening, and that’s where the comedy comes out of.”
In the pilot, Louis was pretty rough on Wyatt — giving him a hard time for being a nurse, as opposed to a doctor, and flat-out telling him that he was embarrassed by his profession. In episode 2, we’ll really see that while Louis is definitely self-absorbed and considerably narcissistic, Wyatt is really important to him.
“That’s who Louis is, and Wyatt loves his passion for life and his spark,” Routh says. “That’s what Wyatt lacks to some degree. That fight. Because Wyatt, while he’s happy and nice, is a little bit more mellow. He feels good being able to be the shepherd, in a way, of Louis’ emotions, because he just doesn’t have that intensity.”