Skylar Astin says he’s heard “Ground Floor” described as “a sitcom, office-place version of ‘Downton Abbey,’” and that’s fine with him.
In “Scrubs” and “Cougar Town” producer Bill Lawrence‘s new TBS comedy premiering Thursday (Nov. 14), “Pitch Perfect” co-star Astin plays Brody, an ambitious banker surprised to discover his one-night stand Jenny (Briga Heelan) is on his workplace’s custodial staff. After some hesitancy, they decide to pursue a full-fledged romance, despite others’ skepticism.
“I think we have something that all the really successful sitcoms that came before us had,” Astin tells reporters during a conference call. “That’s just a genuine, simple story that has heart, yet keeps people laughing for 30 minutes.
“Comedy keeps you laughing and heart keeps you watching, so I think we have something you can watch while you’re folding laundry or putting your kids to bed. I think you’ll enjoy investing in these characters.”
Heelan is enjoying investing in hers, and she’s come to trust that Lawrence and his team know how to write for her — especially since she’s worked for him before on “Cougar Town,” and also is working for him again on the upcoming NBC comedy “Undateable.”
“Sometimes, I’m still like, ‘How did that happen?'” Heelan says with a laugh. “It’s the most incredible family to realize you’re a part of. What’s special about Bill, besides his undeniable talent, is that he builds groups of people based on believing that people are genuinely good and bringing them together. There’s longevity in that.”
Unsurprisingly, since he also was in the original Broadway staging of “Spring Awakening” and starred in the movie “Pitch Perfect,” it doesn’t take long for Astin to break into song on “Ground Floor.” He isn’t shocked it happens, but he appreciates the way that it does.
“The first conversation about it came in the form of a Bill Lawrence rewrite,” he says. “It was handled in a very story-driven, comedy-driven way. We didn’t hit it over the head, we didn’t do a four-minute production number with choreography. It was just sweet and simple, servicing the story, and we’ve continued to do that — tastefully, and with respect for people’s eye-rolling abilities.”
Both Astin and Heelan are happy to be in the company of fellow “Ground Floor” star John C. McGinley, reuniting with Lawrence after nine seasons as caustic Dr. Perry Cox on “Scrubs” to play tightly wound banking-firm chief Remington Stewart Mansfield.
“I think we’ve all learned so much from him,” Heelan says. “I know that I have. His precision and consistency as an actor on tape nights is unbelievable to watch. And building a relationship with him has also been really awesome. Learning about him as a father and a family man is amazing. We’re a young cast, and his presence is really important for us.”
Astin has even more “Ground Floor” screen time with McGinley, given their characters’ employee-boss link. “I’m lucky enough to have him act as kind of a father figure on the show,” says Astin. “There were times when we were rehearsing scenes with more sentimental value, and we just talked about life. And we’ve only become closer.
“At first, I had to pinch myself because I was doing a scene with ‘Dr. Cox,’ and now it’s just ‘Crazy Johnny C.’ We love giving each other a fist bump after a scene, like we just played a football game together. He’s such a strong personality, and he brings such an intensity and focus to his job, it’s really admirable.”
“Ground Floor” premieres at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on TBS.