For years you have known Megyn Price as a sitcom queen from the acting side of the business, but for years, she has fought to allow her voice and vision to be heard behind the camera, as well. And finally, after proving to her bosses at Rules of Engagement just how serious she was about the craft, Price was given the chance to slip into the director’s chair herself with the poignant and pivotal “Timmy Quits” episode.
“We have an ensemble cast, and it was a very big deal for them to give me a shot. I jumped through every hoop I knew how to jump through, and I followed every sitcom director working for about a year and a half on different shows, shadowing them and learning, and then there was a big of begging, but I think they understood how serious I was. I think a lot of times people go ‘Oh hey, can I direct? Because I want to see that credit on TV’, but I remember calling my boss on vacation in Ireland going ‘Listen, I swear this is not a vanity thing; I really want to do this as the next phase in my career!’ I had been asking for a very, very, very long time, and they were very kind in letting me do it,” Price said to LA TV Insider Examiner.
Clearly Rules wasn’t just taking a gamble with Price, though. Not only was she willing to do her homework, but she has been with the show as an actor since its inception, so she has watched directors come in and out and work with her and her co-stars. She has witnessed first-hand the four-camera formula for shots and become an expert at the types of jokes and timing the show delivers. The challenge for Price then came in working with her fellow actors– people she is usually in the trenches with but now acting as their boss for an episode, having to balance all of the different ways they work.
“I’m an instinctual actor. I don’t really talk about it. Usually if I get a script and I’m having trouble with it, I go to sleep and I dream about it because I’m super internal with the way I work. And then I also kind of just know in my head if it sounds right. I can hear the rhythm of the music of it or whatever, so for the most part, I just work inside my own head. But not everyone works the way I work,” Price said.
Adhir Kalyan, who plays the titular Timmy in this, Timmy’s very special episode, was someone who wanted to work through the surprising emotional aspects of the episode with his director Price. In the episode, his boss Russell (David Spade) seems to magically know where he is at any minute of the day, and when Timmy learns how he knows, he takes it as an extreme invasion of privacy and turns in his resignation.
“Adhir really wanted to talk about what his motivation was for certain things, and that side of it, I never do as an actor; I just do my own thing. So it was a really interesting week for me,” Price said.
“It’s a tricky thing because you couldn’t be completely flip with [his story] because it’s kind of a serious thing. When you’re a comedic actor and you’re used to just getting laughs, it’s kind of scary to go serious, even for a second. So that was part of it, too: just making David and Adhir comfortable enough to make it real and then coming into a joke later.”
In addition to juggling a series-altering script and her usual five, big personality co-stars, Price wanted to ensure her set was a welcome place for guest star Krista Allen who was coming in to play an old college friend of Jeff’s (Patrick Warburton).
“I think when you’re a guest star you can feel like the new girlfriend being introduced to the boyfriend’s family, and everyone’s a little nervous, and so it was really important to me that she not feel that way because I think everyone gives their best performance when they’re comfortable, obviously,” Price said.
Price leaned on a combination of advice and lessons from her time spent shadowing other sitcom directors to ensure she not only had a successful first episode but also a fun one.
“With Mark Cendrowski, who directs The Big Bang Theory and has also directed our show a few times, it was like being at Directing University. He’s such a good teacher; he’s really vocal about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. And then Andy Ackerman, who I love, he directed the pilot of Rules but comes from Seinfeld and is a legend and just one of my favorite directors I’ve ever worked with as an actor, he’s really quiet, so you really have to pay attention to what he’s doing, and you really have to listen. He’s really focused on telling the story and making the jokes sing. And then Gail Mancuso, the night before I started, she just kept saying to me ‘You’re going to have so much fun; you’re going to have so much fun!’ and she was exactly right. It was everything I had wanted to do for so long, and it was everything I had hoped for,” Price said.
“As is usual in my whole life, I think I want to do everything, [though]. I just wrote a TV project over hiatus, and I’m in the middle of a feature that I’m writing, so my thought is ‘Yeah, you know what I want to do? I want to write, act, and direct!'”
With Rules wrapped now, and her first memorable directing experience under her belt, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Price to make those triple threat dreams come true!
Rules of Engagement airs on CBS on Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. “Timmy Quits” airs on April 29 2013.
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