Must See TV alums Eric McCormack and Steven Weber team for new project
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
It’s too bad the expression, “Food, folks and fun” is already taken – because what a great title that would be for the new podcast cooked up by TV stars Eric McCormack and Steven Weber.
In “Eating Out with Eric & Steve,” the two longtime friends and charter Character Actors Dining Society members “yack and snack with their favorite show biz friends to share behind-the-scenes stories of their lives in entertainment.”
The Hazy Mills-produced podcast debuted April 5 with guests LeVar Burton (“Roots,” “Star Trek: Picard,” “Reading Rainbow”) and Richard Kind (“Spin City,” “East New York”), who joined McCormack (“Will & Grace,” “Travelers”) and Weber (“Wings,” “Chicago Med”) in tales of starting out, breaking out, striking out and, of course, eating out.
This Wednesday, episode two will welcome Emmy Award-winners Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad,” “Malcolm in the Middle”) and Julie Bowen (“Modern Family,” “Ed”). Additional season one guests include:
√ Tony Shalhoub and Peri Gilpin
√ Lucy Davis and Alfred Molina
√ Rob Morrow and Noah Wyle
√ Rachael Harris and Yvette Nicole Brown
√ Jason Alexander
√ Rachael Leigh Cook and Kevin Pollak
“Eating Out with Eric & Steve” is a delicious dish of “inside baseball” industry workings with a sizeable side of access into the lives of some of Hollywood’s hardest-working actors. The stories in episode one were interesting and funny, and the hour breezed by – as it often does when friends get-together to catch up.
Eric & Steve shared more in this edited Q&A.
Q: What is the history between the two of you?
Steven Weber: Well, Eric and I met in the Merchant Marine. We were both escaping … things. And we bonded on that tug to Ecuador. Remember?
Eric McCormack: I'll never forget the tug to Ecuador.
Steven Weber: (Laughs)
Eric McCormack: You took me Ecuador and back, Steven. (Laughs)
We were introduced by that old manager of mine. But then Steven, very early on, did an episode or two of “Will & Grace,” as Will’s brother.
But for me, actually, I knew Steven – I was a fan of Steven before he'd ever met me because, when I first got to LA, I went to a taping of “Wings.”
Whenever I bring this up, Steven thinks I'm taking the piss, but I'm not! Like, you were doing it. You and Tim Daly we're doing what I wanted to do. You were the stars of your own sitcom on NBC. And I thought, “This must be great.”
When we got to know each other, I'd say it was about 20 years ago, and we just would eat out a lot together. Just go to restaurants, and have the greatest conversations, and I thought this is what I always wanted. My favorite thing after a play or something was going out with the cast and eating and drinking. The best conversations happen that way.
Q: I'm looking forward to hearing more about that tug story. Maybe in season two? I'm thinking it's probably appropriate for season two, right?
Steven Weber: Yeah, I guess so. (Laughs)
Eric McCormack: (Laughs)
Q: You guys, in the first episode, you lovingly sort of poke fun at the idea of podcasts. But, certainly, there was something that appealed to you about doing one.
Steven Weber: I mean, I have to say that Eric is the one that approached us, and he was approached by (“Will & Grace” co-star) Sean Hayes, who produces this and does “SmartLess” and “HypochondriActor,” among others.
I mean, the appeal was that we like to talk; we like to eat; we like to talk to each other, and talk to our friends. And, you know, everybody had a podcast. So, we thought “Eh, why not get into it?” But the more we talked about doing it, the more we wanted to do something a little different. And it kind of evolved into “Eating out with Eric & Steve.”
Eric McCormack: And also, like so many podcasts, it evolved out of the lockdown. We were missing our friends. We were missing restaurants. We were missing any kind of experience that was not just, you know, heating up TV dinners in our own homes, and washing them first in dishwashing liquid. So, it was a bit of fantasy. For me, it was like, “I just want to sit down with the guys that we used to go out with.” And we’d do it over Zoom, but it was not the same. And so that's why the title evolved. It’s like, “We just want to eat out again.”
And we have this wonderful group of men, two of whom were on that first episode – Richard Kind, LeVar Burton – that we have the greatest times with, and the most hilarious conversations over a meal in a restaurant.
Steven Weber stars as Dean Archer on NBC’s “Chicago Med.” The NBC series airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on WGRZ-TV Channel 2. (NBC photo by George Burns Jr)
Q: It's interesting to me that you're both trained actors – you're used to being on screen and in front of an audience. Yet, you decided to do a podcast where we can't see your faces or your emotions or reactions. Was that a conscious decision? Was it just the thought this would be the best method to do it – a podcast, as opposed to maybe some sort of a video series?
Steven Weber: Well, I mean, it's theater of the mind. It's like radio, which is a medium and a construct that actually still works; is effective. We both do audiobooks. We both do voiceovers, or voices in cartoons and stuff. So, it's really not that alien apprentice.
Also, Eric is very, very worried about how he's aging. So, he didn't want this to be a visual podcast, you know?
Eric McCormack: I had to explain to Steven for the first four episodes that nobody (can see us). He kept saying, “Is this sweater OK?” It doesn't matter. It's a podcast.
We have two actors on – four actors are talking – and the stories that come out are stories that I want people to hear. We're not selling our latest product. …
It's almost the act of saving something for posterity, these stories: how Bryan Cranston got into it, or how Julie Bowen got “Modern Family.” I love these stories. And I think people that love the shows, and are sort of our age, will love it. But young people hearing older actors talking about their experience, I think, is really valuable, too.
Q: And, I mean, who knew LeVar Burton had such a potty mouth, right?
Steven Weber: Yeah, he's the worst. Filthy. In space, no one can hear you curse.
Eric McCormack: There’s a lot to LeVar Burton.
Q: You mentioned that, over the course of the pandemic, you were having these meetings via Zoom. I'm assuming that, for these interviews, you're also doing it over Zoom.
Steven Weber: Yes, out of necessity.
Look, our original concept was that we could maybe all meet in a restaurant and have microphones in front of us, or at least meet in the studio. Because what we're actually trying to convey is that interaction that happens at a restaurant, at a table, you know, when you're chewing and chatting with friends – “Chewing and Chatting with Friends,” that's a good subtitle.
But yeah, like a lot of these podcasts that take place, they all are done remotely. Similarly with what we're doing now. But ideally, we'd love to be in person.
Eric McCormack: I think it's just a technical (issue). It's less about COVID or anything at this point. It's just become technically easier to other people. But I think we're going to try to do some special episodes coming up. I’m going to be in New York for a while. Steven is in New York a lot to see is his mother. I think we should try to set up something. … I’m not going to say that; your mother's fantastic!
Steven Weber: Yeah, but I don't want people to think that I’m some mama's boy that flies to New York to see his mother!
Eric McCormack: The truth hurts. The truth hurts a lot.
Steven Weber: We'll talk about this when I get home!
Q: (Laughs) I believe, for the first episode, you guys had pizza. For subsequent episodes, are you ordering the food? Is everyone eating the same thing? Is that how it's going to work?
Steven Weber: Again, conceptually, that's what we wanted. But practically, it's really hard to get everybody to get the same food. You know, everybody's got “dietary restrictions,” blah, blah, blah. Nauseous!
But, again, one day in the future, once we get going and the farther we can get from that pandemic mentality, I think we will be able to coordinate that – because there's a lot of fun that comes with saying, “What are you eating?” Or if we're eating the same thing, or if we’re eating from the same restaurant, and the same kind of food. Then we can compare notes.
Eric McCormack: It started because we were missing each other, and we started doing it on Zoom before there was a podcast. We would, on purpose, be heating up food in our homes, and we would be eating and comparing notes. And it was very comforting in the pandemic to at least discuss it, as if we were.
Q: As I can see in this interview, you can clearly improv with the best of them. Being a journalist, conducting an interview, doing something on a podcast where you have to be concerned about dead air, or uncomfortable, weird silences and that, these are challenges that you don't normally have as actors, right? Most of the time, you get scripts, you get direction. You work as a team to move the pieces in place. But when you have a situation like this, where you have these journalism-type things, what do you like about those challenges? What has that process been like for you?
Steven Weber: Well, listen, you bring your abilities to this type of relationship, too. It's not just us, as performers. When we're giving interviews, quite frequently, it is you – it is the interviewer – who drives it; who brings the tone; who sets it all up?
So, I would say that however proficient we may be – thank you for your kind words – you're also there with us. I mean, you're already improvising. We're already having a conversation that is spontaneous and real, maybe about a specific subject, but we've all been doing this for a little while, you included.
Eric McCormack: I think also what Josh is suggesting is we become him – we become Josh in the scenario of our dinners with friends. We have to change up a bit and drive it.
And it is an interesting thing, because we're not doing a traditional interview show. And we allow it to sort of “shaggy dog” its way around here and there. But once in a while, yes, we do have to put on our interviewer cap and realize that it’s only an hour long, and there's things that we should get to – and you want to find the balance.
You know, if you just let Richard Kind talk forever, he will.
Steven Weber: Are you saying that I'm misunderstanding what Josh said? Are you saying that I’m not going to get what he’s saying? Is that what you’re saying right now?
Eric McCormack: He was saying how do you guys like having to adapt to being an interviewer.
Steven Weber: OK, so, hold on, hold on. Let me get this straight. So, you're saying. … Ah, Jesus.
Eric McCormack: I’m saying. …
Steven Weber: No, no, no, no, no! I … I’m sorry. This is not going anywhere. Go back to the tug on Ecuador.
Eric McCormack: (Laughs) The real answer, actually, is I don't love that part of it. I love when there's a free-flowing conversation that happens, as if we were at a table and no one's the interviewer. But, at the same time at a dinner party at your house, there's a host; and the host will sometimes say, “Oh, let so and so tell their thing.”
So, I think we both are starting to naturally do it. We're starting to bring it out in them, without it feeling like an interview show.
Q: Tell me a little bit about the guests and how you chose them to be on the first season.
Steven Weber: We actually have a pretty impressive guestlist. Our next show is going to be with Bryan Cranston and Julie Bowen. We have Rob Morrow, Noah Wiley, Yvette Nicole Brown, Rachel Harris, Jason Alexander. We have Rachael Leigh Cook, Kevin Pollack, Lucy Davis and Alfred Molina. There are many more guests who are signing on now, as we speak. And they're all interesting conversations, because they're all well-known people, who are not necessarily telling well-known stories. And we sort of tend to veer away from show business, to a certain extent, and start getting personal in ways that aren’t uncomfortable to listen to, but I think a little more engaging than the average show business interview. These are all kind of friendly conversations that our guests, our listeners, are hopefully joining in with us on.
Eric McCormack: And so far, these are all friends, if not both of us, then at least one of us. And we reached out, certainly in that first episode, I mean LeVar and Richard are the guys we have dinner with – and just the other night.
What the audience is getting is the experience of people that have known each other a long time, and can cut each other down. You know, I can't go on, I don't know, “Colbert,” and make fun of Stephen, because we’re not close.
So, the closeness, the time we've spent together, I think is a real character on the show. You're listening to old friends.
Of course, Eric McCormack has bantered with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” The CBS late-night talk show airs at 11:35 p.m. weekdays on WIVB-TV Channel 4. (CBS photo by Scott Kowalchyk // ©2023 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved.)