‘Lethal Weapon’ exclusive: Thomas Lennon on Leo Getz, steering clear of Joe Pesci, and ‘Odd Couple’ future

Leo -Wednesday night, “Lethal Weapon” is going to be airing a new episode on Fox entitled “As Good as It Getz,” and that title alone may be enough to get you excited since it suggests that we will be seeing a character from the feature film franchise in action on the show. This time around, Thomas Lennon is coming aboard as his version of Leo Getz, popularized by Joe Pesci in the movies, and looks to be bringing a whole lot of his own flair to the part. You’re going to see him shot at a lot in the episode, but there should be some fun along the way.

In leading up to the episode airing, we spoke to Lennon about why he wanted to take on this challenge, whether the door is open to more Getz down the road, and also why he finds diversifying so important to his satisfaction as an actor.

CarterMatt – You’re someone who always has a ton of different things going on. What makes you want to take something like this on?

Thomas Lennon – About a week or so before we shot the episode, they reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in taking on the character for the TV show … my reaction was ‘wow, that sounds really, really hard’ because Pesci’s performance is one of the most quotable movie roles of all time.

I rolled it around in my head a little bit and I liked the script. I came to them and I said ‘I can’t do an impression of Joe Pesci at all.’ I’m not that kind of weird little weirdo; I’m my own kind of weird little weirdo, you know? I asked if they were okay with a version of Leo Getz that was much closer to me than Joe Pesci, then I was certainly willing to give it a try. Then, we went from there! If you were going to try something out, this was the right place to try it. Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford are great actors, and are very fast for improvising and rolling with the flow. It was a blast.

How much improv were you able to do on the show? As someone who’s seen you on ‘@midnight’ so many times, that’s one of the appeals to having you on here.

They actually gave me an astonishing amount of leeway. It was really interesting — I couldn’t always tell if things were working or not because Nick Copas, the director, was a very serious person; but, I tried to never repeat myself and do something different for the other actors. On the show, the amount of strangeness that is my strangeness is really high (laughs). I was genuinely delighted that they [left] a lot of the stuff in.

Obviously with ‘The Odd Couple’ and this show you’ve been able to take on these roles that have been made iconic elsewhere by other people. Is there something that you find interesting about taking on these sort of parts, and how do you go about seeing certain elements that you want to incorporate while still doing your own thing?

What you’re describing is 100% the hardest aspect of this. Somewhere in your [performance], there’s that other person that is there. It’s harder for a show like ‘The Odd Couple’ in the pilot I had to literally say things that Tony Randall had said. That’s really hard, because you feel like you’re doing a note-for-note performance of someone.

This was interesting because this Leo was kind of an ambulance-chaser. He’s one of those on-the-side-of-your-bus lawyers. I look a little different, and I don’t quite become Leo Getz from the movies at any point. This was a little bit easier, and the trick about this was if I could improve as this character. Because it was a great set and they were really nice people, yes.

You’ve incorporated a lot of action into your comedy before, so is that something that you had a chance to do on the show?

Oh, yeah! I got chased around by people with machine guns every single day, which was really fun. It took me back to when we were doing ‘Reno 911!,’ when we were always up on our feet for 14, 15 hours a day out in the desert and chasing each other around. It’s certainly a very fun show to do, and there’s of course the main unit, a stunt unit, helicopters — there’s a lot happening.

How does Leo Getz come into collision with Riggs and Murtaugh on the show?

He’s a lawyer for someone linked to the drug cartels. He is a witness and possibly an accessory to something that happens, which I can’t [say too much of] because it’s probably a spoiler. He’s basically a witness who they try to use as bait.

Given that this is Leo Getz were talking about here, I have to think that there are plans to continue bringing the character back, right?

No, it was really a one-time deal for now. Obviously, it was a lot of fun do, but everyone on the show I would work with again in a heartbeat. It was really a blast. And, it was fun to get shot at a lot. I enjoyed it (laughs).

From the outside looking in, you seem like a guy who would get a good many offers to do some various things. At this point, is there anything that really appeals to you and gets you excited?

What’s interesting is that if you look at my IMDb page credits, it’s looks almost like you’re at a charades party at somebody’s house where someone’s kicked over a bowl of movie titles (laughs). It’s so random! I have the distinction of being in two Merchant Ivory films and then also the movie ‘Boat Trip.’ I have been super-schizophrenic with movies.

I have figured out what the main theme of everything I’m doing is, and that is trying to keep it interesting, and always trying to do something else. Also, if you’re a writer there’s a ton of heartbreak for you in TV and movie writing. If you’re an actor there’s a ton of heartbreak for you in TV and movie acting. As much as you can [handle] the pain that’s coming and diversify, you’re going to have more fun. My main thing is to keep trying to do different things and have fun. Part of the reason why I took Leo Getz was just because I thought it would be really, really f—ing hard. So, let’s try it?

Finally, in looking back at ‘The Odd Couple,’ how do are feeling about the state of the show? If it doesn’t come back, do you feel happy with everything that you were able to accomplish there?

I feel for me that this was again a challenge — when I first heard about it I thought ‘that sounds incredibly daunting, I’m not sure that’s worth trying,’ but in looking back I feel like I brought some of myself to the version. [Everyone] would have liked it if the show was a slightly bigger hit, obviously — I would’ve liked it if the show was a slightly bigger hit. I’m told that the show’s not completely dead, but it does not seem like it’s coming back.

In the end, ‘The Odd Couple’ was two things for me — it was a fun job for the time I had it, and it also helped me to keep my weight wearing those tight Felix Unger pants I was wearing. Then again, I guess I’ve been wearing small pants on TV for a long time.

We want to thank Lennon for his time, this was a really fun interview for us. If you want to preview the upcoming “Lethal Weapon” episodes “As Good as it Getz” further, we recommend heading over to the link here where we have a preview for you. (Photo: Fox.)

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