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David Krumholtz’s Secret to Escaping Type-Casting: Playing His Own Grandmother

David Krumholtz's Secret to Escaping Type-Casting: Playing His Own Grandmother

The concept for the new IFC comedy “Gigi Does It” is easy to explain, but also bizarre: A feisty Boca Raton grandmother gets a new lease on life. She also happens to be played by 37-year-old actor David Krumholtz, who normally you’d recognize from projects ranging from “Addams Family Values” to the CBS procedural “Numb3rs”… except he’s playing Gigi with the help of pounds of prosthetic makeup.

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Produced by Krumholtz, Ricky Mabe and Tim Gibbons, “Gigi Does It” was originally inspired by a project Mabe created that featured web videos of Krumholtz in character. For the series, Krumholtz depicts Gigi in a new phase of her life. Now comfortably wealthy following an inheritance from her husband, she decides to cut loose and explore the world on her terms.

Becoming Gigi required four-and-a-half hours of prosthetic makeup every day, which, as Krumholtz told journalists at the TCA summer press tour, had a profound effect on him. Not only is Gigi largely based on his own grandmother (who, as he told Indiewire, was quite a character), but the resemblance between the two of them took on a life of its own.

So the logline for this series is simply, “David Krumholtz plays a 70-something grandma.” That’s enough to make you want to figure out what the hell’s going on.

I agree. That should be the whole thing, “Just watch this little guy do that.” I think people love prosthetic makeup. They love old age makeup. “Bad Grandpa” did so well. And there’s a reality element to our show. We don’t prank people, but we deal with the general public. I think people love watching that. And then there’s this really sort of sweet story underneath it all.

Yeah, I was actually pretty touched, watching you say how it was an opportunity to see your grandmother.

It’s pretty cool. It’s not just seeing her. What’s weird is that when I get in the makeup, there’s something that kind of takes over that ends up being hard to drop at the end of the day. It’s a weird energy that I didn’t know I possessed. Gigi is a very different person from me. It’s really weird. It sounds so actor-y to say that, and it’s kind of gross, but it’s true. It was fascinating for me to find that I could channel something.

I imagine that, as an actor, you normally get cast so much by type.

No doubt. That’s one of the things that I battled with in my career. You never want to cover the same ground twice, but you end up doing it because you have to work. So here was an opportunity to shock people, surprise them, show them that I can do other things. There’s a novelty to the show. The makeup is a novelty. I have no shame about hanging my hat on that novelty.

And hopefully people are watching and find that there’s more to it than that.

Yeah, she’s a real person. Hopefully people watch and forget that I’m in that. That’s the goal.

How’s working with IFC? You’ve done nine television series, but how many of them were broadcast?

They were all broadcast. This is my first cable series, which is something I’d been wanting to do for quite some time. IFC is a company that I’ve been wanting to work with for a while and it was just about finding the right thing. And they’ve been incredibly supportive. They have amazing ideas, and they’ve let us explore the depths of this character, sometimes even the depths of her depravity. It’s nice to get away with that on cable because it’s not typically something you can do on broadcast.

Do you know what your official TV-14, TV-MA rating is?

I’m guessing it will be TV-MA.

Oh, wow.

Yeah, she’s spicy. She’s a spicy woman. There’s a whole episode about her finding her sexual self, and it’s jaw-droppingly gross, but hopefully it’s funny.

Is this your first time doing something that could be classified as drag?

Oh, yeah. Well, actually that’s not true. I did a movie years and years ago where I played a homosexual theater director in L.A., and I had a Halloween party at my house and I dressed up as like Victor/Victoria, a half-man, half-woman type thing. So they literally did half of my face in drag, and I kind of looked like my sister, which my sister was not too happy about.

I’ve heard from other actors, when they do old age prosthetics, that their first reaction is, “Oh my God. I look like my father” or “I look like my mother.” Is that a testament to the quality of the makeup?

It really is. I knew that the makeup was right when my father and my aunt looked at it and were like, “Wow, it looks like our mother,” and they got a little emotional. I knew it’s really convincing and really good. Plus, we fooled a great deal of people. Up close, it holds up. It was cool to get away with that. It’s like putting on the greatest Halloween costume ever. You’d win at every party.

Are you going to go as her for Halloween?

I don’t want to be in that makeup very often. It was an 18-day shoot, and it takes four-and-a-half hours to get her in it. It would have to be a really good reason to do it again. You know, obviously if the show continues or some other opportunity, but it’s hard to get in it.

IFC didn’t say, for today, “Hey David, you want to give it one more go for the panel?”

I found out that they were thinking about it, but I think they realized that it was probably [a bad idea] because the panel was 15 minutes long. Plus, I’d have to be sitting here [Gigi voice] talking like Gigi to you. And that’s very awkward.

It would be. You would feel obligated to do the voice in the makeup?

Of course. When I’m her, I’m her. It’s pretty cool. Again, it sounds actor-y, but it’s a pretty cool experience. She’s a lot more fun. I’m boring compared to her. She’s nasty, obnoxious, gregarious, fun-loving. There’s also a pep in her step. So she’s a lot of fun to be, but getting in the makeup is tough. Once I’m there, it’s not so bad.

You could either have a really good answer to this question or this question could be dumb and so you won’t have a good answer.

Ask it. Now it’s going to be amazing.

Okay. To you, what is it about the dirty grandma that’s funny?

I think because everyone knows one or everybody knows someone who knows one. And I think the fact that that exists out in the world that after years of either raising kids or working out in a male-dominated business world, I think women at a certain point say. “Fuck it.” And that is amazingly funny. Because you root for that, you want that to happen. That’s awesome that they do that. And it’s incredibly funny. It’s just that balls out, “Yes, I’m old. What are you going to do about it?” There’s no shame.

Honestly, it’s hard to get old. And there’s two ways to go. You can either go into the narrow lifestyle that creates a narrow mind and you slowly wither away — God help us — or you take life by the balls and you say, “I might be slower, I may be getting slow up in my mind, a little senile, but I’m not letting this thing stop me.” And people root for that. It’s fun to watch.

Your own grandmother was like that?

She was a leader. It was like being led by a deranged clown. She was the leader of our family, she was the matriarch, but she put us all in compromising positions all of the time. And she loved it. She was devilish. She really loved watching us squirm. And it wasn’t just me, it was everybody. She had several sisters who she tortured. She was fun and she was in charge and she wasn’t going to let anybody tell her different. She was the boss. She was tough. She was a badass. So all of those qualities are in Gigi.

Is there stuff you think you’ve learned from her?

From Gigi?

From Gigi and from your grandmother.

Yeah. To be honest with you, part of doing this is to make up for the time I didn’t have with her. She died too young, quickly, when I was 16 years old. I didn’t really get to know her as an adult. If anything though, I imagine that I derive most of my talent and ability to get up in front of people and show people my talent from her. That’s what I think I got from her, either genetically or however else.

The fact that she liked to make people squirm — she sounds like the kind of comedian who could have had her own show on MTV.

She should have. She would tell a story about how a Hollywood talent scout came and tried to take her to Hollywood when she was a kid and her mother wouldn’t let her go. Which was probably bullshit. But she wanted it. She had amazing timing, she was the funniest person in any room. She loved to ridicule people, she had a mean sense of humor; kind of like Joan Rivers. I always thought she was funnier than Joan Rivers. She was that funny. She was that sharp. She wanted to make people laugh, which is an awesome thing, I think.

It is. There are worse things to want to do.

But it never came at her expense. It was always at the expense of other people. [laughs] I have a more self-deprecating sense of humor than Gigi does. Gigi is all about making fun of other people.

You mentioned not necessarily wanting to get back in the makeup any time soon, but are you guys considering a Season 2?

Well, it’s up to IFC. I hope the show goes well and people like it. You don’t do a series so that you can’t keep doing it. There are a lot more stories to tell. We’d like to travel with the show. We’d like her to spend her money on a new car, a new house. Plus, there’s some reuniting with family that she needs to do. If we did a second season, it would probably be exploring her family: her children and her sister.

It seems like that would also expand the cast a fair amount.

There would be guest things, yeah. The goal is to establish this estranged sister, who she hasn’t spoken to, but they used to be very close. And we would cast another male actor to do play that sister.

Do you have someone in mind?

I do, but I can’t say who it is. It’s someone who has expressed interest in doing it, and it’s a pretty awesome person.

Have you mentioned to him how uncomfortable the makeup is?

Yeah, he wants to try it. And he would only have to do it for two days. It’s not bad. I did it for 18 days.

“Gigi Does It” premieres tonight at 10:30pm on IFC.

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