STAGE TO SCREENS: Good Grief! Tony Award Winner Laura Benanti Finds a Hit in NBC's "Go On"

By Christopher Wallenberg
22 Nov 2012

Benanti on "Go On."
Photo by Justin Lubin/NBC
You have a real balancing act in playing Lauren. You're the group's grief counselor, so you have to maintain a level of professionalism. But you're also helping to foster the group camaraderie. What's been one of the biggest challenges of playing the role so far?
LB: You know, it's a tough balance to maintain when you have to be the straight man. You also want to be layered and interesting and funny enough that the audiences relate to you. And that's been what the writers and the directors and I have been working toward — keeping Lauren grounded and human, and it being realistic that all of these people would continue to come back to this group to work with her. But to also humanize her, so that she has, you know, quirky, eccentric behavior that is not only amusing but relatable. I think the writers are exploring the idea that the safer Lauren feels in this group, the more she sort of allows her eccentricities to show.

Although Matthew Perry is the big name associated with "Go On," it's a real ensemble show. And some of the best shows on TV right now are those big ensemble comedies like "Parks and Recreation," "30 Rock" and "Community." Is that one of the best things about doing this show — being able to work with a such a diverse ensemble of actors? But is it also one of the challenges — having all these mouths to feed and needing to fully develop each of the characters?
LB: Yeah, I think that the tricky, delicate balance of this show is that there is so many of us, that no one person can have the whole storyline — other than Ryan. I also think that's a testament to Matthew — that he's not such an egomaniac that he would force the show to revolve completely around him. But there's like 13 of us or something. So I think that the writers have handled a difficult job really masterfully. You know, it cannot be easy to make sure that everybody gets served in a meaningful way in every single episode. And they manage to do it. So my hat is off to them. And there are no egos in cast. Everybody just gets along really well. And since everyone needs to be served, we all understand there are some episodes where we take a back seat to each other. And what's cool is to see that nobody gets pissed about that. We all get it. Like the Halloween episode was very focused on Yolanda and Owen. The the following episode was focused on Ryan. The episode the week before was focused on Wyatt and my relationship with him. But the Christmas episode is the episode where a big life change happens for Lauren. She makes a big decision that she has a lot of anxiety around.

Benanti and Matthew Perry on "Go On."
photo by Vivian Zink/NBC

What's it been like working with Mr. Matthew Perry?
LB: He's fantastic to work with. He's very funny. He's very smart. He's a total pro. He's very generous when it comes to his time and his energy. He pitches jokes to people for other characters. He's a really good leader, so we're really lucky. He sets the tone.

Would you ever admit to a celebrity crush on Matthew Perry when he was in his "Friends" heyday?
LB: There's no way for me to answer that question in a way that is okay. So I decline to answer that.

Were you a fan of "Friends"?
LB: Oh, yeah. I was always a fan of "Friends" and a fan of Matthew's. His comedy is so specific and so physical and so smart and interesting. He's one of the funniest men in America. And he's so wonderful on "The Good Wife." So I think people are really getting to see what a fine actor he is, beyond being a hilarious comedian. I like that people get to see that side of him on our show, too — that he can equally handle the tough sad stuff as well as the comedy.

Do you see any romantic chemistry developing between your character Lauren and Matthew's character, Ryan? Can you envision the writers exploring that dynamic down the road?
LB: I don't know. It's certainly not something that's in the forefront of my mind. I think the writers are really interested in Lauren and Ryan's relationship, but not necessarily a romantic one. We're seeing that they have a mutual respect for each other, they're growing to be good friends. But I couldn't say whether or not it would turn into anything else — certainly not anytime soon.