If there’s one thing that should be known about the USA Network it’s that when they pick up a show, they put their all into it for years without abandoning it at first sign of low numbers like most networks. So when a new show gets picked up, God willing, it’s around for a long time. One of those new shows, Sirens, is a comedy series following around three Chicago EMTs. We recently spoke with one of the show’s stars Kevin Bigley about that USA Network loyalty, what it was like working with Denis Leary (Executive Producer of the series), and much more!
I looked at your extensive resume of acting you have a lot of comedy experience in films, what’s your background with comedy?
With comedy, I’d say with non-professional I was short as a kid and from a rural town. When you’re short, you get picked on a lot of course, I ended up getting into some fights and they kept telling me I had to figure out another way to handle my problems. So I used comedy a lot to get out of situations usually just by mouthing off to kids. That’s really where my experience in comedy started, I was just trying to defend myself and I used to watch a lot of Saturday Night Live. Saturday Night Live kind of took the place of Saturday morning cartoons me. They used to air a lot of re-runs on Comedy Central and I used to watch all of those episodes. They’d have John Belushi and [Chris] Farley and Will Ferrell. All of those guys would show all the different eras of the show. That’s how it started non-professional for me.
Professionally I came out of De Paul University with the theatre school doing all kinds of stuff. It was a hot spot of acting because you were doing anything you could get. Shakespeare, anything, I started to work in comedy quite a bit thankfully. I think all of my defense mechanisms and all those things from early on with a belief in what I thought was funny paid off later. That’s probably why you see all this stuff on my resume. Casting directors, the bad ones anyway, don’t really see you as having the ability to do two things. They’re like, “oh you’re a drama guy,” or “oh you’re just a comedy dude.” So the beginning of my career was mostly a lot of guest stars in dramatic series and cop shows. For the most part people were like, “oh, a drama guy” and then you go into a comedy audition first to make them laugh and they’re like “oh I didn’t know you could do comedy” and you’re like I’m an actor I hope I could do both (laughs).
How did you get involved with the series did you go to an audition or did Denis Leary know you?
I went in for an audition, I didn’t think I was gonna get it, because the actual character definition of Brian was so different from me physically. I thought, “no way,” the actual character description of Brian was “short, crew cut, and stocky” and I was like “nope and blonde, there’s no way it’s just not gonna happen.” I went in and just read for one side, one little scene. I got the audition through my agent, so I went in read and thought that was it. I thought it went well and thought I could get the sense of humor they were going for, but as far as physicality, I didn’t think I’d be right for them. Then I got a call that they wanted me to come in read for Denis and Bob, I went back there and I went to the audition and there were only two other guys, the other guy was short and stocky with blonde hair and I thought, “there he is, there’s Brian” but luckily they ended up going with me.
One thing I love most about the show is that the three you guys have a really good rapport with each other. Did that take a while to gain? Do you guys hang out now after you shoot?
Well, the great thing about USA is that they don’t pick up a lot of shows, but when they do, they dedicate their time to them. For them to give us this awesome opportunity, well, this has been in the making for a while now. We shot the pilot back in 2012, taped at the end of 2013, and it’s airing now. So we’ve spent a lot of time together. We’ve had something like two years together it’s worked to our benefit because the chemistry translates the on screen. It’s pretty nice to be able to be around the guys for this long. We kind of hangout when the show airs we go to one person’s house or the other to watch it. We wrapped shooting it back in October of 2013 and we were hanging out all the time. [Michael] Mosley, we go fishing when we can and I love to pick his brain, because he’s been there before. I enjoy talking to him about career things.
It’s good that you mention that the show is on USA. Because they don’t really cancel shows a lot. The really do put a lot of heart into their programming and keep it going.
Yeah they’re very dedicated and it’s just super awesome. When we first came in to meet with they gave us a little speech about that exact thing. They mentioned how they don’t pick up a lot of shows, but the ones they do pick up are the ones they believe in. By the time the show is going to be put on the air you’re going to feel this big push, and it’s going to be the entire network behind you. It’s unlike any experience one would get on any other network. Mosley plays Johnny, he’s used to it. He’s done PanAm and Scrubs and he’s used to a season airing as your shooting it, so everybody’s on their phones looking at reviews and looking at ratings. That kind of messes with the show, so they’ve [USA] sort of manufactured an environment where we could create a show and then this big promotional push afterwards. Also, they air their shows with a lot of reruns. That help to keep the show going is something NBC or another network can’t do.
How much involvement did Denis Leary have on set?
He had a lot man! He and Bob [Fisher] were so funny together because they have this friendship and then they have an act together. They’re funny, and they play off each other so well. Denis will come up with a joke and then Bob will say a word from this crazy-ass vernacular he has, one that nobody will understand, and immediately Dennis gets self-conscious and starts making jokes about it. It’s this awesome tag team thing they have, both of them together were just phenomenal. Denis was super hands on he was a prolific writer, he could write a script overnight. On set he would be in the back of an ambulance smoking cigarettes and feeding you lines, he was really funny, and good to have on set.
What can fans expect from the upcoming episodes?
There’s alcohol related injuries coming up, which is gonna be great. What I really like about that episode is that we play with a lot classic sitcom archetypes but we put our own spin on it. For instance, this one’s about alcohol related injury, Theresa comes over to Johnny’s house and they end up having sex, they end up trying to do the whole Seinfeldian thing, like sex without the relationship. Instead, Johnny feels used and affected, so it’s a different spin. We tried some of those archetypes with a different spin so that’s the next episode. What you can expect from my character is the kind of “new guy” thing goes away. Brian isn’t really lost, there’s a character in Rescue Me who some people have compared me [Brian] to and I think they’re different. That’s a very different that guy, he’s the perennial new guy forever. Brian starts to figure things out and becomes very firm in what he believes and what he has to say. All of a sudden, you see this talkative firm-in-his-beliefs sensitive guy. I think there’s a lot of comedy to mine from that.
New episodes of Sirens air every Thursday night at 10pm on USA.