[Ruby and the Rockits premieres Tuesday, July 21 at 8:30pm ET/PT on ABC Family]
During my set visit to the new ABC Family series Ruby & the Rockits, I had the opportunity to interview the main cast and executive producers of the series. Here are excerpts from those interviews:
Shaun Cassidy and Marsh McCall (Series Executive Producers)
SWL: Did you approach ABC Family or did they approach you about doing this show?
Shaun Cassidy: I have a deal at Disney. I did a show a couple of years ago called “Invasion” with ABC. And I was developing a whole bunch of stuff, primarily dramas, but a couple of comedies, and I pitched this to them. I wanted to do a show that had brothers, sort of a, you know, this duo thing is really funny because most of them don’t get along, and yet they’re stuck working together. You know, Oates doesn’t do very well without Hall. Garfunkel without Simon. And I just think that’s a funny dynamic, especially if you’ve got brothers, because there’s all this history that you can mine for laughs and emotion, or whatever. I pitched that to ABC and they said, “Well, we really don’t do the old school family comedies any more.” And this is sort of a throw back to “Cosby’ and “Family Ties” and that, it’s not really aimed at kids and it’s not completely aimed at adults, it’s for really for everybody.
This is Marsh McCall. He ran a show called “Just Shoot Me” for a number of years, and used to be the head writer on Conan. And he’s much funnier than me.
Anyway, I pitched it to ABC, and they said, ABC Family, they’re sort of developing this market that’s aimed at teenagers and their parents, which is the only network really doing that. So, and they’re doing great, so we’re thrilled to be here. They don’t really do the Cosby like stuff on network anymore. Weirdly.
SWL: Did you come up with this show with your brothers in mind, or did that just fall into place?
Shaun Cassidy: No, I actually pitched it with my brothers. And we went in with David and Patrick and initially David was going to be the dad and Pat was going to be the one. And they saw David and Pat and they said, hmm, and it turns out, they were right.
SWL: So how does writing for this show differ from working on “Just Shoot Me”?
Marsh McCall: Well, “Just Shoot Me” was a makeshift family and this is a real family, so I guess, ultimately, I think, most successful shows are at some level about family, whether it’s a family of convenience or need, like “Cheers”, or a real family like here. But, it’s interesting how there are definitely, there are definitely parallels. Both shows had a, sort of grounded central female role with sort of zaniness going on around her. David Cassidy’s character in some ways reminds me of George Segal’s character because George was a guy whose character was so loveable, that he could do the most horrible things and you would always forgive him. You know, someone said to me once, that if George Segal, if you saw him kick a baby, your reaction would be, “What dummy put that baby in [George’s way]?” And David is kind of the same way. You can’t help but be charmed by him.
Ryan Cassidy (Set Dresser)
SWL: As set dresser, what does your typical week look life on a TV series?
Ryan Cassidy: The week starts actually with a script that we get, our department gets the script, obviously, along with the other departments, all the actors. We break down the script. We have an idea already, based on what the production designer has been told, what sets we have to dress—decorate, dress, for that episode. We come in, we see the three walls that are up that are, you know, it’s basically an empty set. And we then, based on our script, based on our blueprints, we have to figure out what we have to get for that set. We go out, there’s a variety of vendors and rental houses and prop houses that we use and we get what’s appropriate for that set. And we try to get it decorated, dressed in—we call it dressing—dressed in for the actors to use so the actors know basically where they’re going. So, that’s what we do. And depending on what the script calls for, it will depend on if it’s a pizza parlor, if it’s a beauty salon, that set will apply to that episode and then that set comes down and the new set goes up. That’s what we do. There’s myself and the set decorator. I’m what they call the lead man, set dresser, which is that I oversee it being done. The decorator and I work hand in hand. And that’s kind of how it works. You know, there’s also a set, there’s a set dresser that works that we’ve hired to oversee everything during the course of the shooting. He has to move things in and out for a particular scene.
SWL: How did you get into set dressing/design as a career?
Ryan Cassidy: I had always liked decorating, if you will. And being a straight male that I am—I had a hard time explaining that to people. But, I always liked decorating and I had to figure out some way to earn a living outside of being an actor because I wasn’t working enough and I was getting very frustrated with the process of what actors go through, which is so much rejection, as you all probably know. I would get down to the wire on jobs and then somebody else would get it. Be called back four or five times for the same audition. I got a job on a movie and then they lost their financing. So I was in a direction of, like, I gotta, this isn’t going nowhere for me. I didn’t want to be the guy walking down the street saying, “Well, I’m an actor but I’m not really working, and I’m not—.” Wasn’t making, you know, a lot of money. So I had to, not that it’s about the money, but I had to find something that I felt was more concrete, that also was creative. So when I bought my house in the early nineties I was working for Jim Hensen productions. And my brother Shaun would always come over and see my house would always look different every time he’d come in. And he said, “You know, you may be in the wrong line of work.”
Patrick Cassidy (“Patrick Gallagher”) and Katie Keane (“Audie Gallagher”)
SWL: So, why don’t you talk about the audition process and the casting process and your screen test?
Katie: Well, can you imagine walking into a room of all Cassidys? Like I had no idea what to expect when I got the first call for this. I thought it was just going to be with the Cassidy directors as is standard. A lot of times, it’s just with casting. And then once you pass them, they pass you along. But my first audition I walked in, there was all these guys sitting in like a circular couch just staring at me.
Patrick: And it was a small room. We were really close to her.
Katie: It was a small room. And this was with stand-ins, right? They’re not shooting, shooting.
Patrick: Yeah, not shooting.
Katie: So, I walked in and they were so welcoming and so like open and friendly and just made me feel at home like instantly. I had the best time with these guys. But we didn’t like, screen test or anything. So, I didn’t actually read with him to see if there was any chemistry until the first table reading, right?
Patrick: Right. And I didn’t have to read at all. It was the first time I got a job without even auditioning. And Shaun kept saying to me—because I asked, “Should I read? Should I [read to some of the] audience?”
“No, you can only hurt yourself.” [laugh]
And I think they just wanted it to—because I think the network—I mean that was the other thing. The network hadn’t seen David and I perform together. So, that was still uncharted territory. And they wanted everybody to focus in on Katie and the guys auditioning for the boys, and Ruby too. You know, it was really about that. And if you’d start reading, well, then it would be [potent] focus and who do you focus on.
Katie: Which we did towards the end too. And after the initial audition obviously, with them, then you go to the studio and you go to network and all these kind of things. Everyone has to sign off on you and say, “Yes, this is the girl we want.” So, it is quite a process.
But I got to read with a couple of the Kurts. Towards the end, they brought me in to read with him. But, you know, we’re just so lucky. We feel like all of the stars have aligned because the first week of shooting the pilot, I mean it just felt like family. Obviously, a lot of them are—were family. But it just felt like amongst all of us, we just kind of all clicked. And that’s something you really just hope for, you know.
Patrick: You know, when you cast a show and getting to be on the other side this time, which was such, such an amazing process for an actor, because I’ve always been a person, like Katie, like Austin in the chair auditioning. I’ve done that a lot, probably more than any of my family members all put together. I’ve done so much of that.
But to be on the other side and watch actors come in, and watch what they do, wow, you know, it’s amazing. You learn so much. Every actor should have that chance.
And you know, we cast wonderful actors. We knew they were all wonderful actors—Katie, Kurt, Austin, Alexa—they were all fantastic actors. But the one tangible thing that you never know is going to happen is that chemistry, because you can cast the best people for the job but you never know if they’re going to click. That’s something that you can’t manufacture. It is either there or it’s not there.
Friends was a show about six friends but what made it so incredibly interesting was the chemistry of these six people together.
Well, the pilot felt like we had been doing the show five years. The magic that happened with each of us and sort of coming together as a unit was just—it was by God’s graces, I mean so, so fortunate, so lucky I think. And I do think that when people see the show, I think that’s what they’re going to pick up on.
Katie: Hopefully, yeah.
Patrick: The writing’s great. It’s got a lot of heart. And the music’s great—all that stuff. But what really is going to make this show fly is the connection that we all have with one another, because it comes off on screen.
Kurt Doss (“Ben Gallagher”)
SWL: So, tell us about the audition and casting process you had to go through.
Kurt: At the time of auditioning for Ruby and the Rockits, I was in Erie, Pennsylvania. I was visiting family recently. And they wanted me to film a tape for them. At first, I was like, “Well, I’m [out of State]. I don’t know how well it’s going to go.”
And I was like, “You know what? I’ll do this. I like the script.”
I sent them the tape. And they wanted to meet me. So, we flew back to Los Angeles. We met with the director, the producers, and I actually met Katie. The first cast member I meet was Katie. And I was like, “Hi, Mommy.” And at first, it was just like instant connection with me and Katie.
We went in there. We did our scenes. I came out feeling great. We were laughing in there. They asked me things like, “Do you like it in the eighties, man?”
And I was like, “I cannot live without my Journey.” And they’re like, “Don’t Stop Believing.”
And I was like, “Yes, favorite song.”
A couple weeks later, I got the call saying they would like me to be their original character, Max Gallagher. I, at first, was shocked. Like I thought—I was out of State! It was amazing! And they brought me here to do the pilot episode. And I met the rest of the cast. I met David and Patrick. And, oh, my God! It was magical—absolutely magical. I’ve been here ever since.
Austin Butler (“Jordan Gallagher”)
SWL: Why don’t you tell us about the audition and casting process that you had to go through?
Austin: When I saw the audition, when my manager told me about it, I didn’t want to go in because I didn’t sing, and they wanted me to sing. And so I was like, “Let’s see how this is going to go.” My manager convinced me to go, and I went, and —they thought I was all right. So we went through all the auditions. And I didn’t really know Shaun or David by just looking at them, and my mom of course went crazy when she heard that I was going to be there.
And so I went in there, and I did the thing, and I remember seeing David and Shaun. And I kind of knew Shaun because I had looked on YouTube videos, trying to see him, and I saw him performing at the Grammies in tight, white pants and stuff. And then David, I remember him laughing at my song because I picked this really emo song on purpose, because that’s kind of how my character is. So I picked this Death Cab for Cutie song that was really emotional. It was fun.
SWL: Do you play guitar?
Austin: I do. I’ve been playing for about four, five years. Yeah.
Alexa Vega (“Ruby Gallagher”)
SWL: So can you talk a little bit about the audition and casting process you went through?
Alexa: Yeah. I didn’t want to do TV for a while. I had done it when I was younger, and then after Spy Kids I just kind of decided I wanted to stick to either film or TV film, but not a series. And I kind of did that for a while. And I went and visited my friend’s series last year, and during that time I was just kind of like, “You know what? I really miss being on a sitcom. I haven’t done this in years.” And I felt what the audience felt like, and I was watching her and she was having such a good time, I’m like, “I’ve got to get back on a show.”
And I told my agent, I’m like, “If you guys see a good script coming along, will you please send it my way? But it has to be special or else we’ll pass it up.” And six months later Ruby, the Ruby script was sent to me, and it was completely different than what the pilot ended up turning out to be. There were so many rewrites. But it was such a special kind of thing and idea that I was like, “You know what? I really want to go in on this. I will totally do it.”
And I went on the first audition, and I forgot how hard it was to land a TV show because the process is, like, eight auditions. You have to screen test. You have to meet with the producers, the executive producers. And then you have the whole network that you have to go through. It’s just such a process that I really felt like I worked so hard to get this job. Whereas, you know, for a while it was really nice that you didn’t really have to audition to get certain jobs. They were kind of offering you roles. But this is something I had to work hard for, and it made me appreciate it a lot more.
But it was definitely a hard process. I mean, we had to sing, and there were a lot of lines. I don’t think I’ve ever had that many lines in an audition. But yeah, it was really great. It was a good thing that I went through.
SWL: Do you know how many girls you were up against for this role?
Alexa: You know, I don’t. But I think they were definitely auditioning girls from ages 15 to probably about 20, and I felt really bad because in the end I ended up being up against three other 15- to 17-year-old girls, and I felt like some of them actually maybe looked older than me, even though—because I’ll be 21 in August, but everybody thinks I’m 15, so I was like, “Oh, good. I can get away with it.” But I kind of felt bad because they were like, “You’re not 15.” I’m sorry. But it was a good process, and all the girls were really, really nice.
And, you know, you kind of make friends with all the people you audition with because you just see them over and over and over again. But it was really interesting being back in that 15-year-old group. After Spy Kids, I just wanted so bad to be in more grown-up films and kind of play in adult movies and stuff like that. I was just like, “I need to be a little edgier.” So it became about doing edgier films and edgier roles instead of, “You know what? If I could still play younger roles, why not?” I mean, it’s so rare for people to still, you know, be 21, almost 21, and playing 15, so I better scoop that up while I can instead of trying to get away from it.
David Cassidy (“David Gallagher”)
SWL: Let’s talk about how you were brought into the project and how your brother was involved.
David: Well, my brother and I had a phone call about a year and a half ago—Shaun and I. And I had the germ of the idea of doing a family show, which we have talked about—Patrick and I have talked about working together and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could,”—I’m trying to think of the original conversation that just sparked the idea. And he ran with it, you know. That’s what he does and he does it well. I said a music show satirizing our family, my persona, his, and Patrick and I have always wanted to work together.
And I said, “You know, it’d be great if we could get Ryan as well. Then the four of us can work together for the first time,” because the only other time any of us have ever worked together was when—well, we did an AIDS benefit, which was hysterical, but that was just three of us. I won’t even discuss that. But it was hysterically funny.
If you all know anything about the theater and—I won’t go into this. It’s not important. But we did a [Suntime] song called—the original choreography called “You Can Drive A Person Crazy,” which was—the show was funny.
So, we did all the original choreography. And it was originally “Three Women,” and it was very funny.
And a couple of the incidents that occurred during that rehearsal has melded their way into this production, into this show, because it’s what we do with each other, it’s [the speak] that Shaun and he have, that Shaun and I have, Patrick and I have, our father—a lot of it is incorporated into this show. And we had so much fun doing it. We did like four performances of it, I think, and it was just great.
So, I called him and said, “What about doing something before we die,” that kind of thing. And he went, “Hmm.” And he started running ideas, I guess, through his head and put those tiny little fingers on the computer, and he said, “Come on out. I pitched the idea to the studio. They liked it, and they want to meet with us.”
So, we met with the studio and then with the network, and we just were ourselves, which, it wasn’t a performance, it was just being as natural and as real with ourselves and kind of taking the piss out of each other, which is a British expression. I hope you understand that it’s a British expression. But that’s what we do all the time with each other. And that’s what we do in this. And it comes from Shaun and Patrick’s, Patrick and mine, Shaun and mine.
And there are some rough parallels to our lives in this show. But it is truly the most family you could ever put on a—I mean Shaun and I have written, my wife, Sue, has written song. Melissa’s our choreographer. Other than my daughter, Katie, and my son, Beau, and his kids coming in on it, you know—Katie, actually, we got together last weekend, all of us. And Katie just started doing Melrose Place. And she said, at the end of the day, she said, “I really want to do it, write me a really good guest shot.” And Shaun went, “Hmm, I think we could do that.”
I have no idea what kind of a role she would play. But that would be great too. I mean, it’s just really—it’s the best job I ever had. I mean you’ve been here all day. And I’m sorry you got to see this particular episode. It’s not usually what—I mean, I’m usually not—I’m not this low, but man I get to play. I mean I get to play. And there’s just no—this is my playground and boy they let me go. And I do.
So, you’re here. You saw the process and I’ve never had as much fun as I’ve ever had doing anything. And I’ve said this a few times recently. I can’t stand it when actors come on television, not so much in print, but I guess even in print, and you listen to them on the radio and they’re doing an interview about their new project, their new movie, their new television show, their new Broadway show, and they’re there promoting it. And you hear the Arnold Schwarzenegger quote: “This is the greatest movie ever made.”
Don’t say that. But this is the best thing I’ve ever done, in my opinion, for me. It’s the best role I’ve ever had, the best cast I’ve ever worked work. Every single person is fantastic. And you can’t—I mean you can say they are people you can hand the ball to and they’ll score a touchdown. Every person on this show can deliver the punch line. You know, bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, you’re down three runs, pop, boom. And it feels so good to have that kind of support and to genuinely like all of the people you work with.
Alexa and I were talking about this yesterday. Do you know how rare that is that you like everybody, and you genuinely like them, not just, “Yeah, he’s okay.” I mean they’re really good human beings, grounded, not full of themselves. There’s no, “He’s getting all the funny lines.” There’s none of that stuff. It’s all, “Whatever we have to do together to make it great, to make it—let’s make it the best we can.”
And we have a fantastic writing staff, man. Wow! They come in—the next day you go, “Wow! What they just did to this script!” And it’s better. I mean it was good when we read it on Monday but—and every day. And I really genuinely believe that every week this show has gotten better. I mean it’s—because I’ve seen the pilot now five times or something. It’s a good pilot. We did a lot of exposition in it, that was really quite cleverly done by them. It didn’t feel—I mean there’s a lot of backstory in this. How did you two break up, and how did she end up in your house, and how did she end up at his house, and what’s your relationship with–? You know, there’s a lot of that but the episodes are absolutely, in my opinion, better and better and better every week.
Every element of it, to me—and I’ve done some bombs—you can feel it when it’s just, “Well, it might be okay.” But this one just feels so good. It feels so right for this network, just so right for working—all of us working together. I don’t know. I think it’s a genuine family comedy. I think it has a lot of adult stuff.
It is not a kid show, you know, it’s not. Kids love it. They come every week, [and] they like [it]. And I think that has a lot to do with Alexa and with Austin. I think that’s probably the case. And I’m sure their grandmothers have told them about me. I did [indiscernible]. “Excuse me, could I have your autograph for my grandmother?” It was comedy though.
Click here to read Part Three with reviews of the Pilot and eps 2 and 3 of Ruby & the Rockits.
Also check out Part One with my set visit by clicking here.