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INTERVIEW: Bill Lawrence Talks ‘Shrinking’, Ensembles, and His Television Shows

Harrison Ford talking to Jason Segel in Shrinking

Bill Lawrence has made some of the best shows on television. I’m speaking from my own personal experience and love of television and desire to write it one day. I grew up watching his work and he’s brought audiences joy with things like Ted Lasso and now his new Apple TV+ series Shrinking.

So getting to talk with him about the series was a complete joy because you can see why so many bigger actors want to be a part of his shows! And Shrinking is no different. The series stars Jason Segel, Harrison Ford, Jessica Williams, Christa Miller, and an all around incredible cast!

As with many of my interview for Shrinking, I talked about how genuinely funny Harrison Ford is in the show and Lawrence instantly chimed in with a story about Ford on set. “He didn’t know if he was funny and then on his first scene he gotta laugh from all of us in the crew and he turned to Jason Segel and he is like, I knew I was funny,” he said. “It was made me really happy.”

Making an ensemble piece

One of the things that I do find the most interesting about the series is that it is such an ensemble piece set around Segel’s character Jimmy. When I asked Lawrence about it, he was happy to talk about the moving parts of the series. “So the most interesting from the start is Jason was one of the creators of the show,” he said. “So we started with him and then we got Harrison Ford and you’re a TV fan. If those two had said, we wanna do a show about the two of us in our relationship, you would not know any of the other characters, I would’ve done it. You know? If someone came to you wanna write a comic. But the coolest thing is they’re so generous. They both said, we wanna be part of an ensemble. And so that permitted us to not only cast different actors and actresses. I think Jessica Williams is so talented. I knew her from The Daily Show and Two Dope Queens, and my son loved her in the Fantastic Beasts thing, but to do this kind of ensemble where right at the beginning of the year we came up with an arc for each character.”

He went on to talk about how it all tied to each character and their journey. “It’s not just Jimmy’s getting through grief, it’s Alice and Jimmy and their relationship Alice and her new kind of roommate, Sean and their relationship,” he said. “Liz, the neighbor, is she gonna make friends? How’s she gonna deal with her boys? Jessica’s character is recently divorced and she’s also doing a job that’s mostly occupied by middle-aged white dudes that look like me. And Harrison’s very obviously Jimmy’s mentor and not hers. So what’s so fun is Harrison and Jason really pushed for it to be this kind of group thing. And then the second thing is, which I miss so much when I first started making Network TV, you would like discover actors. Like Zach Braff was a waiter when he got hired on Scrubs. You know, it’s so fun and you don’t get to do that as much anymore. Cause these streaming shows are always built around known commodities. But on this show to cast people like Luke Tennie who plays Sean and Lukita Maxwell, who plays Alice, and not only have them be in the show, but be doing big scenes with heavyweights like Harrison and Jason, Christa and Jessica. It’s so fun to connect young actors and actresses and watch them slug away with, in some cases, icons. It’s really a blast. I’m having such a good time.”

Lawrence’s legacy

Admittedly, I grew up with older parents and siblings. I was the baby, my parents were in their 40s when they had me, and I was 10 and 20 years younger than my brothers. So I watched a lot of things that were made for adults when I was very young. Like the show Spin City. My lifelong love of Barry Bostwick is from the show. And so talking with Lawrence, I had to bring it up.

“It makes me so happy because we’ve reached the time, my kids are 22, 20 and 16. And my youngest son finally watched Spin City and he was like ‘this ever on tv?’ I’m like, dude, I didn’t like show it in my garage. Yeah, it was, it was on tv. It was, it’s a real show,” Lawrence said which was hilarious for me as someone who loves the series. But it led into me asking about his work on shows with bigger actors in ensemble settings and he admitted to loving to do it.

“It’s my favorite thing and the fact that if you asked me my career, what would be the two fun things to do would be to work with men and women actors and actresses that I’ve always admired as a fanboy nerd. And I’ve gotten to do that,” he said. “And then the other side is in front of and behind the camera to find new people and go, ‘Hey, check this super talented person out. I’m gonna take credit for their work for the next 10 years.’ The coolest thing in the world is like Brett Goldstein who I created this show with, was a writer first on Ted Lasso and not really known as an actor. He is a standup comic. And then to overnight watch him win two Emmys and become so full of himself. No, I’m just kidding. He’s not, he’s is so joyful and fun, you know? But because then you get to be a part of that and look not to over talk about it, but mentorship is always a part of all my shows. It’s something I really care about and both professionally and portraying on screen. And so to kind of get to do that in real time with people is such a blast. So selfishly rewarding.”

We ended our conversation with Lawrence saying “thank you for being so kind of, and thank you for being the only person under 90 that mentioned Spin City.” And I will cherish that for the rest of my days.


Shrinking airs on Apple TV+ and is a must-see!

(featured image: Apple TV+)

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She/Her. A writer who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.