The two stars of Ground Floor, a new sitcom on TBS, are not widely known actors.
The leading man is Skylar Astin, who turned some heads in the movie Pitch Perfect. The leading lady, Briga Heelan, had a funny recurring role on Cougar Town.
They’ve got a long way to go before they become household names.
But if Ground Floor is any indication, Astin and Heelan are going to be big one day — and this sitcom, which premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday, might prove to be an important step in that direction.
They’re talented and charismatic. And they have so much chemistry that the TV screen practically steams up when they’re together.
Heelan has big career dreams that include acting in films and performing on Broadway.
“My heart will explode if those things don’t happen for me one day,” she says.
But Heelan is reluctant to discuss this in greater detail. “There’s an old saying,” she notes. “Announce your plans and make God laugh.”
That’s an interesting comment because, in a nutshell, it’s the story of Brody, Astin’s character, in Ground Floor.
Brody is a nose-to-the-grindstone money manager whose career trajectory has him destined to tower over the city one day from a top-floor corner office.
But his master plan hits a snag when he meets a girl. Jenny is the kind of free-spirited woman who can make a man re-think his priorities.
“Talking to her is like drinking tequila,” Brody says. “One second you think you’re totally in control and then, the next thing you know, you wake up naked in the yard!”
Brody’s boss, played by John C. McGinley, does not approve of Jenny, in part because she works downstairs in lowly building maintenance, but mostly because she’s prying his protege’s eyes away from the prize.
Will Brody choose “hours of acrobatic sex” with Jenny? Or will he continue to embrace a workaholic “if you can’t be on time, be early!” philosophy?
Brody decides he’s going to try to have it all. “I can do the job AND do the girl,” he declares.
Fittingly, Ground Floor is a sitcom that manages to have it both ways, too. It freewheelingly veers from elegant romantic comedy to bawdy sex jokes in the blink of an eye.
The show manages to pull that tightrope act off, because it’s headed up by two gifted writer-producers: Bill Lawrence, the creator of Scrubs and Cougar Town, and Greg Malins, formerly of Friends, Will & Grace and How I Met Your Mother.
Heelan believes viewers will think it’s the total package.
“What I love most about this show is that it has so much heart,” she says. “Yes, the jokes are hysterical, but overall I think people will take away a feeling of love and warmth.”
Heelan says she was born to be in show business, just like her playwright father and actress mother. “When I was little, I would walk past the bathroom and I would hear five or six voices behind the bathroom door,” she recalls. “I was like, ‘Dad, what’s going on in there?’”
Turns out he was honing lines of dialogue that he was writing while shaving.
Today, Heelan says, she’s the source of multiple voices behind the bathroom door. Her Jenny voice, it’s worth noting, is decidedly different from that of the real Heelan.
“I’m completely the opposite of her,” she says. “Jenny does not have a care in the world. This is a character who is poor, who doesn’t have that much of an education, who isn’t that super-ambitious, who doesn’t have a lot of material things. Yet she is happy with the way that her life stands now.
“That’s fun to play her because I’m much more the Brody type. I’m a Type A, controlling, go-getter personality. I’m definitely more work- and goal-oriented. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live my life without pushing myself the way I do.
“So maybe this is a great job for me, because maybe some of Jenny will rub off on me. Maybe I’ll learn to be a little more relaxed.”