Lethal Weapon Interview: Thomas Lennon Takes on Leo Getz

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Lethal Weapon is going to be a lot of fun tonight as the show brings a favorite character from the films to the small screen.

Yep. It's time for Riggs and Murtaugh to meet Leo Getz.

Thomas Lennon of The Odd Couple and Reno 911 fame takes on the role that was popularized by Joe Pesci in the films.

But don't expect to see a copycat. Lennon will be bringing a fresh take Getz, and if you've seen any of his previous work, you know it's going to be hilarious.

We had a chance to chat with Lennon about Leo Getz, how he prepared for the role and what it was like working on Lethal Weapon.

Hello, Leo Getz - Lethal Weapon Season 1 Episode 15

TV Fanatic: You're playing one of the most memorable characters in the Lethal Weapon film franchise, how excited were you to take on the character of Leo Getz and how did it all come about?

Thomas Lennon: I think excited is the wrong word. It was slightly more terror inducing. It was nerve-wracking would be a better expression.

The Odd Couple had just wrapped up, and I got a call from [executive producer Matt Miller] and they said they wanted to bring in the Leo Getz character from the movies. I thought, 'Oh, boy that's going to be very, very hard for whoever tries to do that.'

I have to say that I'm the kind of person that really loves a challenge, and I loved the notion of well, it's going to be hard, but what if...and I said to [Miller], 'I can't do a Joe Pesci impression in any way...because that's not really my personality at all.

With that said, I do have some pretty weird aspects of myself that I could bring to a guy this weird, and he said were not doing a carbon copy of anything from the movies ever.

It's all sort of inspired by and a new imagining, and I said if you're open to a version of Leo Getz that probably isn't really that much like Joe Pesci but is also just weird, I'm absolutely willing to give it a try.'

And they said great and they wrote it for a while and I said please keep me in mind a little bit as you write it and they certainly did. And then we just jumped in. It was great.

How much of a leeway did you have playing the character?

They gave me a lot of leeway. The first scene where [Riggs and Murtaugh] meet me by the coffee machine, there's a whole bunch of strange things in that scene, a lot of which are things that just came from the top of my head. I never knew they would get in the show of course, but it's nice to see that a whole lot of my personality did make it.

How did you prepare? Did you watch Lethal Weapon at all?

I didn't. As a matter of fact, I actively did not watch it because I'm the kind of person who if I hang around an Irish person for an hour I'll have an Irish accent by the end of that hour. I'm a chameleon, and I just try to blend in with whoever I'm listening to so I did not watch any of the old Lethal Weapon.

Of course, I've seen the movies dozens and dozens of times back in the day, but I didn't want to get Joe Pesci's cadence in my head...also I didn't have any of the classic Leo Getz lines that Joe Pesci created so it was a nice way to start fresh.

That's one of the great things about Lethal Weapon...they don't copy the films.

I think if you like that aspect of Lethal Weapon, I think you'll like this aspect too. Me and Clayne and Damon really clicked really nicely and Keesha and everybody on the show. We have a really nice dynamic that's similar to the dynamic of the films and yet is still totally different and unique in its own way.

Were there any challenges bringing the character to life for the small screen?

Well, yeah. The most daunting thing is when you walk up to your trailer every day and there's a piece of paper taped to it that says Leo Getz and you think, 'Oh, I don't have the right to play that' (laughs). It looms large, you know, so yeah its daunting.

You have to get past that psychological hurdle of thinking...of not endlessly trying to compare what you're doing, but trying to think of what can I do that would be new and strange and interesting.

I think the main thing I learned the way to do that was just to was to get as relaxed as possible and try to crack up Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford.

And you were able to do that I'm sure.

I did crack them up a fair amount. I was pleased. Not on the first day, but as it progressed I got more confident and cracked them up more and more.

How does Leo find himself in the company of Riggs and Murtaugh?

Without giving away too many plot details, in this incarnation, Leo Getz is a lawyer that advertises on the sides of buses like a bail bonds type lawyer, and he is representing a member of the drug cartel that is being sought by Riggs and Murtaugh. There's been a horrible crime to which Leo is a witness or an accessory, and then it kind of goes from there.

Hiding - Lethal Weapon Season 1 Episode 15

Is this is one-time deal or will we see more of Leo Getz in the future?

As of right now, it's technically just a one-time deal, but I can tell you, I can't remember when I've had more fun. Between Damon Wayans and Clayne and Keesha, it's just a delightful bunch of people. The hours are terrible because it's like filming a huge move (laughs), but the hours made up for how very fun it is.

Damon and Clayne have such a great chemistry on screen, what was it like working with them?

On the first day of filming I walked over, I saw Clayne and I said, 'I'm so glad to be here. It's a real pleasure to meet you,' and then I noticed 50 feet behind me Clayne was walking by, and I noticed I was shaking hands with his stunt double (laughs) and telling him how happy I was to be there, and the stunt double laughed. I think he realized later that I was talking to the wrong person.

A New Partner? - Lethal Weapon Season 1 Episode 15

I've been a fan of Damon Wayans since In Living Color when I was in my late teens or whenever that was on, and so I was probably a little star-struck around him. You never know how to interact with people that are kind of your heroes, so I said, 'I'm a lifelong fan.' and I shook his hand and he said, 'And me of you.'

Then he told me that he owns the Reno 911 box set and it made feel really great. As soon as he said that I was like, 'Wow this is a guy who I look up to who likes something that I did.' It just gave me a lot of confidence I think as the weeks went by doing the show.

That's awesome.

It was pretty cool.

You can see Thomas Lennon on Lethal Weapon Season 1 Episode 15, "As Good As It Getz." tonight at 8/7c on FOX.

Lisa Babick is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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