The not-so-green acres of Nebraska is the place for Dax Shepard and Lake Bell to be with the new ABC comedy "Bless This Mess." They play Mike and Rio, a city couple who leave the rat race for a quieter life on a farm they have inherited, only to discover the main house ends up being somewhere between a death trap and a money pit.
Shepard and Bell found it easy to slip into the roles of a married couple who have their image of an ideal country life tested by bad soil, holes in the roof, a fear of cows and a group of locals who treat them like the city slickers they are. The connection he had with Bell made Shepard happy because he knows it is not always a sure bet two actors will have chemistry.
"Chemistry is one of those weird things that is still magic," Shepard says. "I have been cast in movies with very good friends and on-screen we have nothing. I have been cast with enemies and we had sparks flying. I think Lake and I hit the chemistry lottery."
Bell falls under the good friend category as Shepard has known her for years. Their children went to the same preschool, and that's where they made their first connection.
Much of the network comedy will deal with the couple trying to fix the endless list of problems that come with the house. As to relating to the do-it-yourself work, Shepard rates himself a "10 if going by a California scale" but more of a five when using his home state of Michigan as the yardstick for his skill with tools.
"Your average guy from Michigan can change the jets in a carburetor, while the average Californian can change the tire on the side of the road," Shepard says. "There's always something at my house that requires attention but I am really far more automotive inclined. Although I do like building stuff like the giant wall I built in our backyard.
"I will admit that it was a project that I thought would take a day and a half but it ended up taking me three weekends. That's kind of my pattern."
Shepard will show off his handyman skills in the series, but the selection of Nebraska wasn't as important as just setting the comedy in Middle America.
"I think globally I would say, 'Why rural America?' I think that the real concept that we were excited about in making the show was this incredible zeitgeist and love and wonder of the simpler life and what that really is," says Bell. "I am from New York, and I absolutely, unabashedly have this dream to move to a farm."
"Bless This Mess" also stars Ed Begley Jr. as Rudy, Pam Grier as Constance and JT Neal as Jacob. The opening episode was directed by Bell, who co-wrote the script with Elizabeth Meriwether.
There are also extra duties for Shepard, as he's serving as an executive producer. He laughs and says the title is nice but he doesn't feel like he has done nearly as much work as Bell. That's going to work out as Shepard will be doing double acting duty, continuing to guest star on the Netflix series "The Ranch" while filming more episodes of "Bless This Mess." Working on both projects has been a big adjustment for Shepard as the TV work he has done in the past, such as "Parenthood," was shot with a single camera. "The Ranch" – starring Ashton Kutcher and Sam Elliott – films on a soundstage using multiple cameras.
"The ex-Groundling in me is loving working in front of an audience," Shepard says. "I like bouncing back and forth."
Most of Shepard's acting credits are for work in feature films: "Zanthura: A Space Adventure," "Let's Go to Prison," "The Boss" and "CHiPS." He likes the freedom working on a TV series gives him to develop a character, but that was something he had to adjust to when he started working on the small screen.
"On my first year of 'Parenthood,' I loved it. Then on my second year, I had this panic that I had gotten bad on the job," Shepard says. "I told my wife (Kristen Bell) that I wasn't certain if I wasn't doing the work correctly anymore. I didn't know if I had gotten lazy.
"She said, 'Oh no hon, that's the beauty of being on a TV show. You learn to play that character and then it just happens through muscle memory. So you are working less but the work is getting better. That doesn't seem to happen on a movie."
'BLESS THIS MESS'
9:30 p.m./8:30 p.m. Central Tuesday, ABC
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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