YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Jump-starting a career

September 30, 2007|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

Lonny Ross used to work in a pet store on Long Island. He was in L.A. (where "it takes eight minutes to make a sandwich when it should take two minutes") recently for the Emmys and the premiere of "Good Luck Chuck," in which he plays Jessica Alba's character's dopey brother. You might also know him as Josh Girard on "30 Rock."

I just took the Long Island Rail Road right on past Wantagh.

That's my hometown! That was my stop. I commuted before I moved. [That train] is miserable. No offense to the commuters. I don't think anyone looks forward to that train.

Can you place Wantagh in the grander scheme of things?

Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford -- Alec Baldwin and Jerry Seinfeld are from Massapequa. They're kinda cookie-cutter suburban towns. So my sister and I, our goal was to try to get out of Long Island. To move to the city, or Brooklyn. I grew up there into my 20s. My parents still live in the same house.

But you made it into the big city. Did you get a studio in Hell's Kitchen?

I did have the cliché first New York apartment. 106th Street and West End Avenue, which isn't a bad area. But the apartment was like $800 a month, and it was a closet. A square. And everything was in that square. It was a cliché! I'm glad I did it, but . . . your parents come and see it and they're like, "Why would you do this? Our ancestors came to this city so you wouldn't have to do that." But it's hard to keep an apartment. I'm on my fourth in six years.

Lonny, are funny men always sad on the inside?

I mean, I guess growing up you use humor to get attention. You find the one thing that works for you if you're not head of the class, teacher's pet. You're not the captain of the sports team. I dunno if it all comes from a dark place. I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. Conan O'Brien is pretty good at self-deprecating humor. I'm sure that doesn't come from a good place. Growing up you figure that out -- what gets you positive feedback and you harp on that.

Then you get stuck!

And you have to be funny all the time. It's tough. Jim Carrey, can you imagine? You just wanna love that guy. If he's having a bad day? Alec Baldwin -- he does not hold back when he has bad days. God bless him for that.

Yes, there has been a lot of talk about the crazed behavior of someone on "30 Rock." So? What is the deal with Tina Fey?!

What? Yes, she's as tough as nails. Coming from "Saturday Night Live," you have to be. The sitcom has mellowed her out. The deadlines are probably just as bad. You're not up all night writing, but it's more structured. Schedule-wise, she can do her 12 to 15 hours and have a life with her husband and her kid. Did you see her new AmEx commercial? That really sums it up. She never complains. She doesn't know any different than to be a workaholic.

She's an abused animal!

I don't think she'd see it that way. But she and the writing staff work hard. It's such a well-written and well-crafted show. Writing, rewriting, notes from the network, from Mr. Lorne Michaels. But she's really down-to-earth.

Similarly: Jessica Alba. Why is she also so frightening?

A different kind of frightening. If you were going to use the word "intimidated" -- what with me aspiring to be in the comedy world, I'm more intimidated by Tina Fey. Trying to make her laugh. Whereas Jessica Alba, turns out she is a fairly normal -- at the time we shot -- 25-year-old girl. So it was easy to get along with her. The first time I met her at the audition? Well, I was dumbfounded and happy to be there.

Your career is going splendidly!

I don't care who you are, you can't wipe the smile off my face. I was behind the scenes for a number of years in TV production.

How were those "Sex and the City" sets?

Oh, brother. Don't get me started. It was very thrilling to work for "Sex and the City" because it was so big. It felt like they were shooting a movie. But compared to the other behind-the-scenes jobs, it was a difficult one.

I was an office PA, so every department trickled down to us. We were the lowest of the low. And we tried to please everybody. . . . The other office PA -- well, it all ties back to how I got "30 Rock."

I was an office PA in like 2001, and I befriended the other office PA. The other PA ended up dating our casting director, Jennifer McNamara, and they're now married. So I've been friends with them for years. I was producing, and she contacts me -- she knew I did impressions and characters. She hinted at seeing if I wanted to read for this Tina Fey pilot, because it called for a Jimmy Fallon-esque character. So I treated it like a "Saturday Night Live" audition. And she showed the tape to Tina, and two days later I went back to meet Tina, to get put on tape for Lorne. [What I did] from 2001 to 2006 had nothing to do with how I got on camera.

Hey, is there a lesson in there?

Los Angeles Times Articles