David Boreanaz may never eat another chicken wing again, but the "Bones" star feels the savory sacrifice would be worth the opportunity to be a part of award-winning screenwriter-playwright Neil LaBute's television debut "Full Circle." The DirecTV series is a 10-episode "La Ronde"-style exploration of the complexity of human interaction and 11 intertwined lives that all takes place in a fictional L.A. restaurant called Ellipsis.
"I would never go back to that restaurant. I had to throw down so many cold chicken wings and the wait staff was rude and slow, but something of this magnitude by a writer like Neil on subject matter he just attacks is a dream job," Boreanaz told Yahoo TV at a junket for the show held at, of course, a restaurant. In the series, Boreanaz plays a brash comedian whose homophobic jokes and subsequent Twitter war ignite a scandal. Fortunately for the actor, the junket's spread at the posh French bistro Little Door contained no Buffalo-sauced poultry parts. "[Neal's] a great force creatively and has a unique, strong, passionate voice. I'm just glad to be working during a time when writers of his caliber want to do TV, " he added.
LaBute's resumé ("In the Company Of Men," "The Shape of Things," "Possession") and reputation were the common draws for the actors who participated in the press day, including Julian McMahon ("Nip/Tuck"), Tom Felton (the "Harry Potter" franchise), Keke Palmer ("True Jackson, VP"), Ally Sheedy ("The Breakfast Club"), and Noah Silver ("The Borgias"). The series also stars Minka Kelly ("Friday Night Lights"), Billy Campbell ("The Killing"), Devon Gearhart ("Changeling"), and Cheyenne Jackson ("30 Rock"). Kate Walsh explained, "They had me at 'Neil La...' I was like, 'Please tell me it ends in "Bute," because I'm in.' He and his social commentary are genius. Neil not only exposes characters and all of their facets, including their dirty underbelly — he slow-roasts them on a spit."
Each installment focuses on an over-a-meal conversation (and very little action) between two related characters, with one of the actors carrying his or her story line over to the next episode, until the explosive finale reunites a handful of them. For example, Felton has had an affair with Kelly, who is married to McMahon, who is the frat brother and attorney of Boreanaz and might be Felton's father. "These characters are all connected and twisted, and even when it seems like a light and simple moment, it usually isn't," Palmer said. Walsh added, "Viewers should pay very close attention to everything that happens in every episode, because it is pretty dense and the clues are there. Some of the characters are more connected than you think, and it all leads to a nuts finale."
Meet Tim (Felton), Bridgette (Kelly), Stanley (McMahon), Jace (Boreanaz), and Chan'dra (Palmer):
Even as seasoned TV actors, they all also shared a postcommitment panic attack. Most of them got scripts a couple of weeks before production, didn't meet their scene partners until a few days before filming, and had only one day (at most two) to shoot each installment. "I say very confidently I was excited when I was offered the part, and then immediately terrified as I didn't know Minka [Kelly], I'm not formally trained, and had never done anything remotely close to this in terms of exchanging dialogue on this level," admitted Felton, whose role bookends the series, and who practiced with Kelly via Skype. "I was born and raised with the green screen behind me and dragons and broomsticks, which do quite a lot of work for you. This offered nothing to hide behind. It's just two people staring at each other and talking for a half hour. And they aren't talking about the weather. These are intense, exhausting, emotional conversations that brought stuff up in you. In the middle of a take, out of nowhere, I burst into tears. I couldn't help myself. It was like acting boot camp."
Sheedy had to dust off French she hadn't used with any regularity since high school to play a manipulative, obsessive, and "twisted" bilingual mom to Silver. (Silver, who grew up in France and has dual citizenship, got off easier in that respect.) "I was nerve-racked because speaking French is such a big part of this character — it changed how she moved and interacted — yet it couldn't seem like a huge element. The only way it would work was if I got it down pat," Sheedy said. "I lived in France for months when I was about 7 so I learned it by ear, but haven't used it much since I took it in school. Noah helped me a lot by email, and then as we started rehearsing, I picked up his rhythm."
Silver was impressed by how quickly it came back to Sheedy: "Ally made it seem like she was bilingual, too. The language seemed to help her find the character. It was already such challenging material, and so much of it in a short amount of time, that I am glad I didn't also have to learn another language."
Meet Trent (Campbell), Cliff (Gearhart), Trisha (Walsh), Robbie (Silver), Celeste (Sheedy), and Peter (Jackson):
According to Walsh, LaBute's work requires reciting with the same "precision as a Shakespeare play," and McMahon quickly realized you couldn't cut corners when memorizing more than 20 pages of dialogue per episode, or cover your butt with ad-libbing when your mind went blank.
"It sounds so trivial, but if you didn't know your lines in this one, you were screwed. And you had to know it like the back of your hand, down to the ums, ohs, and buts," McMahon said. "I had ums and buts all over the place, so when I was learning the material I tried to throw away a few buts here and there. It didn't work without them. I realized Neil's genius with dialogue comes down to every last oh, and so you had to learn it verbatim. Then it was up to you to go in and create the performance within the structure of the words with tone, facial expression, and body language. Usually, you have a two- or three-month period to learn something like this, rehearse it, and put it onstage. We had a week to achieve the same comfort level and detail."
McMahon also said the restaurant setting complicated things. "We were eating all day. After a while, I couldn't eat anymore and I felt gross," said the self-described foodie. "I love eating and I love talking, but not talking and eating simultaneously. You had to time bites just right so you wouldn't show people a mouthful or spit it at your scene partner."
Get a behind-the-scenes tour of the "Full Circle" restaurant set:
"Full Circle" premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. on DirecTV.