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Tambor’s Casting a Fortunate Accident

Jan 5, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Arrested Development’s” Jeffrey Tambor, who gives a spirited performance as family patriarch George Bluth Sr., was supposed to appear in only the first episode of the series before his character headed off to prison.
To Mitch Hurwitz, the show’s creator and executive producer, the flashy, supposedly one-shot role seemed right for a big-name movie star. He compiled his mental A-list for the part, including names like Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro.
“I always thought, when the time is right I’m going to ask [fellow executive producer] Ron Howard to call in a movie star favor,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “But I couldn’t bring myself to be that presumptuous.”
The night before they were supposed to shoot the first scenes with George Sr.’s character, the role still hadn’t been cast, Mr. Hurwitz said. By coincidence, Mr. Tambor, who is a friend of Mr. Hurwitz’s, called him that evening. While they were catching up, “I said, `Hey, want to be in a TV show tomorrow?”’ Mr. Hurwitz said. “I think he may have said something like, `Well, I have to get out of “Hollywood Squares,” but OK.”’
Mr. Tambor proved a perfect fit. “He made sense out of the whole family,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “His scenes were hilarious.”
Fox executives loved his character. They told Mr. Hurwitz that getting Mr. Tambor to sign on full-time would go a long way toward getting the show picked up. Mr. Tambor agreed, and that opened up a whole slew of story lines for Mr. Hurwitz, including George Sr.’s trial, or possibly his release from prison on house arrest.
“It kind of helps the story of Michael’s [Jason Bateman] emancipation,” Mr. Hurwitz said. “One of the conceits of the show is that it was people who are going kicking and screaming into a better life. Everybody was thinking they were one thing for a long time and finding out they weren’t. All these people had enough money that none of their decisions were really questioned.”