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Thomas Lennon on playing an iconic ‘Lethal Weapon’ character, improvising on a cop d…

Riggs and Murtaugh are about to make an important new friend on “Lethal Weapon” — Wednesday’s (Feb. 15) episode, “As Good as It Getz,” will finally introduce a fan favorite character from the films: Mr. Leo Getz (Thomas Lennon).

So far, FOX has done a great job of depicting the best friend relationship between Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford) and Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) — while also filling out Murtaugh’s home life and Riggs’ heartbreaking backstory. We’ve been treated to story details never explored in the original films — with ancillary “Lethal Weapon” characters given new life, and room to breathe and grow.

Now, with their bond tighter than ever, everyone’s favorite buddy-cop duo are about to meet the weirdest character to hit the series thus far.

Screener got a chance to speak with Thomas Lennon regarding the challenges he faced in bringing such an iconic character to life on the small screen. Joe Pesci may have paved the way, but from the sound of things, this version of Leo Getz is going to be a whole new combination of funny, different and weird.

RELATED: Let’s play ‘Lethal Weapon’ matchmaker: It’s time for Riggs & Dr. Cahill to get together

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How do you make Leo Getz your own? Do you try and forget Joe Pesci’s performance altogether?

It is certainly tough to try to forget about it. I think you’ll see, there are probably aspects of my performance that are probably inspired by his performance — certainly, in some ways — without being an impression. The reason I’m so pleased with how it turned out is… Without thinking about doing an impression of Joe Pesci, but thinking about, What does that character represent? What is he afraid of? What is he excited about? I looked at it from the other direction, and sort of reverse-engineered it… The main thing that I did, which is probably the hardest thing to do on a show with a big budget like this, with so many special effects, is to relax and improvise.

You have some pretty extensive improv and sketch experience — how do you incorporate that on a production like this?

I come from a world where I never want to do a take, or anything, the same way twice. You know, that was just not the way we did things on “Reno 911.” For us, if we ever had one take of something it’d be like, Great, we have that! Do something different now. Do something surprising. Do something weirder.

I just never want to do things the same way twice. Sometimes it might bother directors, but I never see why the second one shouldn’t be surprising. So mostly what I tried to do was surprise myself, and surprise Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans in the scenes I had with them. And it worked out a lot. I think I surprised them quite a bit!

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Did you get any pushback on set?

I was very surprised — when I was talking to Matt [Miller], the showrunner, he said, I’m going to send you the episode to look at. He started listing to me the different weird things that I did that made the cut. And as he’s doing it, I realized he’s using almost everything I improvised! It’s unbelievable — as an actor, this never really happens. And it’s happened to me on very rare occasions.

RELATED: Can ‘Lethal Weapon’ ever cure Martin Riggs?

To not spoil anything, you provide an example?

There’s a moment where I am standing at a coffee machine and I say something to Damon Wayans and I think you’ll see the sincere surprise on his face — to not spoil it, or anything!

What is Leo’s relationship with Riggs and Murtaugh? Will this be a multiple episode story arc for you?

You know, there’s really no guarantee of that. I will say that I loved working with everybody on the show — Keesha [Sharp], Damon, Clayne and everybody. And the relationship is, um… They treat me a lot sort of like a stray dog that they’ve found — which they love, but they also have to go around and pick up his poop.

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Between writing the ‘Baywatch’ movie, co-starring in ‘The Odd Couple,’ executive-producing ‘@midnight’ — and your cameo work on shows like ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ — do you ever find any free time? And if so, what do you do to unwind?

I don’t unwind that much, to be honest, so that’s probably part of the problem. Every once in a while, when I have a little bit of time — parenting practically takes up all of the time —  if I ever do have a free moment, I try to play with my friends who have the world’s best Smiths cover band, called ‘The Sweet and Tender Hooligans.” Sometimes, I wind up as the rhythm guitar player in that band.

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Speaking of Morrissey fandom, what is life like in 2017 for Lieutenant Jim Dangle?

Oh, think it’s going better than ever! I haven’t checked in with him in a while, but I know he’s been trying to get his real estate license. I think he’s finally saving up for that cool sculpting he wants to get done. I think he’s doing great! I heard he’s saving up for a great cruise to Canada.

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You know, I wish him all the best!

“Lethal Weapon” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: Lethal WeaponTV Network: FOX

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