In the the new FX series “Partners,” Martin Lawrence teams up with Kelsey Grammer in a comedy about two totally different lawyers thrown together in a court-ordered partnership on arguably one of the worst days of their lives.
Grammer’s arrogant Allen Braddock character is the heir to a wealthy legal heritage, suddenly fired by his family from their prominent law firm.
Lawrence, who had some legal run-ins during his bad-boy days in the ’90s, plays Marcus Jackson, a community activist and neighborhood lawyer going through a divorce. Jackson is a good-hearted soul, more interested in helping people, than making money. In other words, this is about too totally different guys forced to join forces.
Q: Your new “Partners” show is set here in Chicago. But you didn’t actually film here did you?
A: We didn’t actually shoot in Chicago. They just did some exterior filming, like they’ve done with other series set in Chicago. But I love Chicago. It’s played a huge role in my career. I shot my HBO “One Night Stand” in Chicago and the people showed me so much love. They sent me off to stardom, so I thank them and I love them for that.
Q: From watching a couple of the first episodes of “Partners,” is it fair to say you and Kelsey had a lot of fun working together?
A: We did. The chemistry just came automatically. We didn’t have to question one another. We just did, what we did, and played off each other real well. We were able to showcase our humor — and even put each other in check at times, which was needed for this concept. It was a lot of fun.
Q: Lately, Kelsey’s being doing a lot of dramatic roles — like in the new “Transformers” film, where he plays a villain, and in the recent TV series “Boss,” set here in Chicago. Was it nice to see him get back into comedy with your show?
A: That’s what he does so well. It was fun seeing back doing comedy, especially with me being his new partner! I’m excited about that.
Q: How do you like playing the “good guy” in this partnership — the fellow who’s supposed to teach Kelsey’s character to play it straight?
A: I love playing the good guy. People kind of know my reputation, so it feels good to show a side of me where I’ve matured and am speaking righteousness and things like that. I’m excited about that role.
Q: As we know, there are all kinds of lawyers. Did you get some inspiration for this part by speaking to a few real lawyers?
A: No, I really didn’t that much. I did talk to my lawyer, but it was more in fun. He said, ‘You can play me!’ I told him, I don’t have to act like him, I just need to know what to do, to feel comfortable with the technical stuff of being a lawyer.
Q: While this is a comedy and is supposed to be pure entertainment, but there are some issues addressed here. What do you think about these two guys who come from such different worlds and cultures?
A: That’s a big part of what “Partners” is supposed to be. If you’re from different worlds and don’t understand each other, and each other’s culture and heritage and things like that, it can be tough. But when you can teach each other and achieve understanding, you come to realize we really are not all that different. It’s not us and them, but we’re all one. That’s the bottom line.
Q: This is the first time you’ve worked with Kelsey. Did you know him before you both signed on for this project?
A: I had met him briefly at a party at Tim Allen’s house. We had just spoken in passing. We said we were fans of each other. That was about it.
Q: Now that you’ve worked together, was there anything about Kelsey that surprised you about him?
A: I guess the biggest surprise was — how good he is. I knew he was so talented, but you really have to work with someone — face-face-to-face, day-in-and-day-out — to really get the sense of how terrific their talent really is. He really knows his stuff. No joke, he’s the real deal. His talent is very definitely a gift.
Q: When it comes to comedy, it’s all about timing, isn’t it?
A: It really is. Timing is everything. Frankly, if you don’t feel good on a particular day, it can throw your timing off, even in how you deliver a line or read something. If you have that timing, that’s what makes the train run, and keep things moving!
Q: How was it working with Telma Hopkins, who plays your mother on “Partners”?
A: I had never had the opportunity to work with her before. It was beautiful that this happened. I was familiar with her work and have enjoyed her over the years. So to work with her now and have her playing my mother, having grown up watching her, was pretty special. Her timing — speaking of timing — is totally on. It was just a good feeling.
Q: Anything else coming up for you?
A: Well, be on the lookout possibly for a “Badboys 3.” We’re talking about that and they’re working on a script now, so hopefully we can get all our schedules together — and give the people what they want.