Warburton is one of the main cast members of the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement, and as the show prepared to begin its third season, he chatted about his Engagement role as the long-married Jeff, his sustained fondness for The Tick and his booming, iconic voice.
What can we look forward to in the third season of Rules of Engagement?
Funnier-er, sharper-er episodes. I liked the show before, where it was going, I just feel much more positively about it now. Our writing staff has done a great job in figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and we have a great cast, and I just feel like the show’s gotten sharper. We also have the addition of a couple of characters: Orlando Jones plays my new buddy who, as it turns out, is gay, and I didn’t know that. Of course so Jeff has to kind of deal with that, and prove to everybody he’s not a homophobe. Jeff grows a little bit. Adhir [Kalyan], he’s a very talented, interesting actor; he’s actually from Durban, South Africa. He’s very funny. And he plays sort of -- I don’t want to say the yin to David [Spade’s] yang. Who wants to be the yin to David’s yang? A lot of young ladies in Hollywood, apparently. Adhir’s this very refined, erudite, classy guy who’s now Russell’s assistant. They’re just very funny together, and I think that’s one of the great additions to the show.
Were you at all involved in shaping a new direction for the show?
I wish I could take credit for that, but I can’t. I’m a cast member on this show, I’m not a producer. You just hope, you keep your fingers crossed that the show will improve and get better, and when it does, you just have to be thankful. But I’ve always felt like we’ve had a really fine writing staff, and there’s been some new additions that I think have also helped with it. They just figure out what works and what doesn’t, and the show gets sharper. I think all half-hour shows really have to evolve to a degree.
Some consider it a bit antiquated, the four-camera show, but the four-camera show, it’s a fun show, it’s a great show to do. There’s always going to be a place, I believe, in network television for a show that’s shot in front of a live audience. They’re fun to shoot, and they can be fun to watch. But it is more of a challenge to keep them pertinent and relevant and sharp. It is, I think, a little bit more of a challenge than single-camera shows. This show is, I think, this season, really starting to realize its potential a bit more. We have a great cast; everybody gets along great, and I love everybody in the cast. I feel like the show really should have a life.
As someone who’s been married for a long time, do you find Jeff as a character to be close to your personal experience?
Yeah, he does. [Jeff and Audrey] don’t have kids. I’m in much deeper than Jeff: four kids and four dogs. He may have been married for 14 years, but [he's] not exactly as tied in there. When you have four kids, you’re committed. When you don’t have any kids, and you live in New York City, you can just split. I think it’s pretty real. What I like that the writers are doing with the character is that although Jeff can be full of gripes at times, he’s multifaceted, and you can see that [he and Audrey] are still into each other. And they’ve gotta be, otherwise you ask yourself, "What the hell are these two people doing together?" I think it’s pretty realistic. And then you’ve got the couple that are living in the dream world, everything’s great, and then you’ve got the dirtbag.
What other comedies on TV do you enjoy?
I do laugh now when I watch The Office. I did not want to like The Office. I did not like The Office the first two seasons, but then it grew on me. I like the British version, but now I enjoy watching our American version of The Office. I think it’s got a great cast, and it’s very funny, and I like that kind of humor.
Which of your roles do people most often recognize you for and want to talk to you about?
I get [Puddy from Seinfeld] a lot. I find I get the Tick almost as much, and I think because The Tick never got near the kind of exposure that Seinfeld got, obviously. It was just a nine-episode show, but it’s had this wonderful little life on DVD, and it was a clever show. People really seem to have enjoyed The Tick. I think because it’s odd and quirky and not mainstream, that people that are fans of The Tick love to talk about it, bring it up, and I certainly appreciate that. I felt like it was something special when we made it, and it was very disappointing when our network was not going to support it. I guess about eight years later, we proved the network wrong. Once again, the guys in suits made a big, big mistake, and they’re all big jerks.
With all the success of superhero movies these days, have you been approached about the possibility of a Tick movie?
Every now and then it gets brought up. Barry Sonnenfeld I know wants to do the Tick movie. It’d be great to do a Tick movie. I’m going to call Barry today, because you brought that up. I have to.