Tommy Dewey Compares Pivoting To Casual And Voiceover Work On Rugrats - Exclusive Interview

Fans of the Hulu original series "Casual" will remember Tommy Dewey for his leading role as Alex in the comedy-drama. He's also had roles in "Now We're Talking," "The Mindy Project," and voices Stu on the Paramount+/Nickelodeon series "Rugrats." His most recent series, "Pivoting," aired its first episode on January 9, 2022. The comedy follows a group of three women played by Eliza Coupe, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Maggie Q as they mourn the loss of the fourth member of their friend group. Dewey stars in the series as Henry, the husband of Coupe's character Amy.

With the first season now airing, Dewey sat down for an exclusive interview with The List to discuss his role. Throughout the interview, Dewey shared what's next for Henry, what it's like working with Coupe, and some of his favorite memories from behind the scenes. The actor also discussed his past work on "Casual" and upcoming projects we'll see later this year.

How Pivoting balances humor and emotion

In your new show, "Pivoting," it's really interesting because it's exploring grief, but it's also very entertaining. What do you think about the way it kind of balances that serious subject with also the comedy?

Well, I think it strikes the right tone. I think one reason it does so is because it's born from real events in Liz Astrof's life. Liz created the show, so I think she has this really acerbic, irreverent sense of humor, and I think she applied it to her own grief, so it rings true. It certainly did for me, and I think it's real. I do think people are scared of looking at grief, but I think gallows humor is okay. In fact, sometimes it's the only way through. It's not making fun of the tragic event. In fact, I think what the show is saying is that when things get too tragic, sometimes humor is the way to ... not move past it, but live with it.

Yeah, absolutely. And then do you feel like the viewers will find that approach refreshing as opposed to a drama handling a subject like that?

I think so. There are great dramas that employ humor really well, but I think sometimes, a drama can get really precious with this stuff. And if every scene is pulling at your heart strings in a certain way, it can be numbing. I think "Pivoting," as you said, strikes that balance of [being] rooted in real emotion, and some scenes just play for the emotion, which I really appreciate about this show. I think if you go to that place too often, they wear you out, in terms of entertainment [and] what you're watching.

And do you feel you have any similarities with your character Henry on the show?

I do. I'm not nearly as chill. One reason I was really excited to play this guy [is because] I was coming off of a show called "Casual" where I was ... I had a lot of issues and did have a lot in common with that character as well. So I thought this maybe... I'm half kidding, but maybe this will be good therapy for me to slip into the shoes of a guy who handles chaos well. I think Henry is fun loving. He's always looking to turn something into a good time. He has a dry sense of humor about even the most dire circumstances, and I do have that in common. We were talking about gallows humor earlier. My defense mechanism when things get rough is humor, and I think Henry does that.

Dewey reveals what it was like working with Eliza Coupe on Pivoting

What is it like playing opposite Eliza Coupe in the show?

It's the best. Eliza and I met on that show "Casual" on Hulu. She played my first girlfriend on the show, so we had a trial run at this, and for whatever reason, we occupy the same comedic frequency — we know where the other is going in a scene. We laugh a lot. We blow a lot of takes, but we ... I don't want to speak for her, but getting in that funny mood where we are blowing takes is part of the method. If we can stay in that place all day long, I think we end up with some really good spontaneous-looking stuff. She's one of the funniest people I know, and I think she's great on the show.

Do you have any favorite memories from filming with her?

I do. I have many, but there's a couple that come to mind. I don't know what this says about me, but my favorite memories are when we couldn't get through a scene, which I'm sure are not the favorite memories of the crew people, who just wanted to go home to their families. There's a scene where things are heating up in the bedroom for a kind of funny reason, I don't want to spoil why, but we could not get the last two lines of the scene out.

In fact, I don't know that we ever did. We may have had to cut out of the scene, but I haven't seen a cut of that episode yet. Then there's a scene later in the season also, where Henry is taking on a new hobby at which he is absolutely terrible. Again, I just couldn't stop laughing. That's the stuff that makes this job great. I think I'm really proud of the work and even some of the heavier scenes, but my favorite memories are getting to go and laugh for 12 hours and then come back home. It's a good gig.

Reconnecting with old costars and plans for Season 2 of Pivoting

Like you said, you previously worked with her on "Casual." What was it like getting to reconnect for this project?

It was great, and in fact, made the decision to do the show really easy. When they called to ask me about it, they said, "Well, Eliza would be playing your wife." It's so hard to align the stars to get a show made, much less a good show, and to have that big component already in place. I was like, "Great." I knew I loved working with her, and I knew the pilot script was incredible, was funny, and it was emotional. It made that piece of it really easy.

Another interesting thing is there was a bit of an unknown, which is the fun [and challenging] part of it, right? It's a very different relationship in "Casual." It's a very troubled, very heavy... "Casual" was much more of a dramedy than "Pivoting" was. I don't know if that's totally fair to say, but ["Casual" is] more dramatic for sure, whereas ["Pivoting" has] lighter, quicker, harder jokes. I had a sense that we'd be able to pull it off, but it was ... I'm rambling now, but it was the perfect setup. I know we've got the foundation there. I know we work well together. Now, can we translate that into a slightly different kind of show?

If there's a Season 2 of "Pivoting," is there anywhere you'd like to see your character go?

I think you'll see the beginnings of this in the end of Season 2, and it's something I talked to Liz, the creator, about a fair amount, which is always ... just a little bit of cheesy actor talk. You always want your character to be layered and to be revealing new layers and exploring your soul in a certain way. I've always thought that Henry's buoyancy is a little bit of a cover for some deeper, darker stuff. I think that's where I'd like to see him head, not in any heavy way, but I think Henry needs to do some pivoting of his own. He's the slightest bit hiding behind this [idea of], "Hey now, I'm just a good guy, and I keep my family together." I think he has some wants and needs of his own, so I think seeing Henry crack open a little bit will be fun. Seeing Henry under stress and maybe being a little less capable at times would be fun, new territory for him.

How Dewey became the voice of Rugrats' Stu

Switching gears a little bit, you're also playing Stu on "Rugrats" now. How did you first get into voice acting, and what's that experience been like?

At some point, probably six, seven years ago, I thought, I've never really done ... I'd auditioned for some voiceover-type commercial stuff early in my career, but I'd never really done any animation or anything. I talked to my manager about getting a voiceover agent, and we took some meetings and got it. I could not get a foothold for the longest time. Animation's a pretty small world. There are a lot of talented people in it, so aside from a couple of little things, "Rugrats" was really my first big animation gig. I kept submitting tapes and doing my version of things. It's a different beast from the on-camera acting thing.

The journey is actually not that interesting. It's my first big gig, and it happens to be "Rugrats," which is huge. It's amazing, but they very quickly made me very comfortable there. The truth of it is, it's a little bit of a different skillset, but the fundamentals are the same. You want to bring humor and emotionality to it and all that stuff. That job's a blast, especially [because] during the pandemic, they send me a bunch of equipment, so I do it in the closet in my guest room. Come on, that's a good day of work too.

What's it been like doing a reboot of a popular '90s cartoon?

Well, it's awesome, and there's a certain built-in audience. Another great thing is that ... I've got some nieces and nephews in their early 20s. Not that they didn't appreciate my work before, but they were real excited that I had joined "Rugrats" because they grew up on it. It postdates me a little bit, although I certainly watched a bunch of it. I think the key to jumping into a show with any kind of iconic status is to not think about it, just stay away from it. Because this guy, Jack Riley, was the original Stu, and he's amazing. 

So I had to ... I didn't go back and watch anything because I thought I didn't want to end up doing a cheap imitation. I did my thing and trusted the powers that be at Nickelodeon, Paramount+, and especially the great team that makes "Rugrats," to steer me in the right direction.

Dewey explains what made Casual a 'special experience'

Like we mentioned before, you also starred in "Casual." What did you enjoy about playing Alex on that show?

I loved everything about that gig. I have to give credit where it's due to the wonderful Michaela Watkins and also Tara Lynne Barr, who played my niece on that show. Michaela and I spent four years in the trenches together making that, and I love her like a sister. Working with her was incredible, but also it's ... you talk about layers. That show got dark and deep and was really challenging, but also really funny. ... I could talk about "Casual" all day long, but what it allowed, from an acting standpoint, you got to play every key on the keyboard, right?

It could be super emotional. It could be laugh-out-loud funny. There was a little bit of physical comedy, and it just felt really real. I think Alex spoke to some of what I was going through at the time. Alex's experience being in a much more extreme fashion. I miss that show. One thing I do love and appreciate Hulu for is that we got to tell the whole story. Zander Lehmann, who created it, knew where he wanted it to end, and he got to end it on those terms. It feels complete, [and] as you know, so many shows can get jerked out from under you, and you don't get to put that last act on them.

And do you have any favorite memories from behind the scenes working with Michaela Watkins or the rest of the cast?

That was an absolute laugh fest too. Maybe I'm the problem, now that I'm explaining it. I remember the last week working on that show. The last episode was a really emotional one. Wrapping up the show, personally, was really emotional. It was a one of a kind, important, special experience to go on that multi-year journey with a job, with someone as great as Michaela. I have snapshots in my head of that last week of being with her and thinking how lucky we were. We were pretty teary the whole week, but also taking the time to appreciate the experience. Michaela remains one of my best friends. I see her all the time, talked to her yesterday. I feel really lucky for that one.

How Dewey felt writing an episode of Casual

Along with acting on "Casual," you also wrote an episode. What was that like?

That was great. I wrote it with Michaela. It's good. That's been my other gig since college. I'm a writer as well, and it was my first time doing it for something that I was starring in ... I guess, your instinct would be to think that must make it easier. I think our episode came out great, but when we first sat down in front of a blank screen, I think we were both struck with the feeling of, "Oh my God, I hope we don't screw this up." Someone else has been writing the voices of these characters so well, it took a little bit of mental gymnastics to switch into writer mode and write from the outside looking in. The experience of playing the character is a little different, but I loved it.

I'm so grateful for that opportunity. It made me want to do more of that stuff, write for stuff that I am in. It came in the third season, so we felt like we had a safety net. If you'd asked me to write one of the first five episodes, I'd be like, "Oh my God, I'm going to screw this up and get fired from both jobs." It was great.

And then on the flip side of it, what was it like to then act what you'd helped write?

Then, you have to toggle back over to actor mode. The experience of shooting it was great because even if we weren't in the scene, we were on set. As you do in television, the writer oftentimes produces their own episode. I should probably leave it at that. I think the acting was fun and worked out well, but the real excitement there was I got to be on set for days that I wouldn't normally be there. I'm watching Michaela do scenes with other people, I'm watching Tara do scenes with other people from the monitors. I'm able to appreciate their work and see them work without being in there with them. The writing of that episode gave me an opportunity to do that, which was great.

Dewey shares upcoming projects

Do you have any other writing projects you're currently working on or that you're hoping to write in the future?

I've been hitting the marketplace with a couple of new writing project,s currently, and a couple of things coming out. There's a movie I did a couple years ago that'll be out soon, but that hasn't been announced. I am doing a little recurring gig on the HBO show, "Perry Mason." I don't know when Season 2 airs, but that's been a blast. I'm working on that now. That was just announced. My involvement was just announced [over a week] ago. Talk about switching gears, going to 1930s LA and putting on all those incredible three-piece suits and fedoras. That's what makes this job fun, among all the other crap I'm waxing nostalgic about [in this interview], is the variety. "Pivoting" one day, "Perry Mason" the next. I'm pinching myself here.

You can see Tommy Dewey in "Pivoting" on Thursdays at 9:30 PM ET on FOX.