Tonight, we're actually making a little television history: NBC's Working The Engels is the first show to ever be jointly produced by broadcasters in both the United States and Canada. It's also a quirky, charming family comedy about people that mean well and tend to screw a lot of things up. To discuss both those aspects of the show, we checked in this week with series star Benjamin Arthur, the charming and engaging actor who plays Jimmy Arthur - the family's only son and criminal turned psuedo-investigator at their law firm. Here's what he had to say about his new role.
"This was something that jumped right off the page immediately," he enthused. "This was before I found out Andrea Martin was cast in it. I was excited about the character, to be honest. As soon as I read it, I knew I could have a lot of fun with the character - and I really loved the family aspect of it. It's not necessarily a workplace comedy."
"I think that everyone can relate to it," Benjamin continued. "If you have a job, or have had a job, that you're not necessarily that great at, [or] have a family...Everyone has a brother like Jimmy. We all have someone we know who has a crazy mother, or maybe it's our mother who's crazy!"
When it came to the making of the series, he enjoyed the opportunity to work with a number of alums from SCTV - Canada's equivalent of SNL - including Andrea Martin, who stars alongside him as Jimmy's mother Ceil, as well as Eugene Levy and Martin Short.
"We had Martin Short on the show, and he was someone who I've looked up to for years," Benjamin told us. "When you're an actor and you're in a scene with someone like Martin Short, you step away and allow him to be funny. And as a cast, it's a great episode."
"Jason Priestley directed four episodes," he added. "He's a great director. It's so refreshing to have someone on set, coming from an acting standpoint. Who if you ask a question will literally walk you through a scene. I've never actually worked with a director who acts and I wouldn't trade it for the world."
He told us that another unique point of Working The Engels is the show's different perspective and tone. "There's not a lot of strong female-driven shows out there. This is a very strong female voice," he explained. "I am the only male character in the entire show, except for the guest stars that come on. And it's refreshing. It's something that my mom is in love with. My grandmother's watching it. I think that's very important."
"The comedy is so positive compared to a lot of other things. It's just always got a positive vibe," he continued, telling us he's particularly enjoyed "the writing, and Andrea Martin and what she brings every day to that set. She has more energy than we all do!"
This is the actor and writer's second series regular role; he played Josh Blecher on another Canadian series, the award-winning comedy-drama Less Than Kind, from 2008 to 2013. The Kids in the Hall veteran Mark McKinney served as showrunner, writer and director, while the late Maury Chaykin starred as Josh's father Sam. To go from that project to being a part of Working The Engels with another talented ensemble, Benjamin is excited and humbled.
"I got really lucky," he reflected. "A lot of people work their asses off for years and they don't ever get a chance to be on a show, and actually work on a character and an arc. I feel completely blessed that I've been able to take on characters and work with them over the course of thirteen episodes."
Hopefully, the Engels will stick around for more than thirteen.
Working The Engels premieres tonight at 9:30 PM ET/PT on NBC.