1600 Penn is NBC’s new ensemble family comedy—where the family just happens to be the First Family. But since the show was developed with comedic actor Josh Gad as his first television vehicle, he is the center of the show at the start. In order for you to fall in love with 1600 Penn, you’re going to have to fall in love with Gad. But according to show executive producer Jason Winer, that should be pretty easy.
“He is a tornado of talent,” Winter said of Gad when LA TV Insider Examiner was on set with 1600 Penn in Los Angeles last month.
“Skip is just a tornado. But he actually has a lot of qualities that other members of the family need to learn from. The President, Bill Pullman’s character, is a guy who’s great at addressing the crowd but not great when it comes to expressing emotions to his children. Skip is nothing but heart. The thing he understands above all else is emotion, and so this President, this father, has something to learn from his son, who at first seems like a thorn in his side. And that’s the kind of thing we mean when we say the characters deepen and dimensionalize as we go. You’ll realize Skip is a cog that keeps this family together. He’s kind of an emotional genius, not to overstate it.”
But Skip is also an overgrown child if there ever was one—and for that reason, Winer laughed that he’s “probably a virgin” because of how “sweet and innocent” he is.
In the pilot episode, Skip leads a seemingly harmless prank at a frat house that goes horribly wrong. Since Skip is the President’s son, he is immediately hauled into protective custody of sorts by Secret Service agents. He doesn’t receive special treatment, though, and he finds himself off campus and back home in the White House as a result. There he continues his well-intentioned but terribly executed streak of “helping,” which allows for the bulk of the show’s situational humor.
“As you get into the episodes past the pilot, there is a sense of Skip’s maturation and Skip learning from some of his mistakes, while always being kind of the clumsy foil to his father and some of the other characters,” Gad said.
“This isn’t somebody that’s going to become grating; this isn’t somebody who’s just going to annoy you week after week with his antics. You’ll see this lovable side to him, I think, a lot.”
Skip’s soft, sweet side will come out around his family, namely his sister Becca (Martha MacIsaac) who finds herself pregnant in the pilot episode, and who Skip tries to help bond with the father of her baby. But it will also come out in his own romantic pursuits. Stuck with not much to do but wander the White House, it is not long before a young political employee catches Skip’s eye.
“Skip does have an on-again, off-again love interest through the first season. You meet her pretty early on. She’s played by Susan Park, and she is a very awkward wallflower who works in the mailroom who Skip just thinks is the greatest thing in the world and paints her with a very romantic brush. He’s constantly freaking her out with his overly romantic gestures,” Winer said.
“After a notable and very public early romantic failure, he gets a chance at a comeback.”
1600 Penn airs on NBC on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m.
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