When an actor lands a recurring role, he might not worry about job security. However, when you're playing James Novak on the hit ABC series Scandal, anything -- or anyone -- goes. In Dan Bucatinsky's case, that meant saying goodbye to a role that earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in 2013.
"James has to die." Those were the four words Bucatinsky recalls from the phone conversation he had with Shonda Rimes when she gave him the news. And just like that, he was filming his death scene, one that went down as one of the most shocking of the 2013-2014 TV season. "If you have to die on the show, that's the way to do it," the Buctainsky says. While a mixed bag of emotions ("I can't say I was thrilled"), Bucatinsky came out the other side of it with several projects that would keep him on TV -- just not ABC.
The day after being killed off Scandal, NBC announced that he'd joined Casey Wilson's new NBC sitcom Marry Me. Then, less than two months later, HBO officially announced the return of The Comeback, the critically adored series starring Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a D-list actress trying to make her return to center stage. Add to that Kudrow and Bucatinsky's other series, Web Therapy, which was already renewed for a fourth season, and the 48-year-old actor (now 49) found himself having an "it" moment.
All three shows will premiere in the next month, starting with Marry Me on Tuesday, Oct. 14, giving fans the opportunity to see Bucatinsky back in the comedy world where they first got to know him. In Marry Me, Bucatinsky plays one of two gay dads (both named Kevin) to Wilson's Annie. The characters are based on a real couple with the same name that Wilson and her husband, series creator David Caspe, both know. "It's a very different kind of gay dad," he says of the part, which pairs him with Tim Meadows. "Tim and I couldn't be more different, and yet we get along great. We oddly have some great chemistry."
Yet, it's Wilson whom Bucatinsky has developed a real connection with. "Casey has a way that's also original, but it brings a kind of universal spirit to someone that you feel like you've hung out with, you've slept with, you've drank with, and you've watched the Housewives with." Add his growing relationship with Wilson to the decade-long partnership (and even longer friendship) he has with Kudrow, and you could argue that Bucatinsky is starting to build his coven of funny women.
While the two have been continuously working together on Web Therapy, which Bucatinsky co-created with his husband Don Roos, it's The Comeback that has received the most attention. Bucatinsky and Kudrow re-teamed with Michael Patrick King to bring the series back after a nine-year hiatus. It hasn't been without its challenges. "This was a lot of material, some of it dark and heavy and layered, with a very limited amount of time," he explains of the series' second season, which was developed and produced in less than six months.
While the fans' reception to the show's return -- which will see Valerie starring in a scripted version of her time on the set of her supposed comeback series, Room & Board -- is yet to be determined, Bucatinsky is confident in the outcome. "We did it in a way that didn't make us look back or second-guess our instincts."
When the HBO series premieres on Sunday, Nov. 9, one might think Bucatinsky will take some time to relax and reflect on a banner year, but that's not an option. Amid shooting Marry Me and editing both The Comeback and Web Therapy, he's writing a pilot and is in pre-production on the TLC series, Who Do You Think You Are? There is no rest for the weary -- not that Bucatinsky would admit that. "I'm happiest when I'm moving forward. So I'll have time to look back at some point."