Do you like the world of Game of Thrones, but wish all the nudity and violence was replaced by humorous song and dance? While that's a very odd thing to wish, ABC's Galavant offers just that show. With a strong musical core thanks to composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors), Galavant creates a medieval world that's part Monty Python and the Holy Grail, part Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and part pure meta silliness.
The show also boasts a Seattle connection in the form of Timothy Omundson. The actor, probably best known for his role as the uptight Detective Carlton Lassiter on Psych, grew up in Bellevue and got his start performing on local stages as a kid. In Galavant, he plays King Richard, the season one villain turned the titular hero best pal.
You can watch Omundson's Richard try to reclaim his throne (mostly through song) when Galavant's second season premieres this Sunday, January 3 at 8 on ABC. (And if you missed season one, all eight episodes can be streamed for free on ABC.com.)
For our latest Fiendish Conversation, we chatted with Omundson about the rarity of Americans getting to play (let alone sing) British royalty, getting his start at the Empty Space and Seattle Children's Theatre, and his mighty beard.
What are some of the things that delight you about playing King Richard?
Oh my gosh. It’s all pretty delicious. I guess playing an English king, first of all. As an American, getting to play English royalty is particularly wonderful since we never get cast to play Englishmen. So all my actor buddies, this one’s for them. They all have expressed equal delight in me getting cast in this role.
It’s all so good. Every day is just gleeful. This style of comedy is so up my alley. It’s everything I grew up loving, and to get to do it on a daily basis is incredible.
Are there certain kings or other things from pop culture that you drew upon when deciding how to play Richard?
You know, it’s funny. When I first read the script, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. I was going over the lines with my wife, and she looked and me and literally said, “What the hell are you doing?” Because it was so bold and big. And I went no, no, no, it’s gotta be this. It has to be this big. I have to swing for the fences. Otherwise, there’s no point in doing it.
I’m hugely influenced, as many, by Monty Python. Growing up in Seattle we were able get BBC on… I think it was on the UHF. So a lot of people my age didn’t necessarily grow up watching Python in America, ‘cause we just didn’t have it. But because we were close to the border, I was able to get it. So I may have had an unfair advantage in that regard. Mel Brooks was another one. Just this irreverent, silly, but sort of poignant style of funny that I love. I think those were entry points.
Vocally, there’s a little bit of a Prince John from Disney’s animated Robin Hood in there that just was stuck in my head from when I saw it when I was a kid. You sort of go back into the hard drive and you don’t even know what’s influencing you at this point, but those are some of the ones off the top of my head.
You mentioned how rare it is to be an American English king, but there also aren’t that many singing roles on screen these days. Was the opportunity to sing something else that kind of drew you to the part?
Absolutely. I was on a show for eight years prior to Galavant called Psych, and we did a musical. We did a full blown, two-hour musical. In fact, [even from the time of the] pilot we were talking about [doing a musical], because everyone on the cast sang and the creator of that show is a musician; he wrote the theme song and performed it. And we’re like this is kind of a no-brainer. But writing a musical, when you don’t do it every day, is a very difficult thing. So it took him eight years to do it, and by then lots of shows have sort of done their musical versions. But when we did it, I think we took it a little more seriously. Most of those shows have a song or two, but we did it operatic.
And it rekindled this love of musical theater that I’d forgotten about. I did all the musicals in high school, and then when I got to theater school, I fancied myself as very serious, very serious student. I was doing classical theater. I was doing Chekov and Shakespeare. That was what I wanted to do. So I sort of shunned the musical. And doing that Psych musical just brought it all back. I’d forgotten how much I utterly loved it. Then I was just like why is this not a part of my professional life? I’d always sort of sung, but never really seriously. Careful what you wish for, because the first job out of the gate after eight years was not just a musical, but Alan Menken musical, which is about as big as they come. So I immediately put myself back into school voice class to learn how to sing. [Laughs]
I would go to these vocal coaches as I was preparing for the audition. From the first audition to finally getting it, it took me five months to get this job, because they did want an English movie star. They wanted someone of British fame to play this role, ‘cause it’s one of the anchor roles. And so in the mean time, what that afforded me was to get back into class. I would go to these teachers and they’d all say the same thing, “You have a lovely instrument! You have absolutely no technique whatsoever.” Sorry! I guess I’m a quick study.
In what ways do you feel like growing up in Seattle influenced your approach to acting?
Well it’s very simple. I took my first drama class in 7th grade and loved it. At the same time, I don’t know if they still do it, but the Bellevue School District where I grew up did a play every year. It was an all district play, and I immediately got involved in that. I was cast in the chorus of Oliver. So I did those productions all through high school, but by the time I was 13 I had kind, not outgrown, but I realized I wanted more than Highland Junior High was offering me in the drama classes. So I started studying at Seattle Children’s Theater, and in 1984 I was part of the very first young actors training program that they did, which is a pretty intensive summer program.
I think even a few years before, I took part in a playwriting workshop, and that’s where I first met David Pichette who is an amazing, amazing local Seattle actor. He didn’t necessarily mentor me, but he had a great influence on me. I probably And then when I was in high school, I started interning at the Empty Space. I sort of finished enough credits to graduate high school, so my afternoons were spent several days a week driving into Seattle and interning there. And David happened to be doing three shows there, so I got to see him do three different shows from start to finish and just being in that environment, being at Empty Space with such amazing creative people, I felt at home. For a 17-year-old kid who wasn’t great at a lot of things, and awkward like most 17 year olds are, it was a really tremendously formative experience.
In fact, the day before I flew to California to audition for theater school, I asked David if he would look at my monologues. We went into the main stage of the Empty Space, we threw on the work lights, and I hopped on stage and I did these monologues for him. And he was like no, no, no, and he hopped on stage and he played Yorick to my Hamlet and Edmond to my Jamie from Long Days Journey Into the Night, without any dialog but just sitting there. And I still to this day can picture his face acting these roles without any lines. I credit him for getting me into theater school.
Do you have a favorite memory of like a favorite role in Seattle Children’s Theater or high school or like one that sticks out?
Probably the first production I did at Seattle Children’s Theater was this workshop of Frankenstein. It was just amazing. I work studied at Seattle Children’s Theater too, so I worked in the office. And just even driving into Seattle as a 16-year-old who just got his license—to be a part of something like that, even to go work in the offices at the theater school which was up near Fremont where Pacific Northwest Ballet was at the time—just to feel a part of that community was a very special thing.
And then in high school, I think my senior year, I played Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls, and that was pretty cool. That’s one I still would like to try out someday before I get too old. I can do it a little bit better now. [Laughs] I can at least grow my own mustache.
[Laughs] Was growing a wicked beard one of the other draws of Galavant?
I kid you not, it was. I was very clean cut character on Psych, and the second that show would end, I would not shave until someone paid me to cut it. Give me a job and I’ll shave it off. So I made this sort of wish list of what that next job would be [after Psych], and one of them was I wanted to sing more and another, was amongst many things on the list, was I want to do a period piece so I can keep my beard. And boy, again, careful what you wish for.
What are you most excited for viewers to see in the second season of Galavant?
I cannot wait for people to see where Richard goes this season. Last season we went from him being this sort of evil king to breaking him down to this broken man singing a lullaby to his best friend. And we spend this season building him up. He starts as this buffoon and ends, I don’t want to give it away—well it’s given away in the opening song—we build him in to this one true king. We build him into this heroic, sort of romantic lead, which was incredible to get to play. I’m so grateful to these writers for giving me this opportunity, and I think people are just gonna love it. He’s such a loveable buffoon of a character, and to then see him become something other than a buffoon and sort of earn your love in other ways, I’m really excited for.
Our actors are just such an amazing talented group of people and the writers really wrote for everybody this year. The character development is just beyond anything. I think they’re gonna tune in to see this silly, funny little romp, and get caught up in some of the emotion that I think will surprise them.
Galavant: Season 2 Premiere
Jan 3 at 8 on ABC