This is a great Friday Question that I felt deserved its own post.
It’s from cd1515:
Is it important when writing comedy that you actually like the character and/or the actor playing it?
If the person's a douche, is there ever a feeling of "why would I want to make THAT person look good?" and maybe give the funnier stuff to someone else in the cast you like better?
First let me say this does exist. But the percentage of actors who are truly monsters is very very low. The overwhelming majority of actors I’ve worked with (in television, features, and the stage) are lovely hard-working people and are a joy to collaborate with. There are creative differences at times, and occasionally a writer may grumble over an actor note but that’s just the process and human nature. I’m sure your boss or co-workers do things or ask for things that bug you from time to time. But it’s not intolerable. This post centers on those extreme cases when actors are hateful.
And the short answer is you bust to ass to make the script as good as possible, even if that means making the douchebag look better. It kills you but you do it.
You do it because you’re a professional. You do it because it’s your job. You do it because you don’t have “fuck you” money (yet).
But it does take every ounce of perseverance and tolerance you've got.
And it takes its toll, both physically and psychically. Especially if you’re on a weekly series, you just can’t put yourself through that for any extended period of time before you wind up in a cardiac ward or Betty Ford. You will burn out.
There’s a reason there was so much turnover on ROSEANNE, COSBY, CYBILL, and GRACE UNDER FIRE to cite just a few. Writers with any real talent leave.
And you can't give funnier lines to other cast members because the star will intercept them and take the lines for themselves (even if the jokes no longer make sense).
Unfortunately, nightmare stars know that writers will still give their best regardless so they feel they can get away with their bad behavior. Thus you hate them more, if that’s even possible.
The big question writers ask is whether the star is worth it? If your star is beloved and your show is a big hit it makes it easier to suck it up than if you’re writing for Rob Schneider and no one’s watching. Can you at least get a Goddamn Emmy out of it?
One thing writers don’t do, however, is go out of their way for these monsters.
Now, what about when a supporting cast member is an asshole? Then you give him the best material you can but try to give him as little to do as possible. If he or she becomes too much of a problem and isn’t key to the success of the series you get rid of him.
Still, as a writer you do the best you can despite your personal feelings. Remember, the audience doesn’t care.
All that said, after you’ve worked on a show with one of these ogres, when you then work with a lovely cast you are that much more appreciative. And you go out of your way times ten for them. God bless the Ted Dansons of the world.
Meanwhile, when was the last time you saw Cybill Shepherd on a series? As opposed to say Christine Baranski?