Fans of the American version of The Office recognize Leslie David Baker from his years spent as Stanley, a disgruntled paper salesman who only perks up on “pretzel day.”
We caught up with the Chicago native to chat about his experience filming Still The King before the CMT series premieres Sunday (June 12) at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
How would you describe the experience of filming in Nashville?
Very much fun. Everyone was so warm and gracious. The people of Nashville, the few I got to meet, were very welcoming, the cast and crew were so relaxed, and it felt like we had been doing this project for years. I had a really fun time.
Did you have an favorite local Nashville spot?
I went to Hattie B’s [a hot chicken restaurant], and it was delicious.
How did living and working in Nashville compare to L.A.?
It’s much more relaxed in terms of the overall dynamic of production. People didn’t seem as tense or fearful. It was just a relaxed atmosphere, the pacing was good, and I just enjoyed it immensely.
What do you think viewers are going to enjoy most about your character, Curtis?
Although he’s blind, he can see more than you would literally expect him to be able to. His insights go further than his sight. He is fully cognizant of a lot of things going on, but he sits back and lets things play out.
What was it like playing a blind character?
Once they popped those contact lenses in, which I called the “buttermilk eyes,” it really wasn’t difficult to be blind because I really couldn’t see that much. It’s like when you’re in an airplane and you’re flying through the fog. It wasn’t a matter of pretending I couldn’t see because I really couldn’t see well.
Similar to your work on The Office, Still The King relies on an ensemble cast that feed off of each other. How long did it take the Still The King cast to get to that level of group chemistry?
It was almost immediate. It was the type of energy that when you get it in a room, it’s like a perfume that doesn’t take long to infuse the room. The episodes I did flew by, which is always a good sign to me when I’m doing a project, when I can go in and it feels like I’ve always been there on the set with those actors, and it feels like I never left when I come back. It felt very natural, which for me is always an indication that it’s going to be a hit show.
How was it working with Billy Ray Cyrus?
Billy Ray is just a wonderful, wonderful man. He is kind, he is welcoming, he is open to suggestions, he’s just hilarious to laugh and joke with. He feels like somebody that I’ve known for years. We had a good time.
Do you have a favorite line that your character said?
When we were out filming, and I (Curtis) was smelling this man, and I was like, “Who is this old geezer?” and I was just standing there smelling him at a roadside fireworks display. I remember we were laughing so hard when we were trying to film that scene.
We noticed that you’re not on any social media platforms. Is there a particular reason you’ve stayed away from all of that craziness?
I stayed away from all of that early on because when I was doing The Office, people would show up at some of our houses. It worked out better for me to stay off of social media at the time because people are subject to go and misinterpret what you say, and then you end up having to clarify and straighten it out and all that. You can’t accuse me of having said anything if I’m not there to say anything. That’s not to say I’m not on social media, because people take photos of me practically every day of my life, and I meet fans, which I’m always grateful when they come up to me and want to take photos. But as far as sitting down and talking to strangers on the world wide airwaves, and I say. “I’m eating a hamburger,” and they say, “Why aren’t you a vegetarian?” Unfortunately there are some not-so-nice people using social media, and that has proven to be complicated for other actors that I’ve known.
How do you like to spend your days off?
Like anybody else, I go to the grocery store, I went out this morning for breakfast with some friends. I’m packing to go to Chicago to check on some relatives. I try to get back to Chicago at least twice a year.
What kind of music are you listening to these days?
Oh, my gosh, I’m listening to everything from Bruno Mars to Beyonce, to Arthea Franklin and Patti LaBelle. I want to get to New York to see Audra McDonald in Shuffle Along, I’ve heard it’s fabulous. I haven’t seen Hamilton yet, I’ve got to get to New York and see that.
If you could be on any TV show (other than Still The King, of course) that’s on-air right now, which would you pick?
Oh, anything by Shonda Rhimes and Empire. There are some good things on now.
Of course one of those “good things” is Still The King, which premieres Sunday (June 12) at 9 p.m. ET/PT.