Fans fell in love with Amber Stevens West when she portrayed Ashleigh Howard on ABC Family’s hit drama Greek. Since Amber has guest starred on a number of shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Friends with Benefits, How I met Your Mother Mother and Chasing Life.
Amber’s new project The Carmichael Show premieres tomorrow night on NBC at 9/8c.
Read our interview with Amber below.
Tell us a little but about your audition process for the Carmichael show.
“Jerrod has had a deal with NBC Universal for a little while now. He had a version of this show that he did a year ago. I met Jerrod during that audition process. I went in, I was filming 22 Jump Street at the time, but I was home for a little while in between shoot days. I came and I read for him for his original pilot, and we totally hit it off. I had a really great audition. I usually go into an audition room and immediately forget about the audition. I walk in, walk out and say okay, it’s up to the universe now if I’m going to do this.
But for some reason that job stuck with me, and I kept calling my manager and being like, “Is that something that’s going to happen, because I really enjoyed him, and I think that this could be really fun. I’ve always wanted to do multi cam sitcoms.” I just kept thinking about it. I suppose Jerrod felt the same way because I think he wanted me to do that one, but I couldn’t because of the scheduling with 22 Jump Street.
They made that version of the show. NBC decided they wanted to scrap it, but continue to work with Jerrod and redo the pilot. So the following year, I went back in again for Jerrod and all the producers and everyone to be a part of this, what is now the Carmichael Show. I met him a long time ago, and we had run into each other because we have friends in common, and stuff, and kept each other in mind. I think I was the only choice for this show, so I got really lucky!”
That’s awesome. For the original pilot, were you still playing Jerrod’s girlfriend? What’s the character you auditioned for?
“Yeah, I think she was the girlfriend, but they didn’t live together. It was a very different show. Completely different. It wasn’t a family show. There were different people in it. Different scenario and everything, but I think it was to play his girlfriend as well.”
So this version is completely different?
“Completely different. This a very different concept of the television show.”
Had you met Jerrod prior to last year’s audition? Have you seen him do comedy before?
“No, not really. I’m not someone who keeps up with stand up comedy that much. I really am not cool [laughs], and I don’t know who the biggest people are in the game, but once I met him I decided to look him up, and realized how hilarious he was. That’s what also intrigued me about being a part of his original project. I was like, “This guy’s really funny. He’s got something interesting.” The fact that he was 25 or 26 at the time and he had this deal with NBC, it’s like he’s got something really special for them to take someone that young so seriously and give him so much power over making his own show. I became a fan once I met him.”
Tell us about Maxine. We know she’s a therapist and his live-in girlfriend, but what else can you tell us about her?
“She’s just a really smart girl, and she’s a very open-minded liberal thinker. She plays well against the rest of the family members because they’re kind of like-minded people, with their own very particular views, sometimes a little close minded. I’m sometimes the voice of reason, or I’m the one that brings the new information to everybody. I really like playing the smart one. I’ve played a lot of dim-witted girls, so this is really exciting!”
Did they give you a back story? How long have Jerrod and Maxine been together?
“We talked about it, and I think we decided they’ve been together about a year. It’s not new, but they’re not totally set with each other yet. In the pilot, they’ve just moved in together, so they’re just taking that big next step. They’ve still got a lot of learning to do, as one does when they first move in with somebody.”
Do you have a favorite scene from the pilot?
“What happens in the pilot? I’ve got to think about this for a second. [laughs]. I think I like all the stuff that happens with the family. My favorite is the scene with Jerrod avoiding telling his parents about us. He’s very good at getting us to change the subject because he comes up with really thought-provoking conversation topics, and it immediately distracts everybody, and everyone wants to take part in a conversation like that. He even fools me, and that’s a recurring theme throughout the series. That’s he’s someone who really likes to change the subject and have those real conversations about stuff. I think that’s probably my favorite scene of the pilot.”
Is the show completely scripted, or do you guys get to ad lib at all?
“It’s scripted. It’s completely scripted. I would say during rehearsal process we can have our input on things. If we come up with a joke, we’ll pitch it to Jerrod or to the writers, but I would say this is 98 percent all written down. We’ve got really, really talented writers. And Jerrod does a thorough edit before we go to shoot, so this is very much his voice.”
You guys film in front of a live audience, right?
“Yes, and it’s so fun.”
What’s that like?
“The show comes to life. We spend all week rehearsing, and it’s really funny to us, and we’re having a good time, and then the crew comes in for our camera rehearsal, and then they start giggling. There’s some magic that happens once the audience steps in. Things that were not funny in rehearsal are suddenly hilarious. You have all these long pauses for the audience, and it’s just this energy that you get from performing in front of people.
When you’re doing single camera, you don’t want to do this, but you can get away with messing up your lines a lot because we’re going to stop and restart, and it’s fine. You’ve really got to be on your A game when you’re performing in front of a few hundred people. It keeps you in line and makes you work really hard all week.
Then you can really have fun too, once the audience is there and you know you’ve got your material tight. That’s when it’s exciting. When the writers can come in and give you a new joke immediately. You’re comfortable enough with the original material you can learn a new joke on the spot, and then try it out with the audience. When those hit, that is so much fun.”
Now that you’ve performed in front of a live audience, do you think it will be hard to go back to single camera? For another project?
“Yes. Absolutely! This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up watching my dad do a sitcom. He was on a series on CBS called Dave’s World for four years. I spent a chunk of my childhood watching him do this live show every week and being like, “This is the dream. This is so much fun that he gets to do this live show.” I just love comedy. I don’t know that I’ll ever want to go back to anything else. Of course I will, and I will enjoy it. It’s a completely different thing, but there’s nothing like this.”
You just guest starred on Chasing Life with Scott, what was it like reuniting with your Greek co-star?
“It was the best. It was so fun. Scott’s always been one of my favorite human beings, so to hang out with him all day was incredible. We probably annoyed everyone, because when the two of us are together, all we do is sing all day long. [laughs]. That’s no exaggeration. We love to harmonize and sing musical theater, and sing pop songs, and find new songs to learn new harmonies. We’re such big losers.
I think we cleared a lot of room with our singing because people are, “Oh my God, are they still going? I need to get out of here. I need fast service. I need to get a water and get away from these people.” We have way too much fun together, so I was thrilled to be asked to go be on that. I loved working with Scott and Patrick Sean Smith who created Greek again.”
Did they approach you about it?
“Yeah. Patrick Sean Smith texted me and was like, “Hey, do you want to come play with us on our show and play Scott’s best man.” I said, “Yes I do. Yes I do want to do that!” It was amazing how everyone pulled together to get me to be a part of it, because I was in Korea on vacation with my best friend when the deal came in for me to get to do the show. I literally was at the Seoul Korean airport, not sure if I was going to get to do the show or not because of logistics with NBC and ABC family, and all that stuff. It was literally before I got on my flight, I got a text saying, “Okay, the deal went through. We’re sending a car for you to LAX, because you have to go immediately from LAX to set.” [laughs].”
“It was crazy. It was really exciting. It was so much fun. When I got there, I was like, “Guys, I’m real tired. I am on Korea time.” [laughs]. My luggage is literally in my trailer from my week and a half trip, but I wouldn’t change anything. It was so much fun.”
What is your favorite song of the moment?
“Actually, all the cast of The Carmichael Show, we’re about to do a show next week. It’s called the Goddamn Comedy Jam. What they do is it’s a stand up show with a live band, so each comic goes up and does an eight minute set, and then sings a song at the end with the live band. In order for us to do some press and just have some fun. We have so many comics on our show, like David’s a comic, Tiffany Haddish, LilRel, and Jerrod are all stand up comics. So they’re all going to do sets and sing a song, but Loretta and I are just going to sing. I’ve spent this last week trying to figure out what I want to do.
I always go old school. My favorite music is 1940’s jazz and stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Etta James and trying to figure out if that’s something I want to do, or Billie Holiday. I don’t really have a cool new song at the moment. I’m not hip. I don’t know anything that’s cool right now. [laughs].”
Speaking of singing. I feel like the cast from Greek are really good at Dubsmash. Was there one that you were really excited to post and then it just didn’t work out at all?
“No. Honestly I’ve only made a couple. I made one funny one with my friend that’s just me saying a line from Mean Girls, but I never intended to share it with anyone. I think I sent it to my husband and was like, “This is funny. Ha ha.” Just playing with the app. The one that Scott and I made of Disco Disco Party Party was because we were on set having time to kill.
The app had just come out, so everyone was playing with it. I was like, “This one sounds funny, let’s do it.” It just worked out to be the most magical perfect moment. We didn’t rehearse or anything. We just did this weird dance, and Italia video taped it. I think we only did two takes where because we were off beat on the first one, and the second one we did perfectly. It was one of those magical moments that I’ll never be able to recreate. I don’t think I’ve made a Subsmash since. I can’t top that! I’ve peaked.”
Many of the Greek cast members have new shows coming out in the fall. Which of their shows are you most excited to see?
“I’ve already seen Spencer’s, and hers is really fun! Dilshad’s got a show. I haven’t seen hers, but I actually just talked to another friend last night who says Frankenstein Code is really great, a really interesting concept, so I’m really excited to check that out. I’m really stoked for McDorman because he’s the lead, so he’s carrying a whole show and that’s a really big deal. I can’t wait to see that, and I also loved the movie Limitless. I’m interested to see how that’s going to work out. Scott’s show sounds like it’s one of those great, fun nighttime dramas about a really interesting concept. It’s about the oil boom that’s going on in North Dakota.
I think I might be most interested in that, only because my family is from North Dakota. My cousin moved from California up there in order to be a part of the oil boom, and he was driving trucks up there. He was a part of literally the world that they are showing on Blood and Oil, so I’m really interested to see how the show handles what’s really going on up there. I think that’s a really interesting concept, and I love when movies and television mirror what’s going on in real life.”
Tell us what makes you nerdy?
“I love Disney cartoons! I love Disney in general. Disneyland, Disneyworld, Disney music, Disney movies, the El Capitan theater in Hollywood. I’m an old school Disney fan.”
If you could voice a character in any Disney movie that’s already been released, what movie would it be?
“The Little Mermaid! Wait, that’s hard. Also Pocahontas. [laughs].”