You may know Adam Rose from his roles on Veronica Mars, Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet and Supernatural. Now, he can be seen on Netflix’s new comedy series Merry Happy Whatever as Todd, the son-in-law who drinks with his fellow in-laws as a coping mechanism for his frustration at having married into such a tight-knit family.
I got the chance to talk with Adam about how he got into acting originally, his audition process for Merry Happy Whatever, what it was like working with Merry Happy Whatever’s all-star cast, his nerdy obsession with TikTok and much more. Keep reading to see what he had to say!
Tell me first a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
I grew up in New York City and my brother actually got stopped on the street – he must have been like 12 years old – for an audition for a SweeTarts commercial or something like that . He didn’t book it but he liked what he was doing and someone in our building knew talent manager and was like, “Hey, you should take Gabe to this talent manager that I know.” I heard about this and I was like, “I want to go. I won’t say anything. Let me go. I just want to see what they do there.” I went with them and I wouldn’t shut up and that manager ended up signing both me and my brother up for a four year contract. We started going on auditions and one thing led to another and probably a year later, I got my first job when I was nine. It was a movie that Woody Allen wrote and directed called Deconstructing Harry where I played Robin Williams son.
Yeah, and then after that, my brother eventually just sort of tapered off. He was playing the clarinet at the time and he was a really great student. Now he’s a doctor and I just kept going with it.
Kind of going off of that, was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living? What made you keep going with it once your brother tapered off?
My parents are immigrants and they moved me and the whole family to New York City when I was two years old from Israel, where I was born. Among the other jobs that both my parents had, my mom was also an opera singer and excelled as an opera singer. She fostered a creative environment in our home. So when any of us, me or either of my two brothers, took an interest in performing, she always encouraged that. I did a play in school. I did Bye Bye Birdie when I was in kindergarten. So by the time I was five years old, I was already enjoying being in front of an audience and getting a laugh out of people. I had been known, growing up, to bug my parents when they had guests over because I didn’t want to go back to sleep so I would wake up and come out to the living room and as long as I could keep them laughing I could stay out there. So yeah, it felt like a natural fit from from an early age. It has always been sort of my true north. Despite any ups and downs and other hobbies and things I’ve done over the over the years, acting has always been sort of the number one for me.
That’s awesome. Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of roles you’d still want to try out in your career?
I’ve been really lucky to have done a bunch of different kinds of things. I’ve done a lot of dramas, I’ve done a bunch of comedies, I’ve done indie movies and I’ve also done big studio movies. Obviously, I would love to do more of all of those things in different capacities. I’ve never been the lead of a studio movie; that’s definitely on my bucket list. It’s probably the same for a lot of actors. There are certain milestones that you get along along your career that kind of mark a new chapter in one’s professional life. I sort of feel like I began a new chapter with Merry Happy Whatever because it’s the first full season of a show I’ve done as a series regular and I’ve been in this business for 25 years, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next steps.
Speaking of Merry Happy Whatever, what was your audition process like for the show?
Abnormally short actually, as far as number of times I went in for it. Usually for series regular roles, sometimes you go in for casting first, sometimes you’ll go straight to the producers, but then after that, there’s usually a testing process where you go in front of the network, and you do the audition in front of a room full of people and you’re usually up against whoever they’ve narrowed it down to, three or four guys. This is a process that I’ve done a number of times, and it’s harrowing and probably not the most ideal way to get the best performances out of people, but it’s just the way it’s been done for a long time.
So this process with Merry Happy Whatever was abnormally short because I went in for the casting director Jeff Greenberg, who I love dearly; Tucker Cawley, who created the show, was in the room as well who was amazing and made me feel comfortable immediately and I was already a fan of his from Everybody Loves Raymond. I did the scenes that they gave for the audition maybe a couple times and left. Then you cross your fingers and you try to forget about it, and then I got a great call saying that then I booked it. And that’s why this process was abnormally short because usually you gotta go in again and it’s a whole process and it becomes nerve wracking because you feel like you’re getting close to something. But this was like one and done and man, I wish every audition was like that [laughs].
On the show, you play Todd and I know a lot of actors bring a bit of themselves to the characters they play. So in what ways do you think you’re similar to Todd and and what ways are you different from Todd?
Well we’re both Jewish [laughs]. We both wear glasses sometimes and have a beard. But beyond that, Todd can be a little dad-jokey if that’s an adjective I can throw on there [laughs]. I can be somewhat dad-jokey sometimes. I love a good dad joke. Todd seems to be trying to have a good time, which I can also relate to, in his own quirky way. But all in all, I think he’s a well-intentioned doctor/dentist who is doing his best to try and fit in with everybody while also sticking to his guns on certain values and things like that. And again, I think that is something I can relate to as well.
Yeah, speaking of Todd trying to fit in with everyone, he doesn’t quite fit in exactly so he and the rest of the in-laws create the Outlaw In-Laws, which is honestly one of my favorite parts of the show. How much fun were those scenes to film?
Honestly, those were the most fun to film. For some reason, I don’t know if this was on purpose or just how the schedule worked out, but they were always at the end of the day. We were always shooting those scenes at the end of the day, so everybody’s tired and ready to go home but then we would start doing those scenes and we would be having so much fun and the crew would get into it and they’d be laughing. It was just kind of a nice way to end the day because I think the three of us – me, Brent [Morin, who plays Matt] and Liz [Ho, who played Joy], the three outlaws – there was just a lot of laughing and screwing up, a lot of screwing up, so we had to do a lot of takes sometimes because we make each other laugh. But it was always a good time.
How much of this show, if any at all, was improved?
None at all, really.
Yeah. I mean, no. I think maybe a word here and there. But we had just this incredible room of writers working on the show and Tucker, who was the showrunner, led this team and they were incredible. We were always cracking up from the table read all the way through taping. There was never a lack of jokes. We were never worried about how funny it was. For us, it was just how well can we serve the material because the story was also so good. It wasn’t all just jokes either; it was really solid story. They did an incredible job and so it made our job a lot easier.
Yeah. Merry Happy Whatever has such a great cast too, which you kind of touched on with the Outlaw In-Law scenes. I know you guys as a whole cast have remained pretty close since filming wrapped, but just in general, what was it like working with everyone?
Oh my God, we became such a family like in real life. I think we all came in with the intention of being together for the summer and working on the show together and becoming a family and everybody had a really great attitude about it. There were no egos on set and we immediately all started a big text thread, which still continues to this day. I spent New Year’s with a couple of my cast mates. We all have become really close. So I feel lucky. I feel lucky because we all hit it off and that doesn’t always happen.
That’s awesome. Christmas movies have become this cultural phenomenon over the last few years that are loved by millions of people and I love that essence of what makes those films so great is captured in a television show like Merry Happy Whatever. What does it mean to you to be a small part of the phenomenon this holiday season, albeit in a slightly different way?
Oh man, that’s a good question. You know what? I’m really happy to be a small part in representing Jews in all of these Christmas movies. I can’t wait for the Jewish movie season to start.
I’m dying for it to happen one day.
I mean, right?!?! Listen, anybody who reads this: let’s make some Hanukkah movies. I’m ready [laughs].
I’m so ready. I need it in my life. So switching gears a little bit, I know you also have roles coming up on LA’s Finest and Carol’s Second Act. What can you tell me about the characters that you’re playing on those shows?
So on LA’s Finest, I’m not sure how much I can say [as] I don’t want to give away anything, but basically I think what I can say because I think it came out in an article or something is that I play a character who was put in jail eight years ago and just got out and feels that he was wrongly convicted and is looking for justice. And one of the characters on the show is the one who put him in jail. So that’s been a blast, working on that show. That show is incredibly cinematic, and just a really incredible cast, super talented people. And yeah, I get to play kind of a fun, edgy character and that’s always a good time.
What about Carol’s Second Act?
On Carol’s Second Act, I am playing a character named Bad News Jake and Bad News Jake is a doctor who works in the ER and he is bad news because he basically brings down patients to the main cast of characters on the show, sort of at the 11th hour when they’re all ready to go home and makes them all stay longer. So every time they see me, it’s bad news. I did one episode and then they brought me back for another and now Bad News Jake has sort of become a member of the hospital who drops in every once in a while to ruin people’s day [laughs].
That’s awesome. Last question – our website is called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have some kind of inner nerd so what is something you are currently nerding out about?
Ohhhhh okay. So I’m sort of a nerd when it comes to social media. I love social media. I use it, I consume it, I love the creativity of brings out in people and currently I am full on nerding out over TikTok.
You know about TikTok?
I do, but I have not downloaded it.
Oh you will. You will. I have a prediction. I think TikTok in the next year – maybe two years, but probably in the next year – is going to become a hell of a lot more widespread.
Yes. And I think it stands to maybe take some attention away from Instagram, potentially. I could just go on and on about why, but recently, I’ve just been nerding out on TikTok. I’ve made a few videos. I actually spent some of my winter vacation just kind of spending too many hours scrolling on the “For You” page on TikTok, and I’ve made some my own videos, and I’m having a blast. I think it’s gonna be kind of revolutionary. I mean, it already is, but I think it’s gonna be a lot more mainstream in the coming years.
Featured Photo Credit: Scott Witter