Tag Archives: John Benjamin Hickey

‘The Big C’ Phone Sex ‘Outrageous, Not Salacious’ Says John Benjamin Hickey

John Benjamin Hickey and Laura Linney Showtime photo

Showtime’s “The Big C” is already half-way through shooting of its third season, reports John Benjamin Hickey — with a roster of guest stars including Victor Garber, Tammy Blanchard, Allison Janney, Broadway star Brian d’Arcy James of “Smash,” and Susan Sarandon as the self help guru “joyologist” with whom Laura Linney’s and Oliver Platt’s characters become involved.

“Laura and I turned to each other today and said, ‘We should buy the casting director a new car.’ We have such extraordinary people,” reports the Tony-winning actor, who plays Linney’s bipolar, homeless brother Sean. He credits writer-producers Jenny Bicks and Darlene Hunt for the show’s sharp writing “and real level of class. But at the end of the day, it’s Laura that attracts the A+ talent. She’s as good as it gets.”

Hickey has what may be his wildest season yet, which is saying a lot considering what viewers have seen so far involving the anti-establishment, environmentalist Sean, who has been known to eat out of garbage cans and who lacks social filters, yet sometimes makes profound sense. This season — debuting April 8 — Sean gets a land line and winds up intercepting a fledgling gay phone sex business, and soon has himself a new occupation.

“He’s completely straight, but he has no homophobia or hangups and no problems with doing the virtual sex. It’s really, really funny,” Hickey claims. “We’ve created a comic universe for it to exist in, where it’s outrageous without ever being salacious. There’s a whole new level of ‘Sean-ness’ about it.”

Hickey also has a recurring role on “The Good Wife,” and may well turn up on “Modern Family” one of these days.   His long-time partner, Jeffrey Richman, is among the Emmy-winning writers on that series.

“I want to do the show. They asked me to do a couple of things a while back, but the timing wasn’t right and I couldn’t make it work. There’s something overwhelming about it because I’m such an unbelievable fan of that show. Every single cast member is extraordinary. I would be so thrilled, I would have to do a lot of yoga to calm my nerves.”

New Major Name to Join ‘The Big C’ in Season of Bargaining

Laura Linney Showtime photo by Ken Regan

Sounds like Laura Linney’s “The Big C” will have another attention-getting attribute in its new season that launches April 8.  According to Executive Producer Jenny Bicks, the “Big C” team is awaiting word any minute from a major name likely to come aboard the Showtime dramedy in which Linney plays a woman dealing with cancer.  They go back into production this week.

This year, Linney’s Cathy Jamison will be at the Bargaining stage of response to her illness.  “It’s going to be all about Cathy looking for joy and really kind of embracing life.  She’s been through a lot last season with Paul,” says Bicks, referring to Linney’s series husband Oliver Platt, last seen being worked on by EMTs and flatlining after ingesting cocaine.  (Series creator Darlene Hunt refused to confirm that the character died, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Paul will be back, some way, in Season 3.)

Jenny Bicks

“She’s going to get a better prognosis, so she’s going to feel for the first time like, ‘Maybe I have more time, and what the hell now am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ — which becomes a whole separate issue,” says Bicks.  “So, she’s really going to go after what makes her happy and she’s going to come in contact with a joyologist, which is a real term, who is going to kind of be her mentor.”

That’s the role in which they’re expecting their exciting name star.  Cathy will “get together with this woman and go on a journey and do some crazy things outside her box,” according to Bicks.

Will this season finally put the critically-hailed, top-talent-filled series over the top in terms of popularity and recognition?  “I think we’d all like to think that, especially because of where we’re going to be airing this year,” says Bicks, referring to their first springtime seasonal launch.  “We’re going to get a lot of viewers who’ve never even seen the show on televsion.  A lot of people catch up on DVDs.”

Then there’s the fact that Laura Linney, Emmy nominated for her work on the show last year, was up for Golden Globe honors this month as well.  And costar John Benjamin Hickey, who won a Tony for The Normal Heart last year, is also being increasingly recognized for his portrayal of Linney’s bipolar brother, Sean.  Says Bicks, “I feel that people are starting to take in this show that we love and it can only be bigger because of that.”

John Benjamin Hickey Showtime photo

AND:  Speaking of Hickey and his Sean character, Bicks reveals that this year, he’s going to have “a gay phone sex line.  What?!  What?!  How does that happen?”  She laughs.  “He inherits a phone number from somebody whose phone has been cut off and he ends up with this enterprise, and it turns out that he actually has quite a knack for phone sex, so he’s going to kind of go back on the grid and make some good money, and because of that have some very interesting relationships in his life.  He’s going to have a lot of fun.”

John Benjamin Hickey: ‘The Big C’ to End Season With ‘Shockers’

John Benjamin Hickey Showtime photo

“The Big C” has its second season finale Monday (9/26) — with a third season already guaranteed for the acclaimed, risk-taking dramedy that stars Laura Linney as cancer patient Cathy.  They’re winding on a note of tragedy and of hope, with the latest episode (SPOILER — SKIP TO NEXT GRAPH IF YOU’VE YET TO SEE THE SEPT. 19 EPISODE) having included the death of Cathy’s beloved Lee (Hugh Dancy) and the return of her bipolar brother Shawn (John Benjamin Hickey). 

“I can’t say what’s coming at the end.  There are shockers,” Hickey tells us.  “And it’s too early to be meditating on what is in store for Cathy and her merry band of dysfunctional family members in Season 3.”  He does admit, however, that considering its weighty storylines, “There’s a real challenge ahead in the next year or two in keeping the funny.”

Hickey’s certainly had his share of laugh-inducing moments.  “It’s been such a blast to play a character as original and as unexpected as Shawn,” he says.  “I’ve heard from a lot of bipolar people and their families, and the thing I get so much is that they love that he’s a funny character.  His illness is very real and very, very serious and causes a lot of problems and concerns.  But this is a show that dares to have a sense of humor about disease and tries to find the funny in the human condition.” 

Hickey is also amused by the fact that “though it’s born out of his illness and instability, lot of what Shawn espouses — about veganism and environmental problems, for instance — isn’t so crazy after all.  He makes a lot of sense.  And he is weirdly, deeply moral.  In many ways, he’s a very conventional guy, but he’s got this wildly unconventional way he lives his life.  I love that contradictory aspect of him.

“As the series progresses, if we get to do a couple more years, I hope Shawn finds the right kind of medication that allows him to function and be the kind of brother he wants to be to his sister — who is his lifeline, his tether to the world.”

Hickey, as himself

Hickey still sounds surprised about having even made it through the season’s production — since he was performing eight shows a week on Broadway in The Normal Heart while shooting the Showtime series.

“It was a crazy confluence of events that made it the exact same time.  I’d be shooting all day, get in that van or train and get back, jump in the shower and then make it on stage by eight o’clock every night,” he recalls.  “Laura, who has known me forever, said, ‘You have no idea how your exhaustion is feeding you.’  There’s no time to think.  I believe there’s something to that — when you have less time to consider your options, you can only perform.”

Obviously, Hickey did something right, since he wound up winning a Tony for his work in the play this past June.  He should have been nominated for an Emmy as well.  Maybe next year.  In fact, the series warrants more Emmy love than it got — with no writing nods and nominee Linney going home empty-handed.

But Emmy night was certainly not a complete loss for Hickey, who was also on hand to cheer on his life partner, Jeffrey Richman.  Richman and Steve Levitan won writing Emmys for their “Caught in the Act” script for “Modern Family.”

“Emmys are so much bigger than Tonys.  I may have to put my Tony on a platform,” says the actor with a laugh.