I always enjoy reading stories about what Hollywood folk did to entertain themselves during the WGA strike. A lot of them worked the picket lines, until that got boring. Many took tropical vacations. A few did some lovely charity work. The creator and producer of NBC’s “My Name Is Earl” did something no one else did – he worked the counter at a fast food restaurant. No he wasn’t strapped for cash – at least that’s not the reason he’s going with. Greg Garcia says that as a producer and writer, he spent so much time cooped up in his office that he had lost touch with his fan base. And that didn’t help him be a good writer. So he spent the month of January working as a cashier and janitor at a local restaurant, which he declines to name.
This stemmed from an idea I got while I was working on ‘Yes, Dear,’ ” Garcia says. “I’ve wanted to do a book about taking different jobs and what it was like to do them. This was the first. It may be a while before I do the second. But it’s just about the fact that we live behind gates and work behind gates, and as a writer you start to lose touch with the audience. You start running out of life experience.”
It likewise was perhaps an opportunity for Garcia to mine story ideas for his NBC comedy series, though he downplays that idea. What he’s enthusiastic to promote is how fulfilling his adventures in minimum wage turned out to be.
“This wound up a really positive thing,” Garcia said. “It didn’t turn me off from fast food. In fact, it was really the opposite. The place was unbelievably clean. The people whom I worked with were great. And the work itself was fun. Really. I worked hard — cashiering, cleaning the bathrooms. A few days in, they liked me so much they asked me to join their management team.”
[From the Hollywood Reporter]
The experience will probably lend itself to more writing ideas than sitting on his ass in Jamaica. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s pretty cool for a big producer and writer to not just be willing, but actually want, to spend his days at a McDonald’s, or some version thereof. Garcia kept his real occupation to himself, with the exception of the managers. At first they were worried he was doing an expose, but once he explained his real purpose, they were on board. When he left, he told his coworkers what he really did for a living. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Garcia had closely befriended one co-worker. Upon his departure, he gave them a check for $10,000.
That’s a pretty cool way to spend your downtime. I’ve actually had several friends who claimed they enjoyed working at fast food restaurants back in the day. Supposedly it’s a good fit if you’re really into teamwork and such. Greg Garcia has a really good point: it’s going to be hard to write accurately for and about the average guy when you spend all day sitting in a fancy office. It’ll be interesting to see how he incorporates his experiences into the plot line of “My Name Is Earl.”
Header of the cast of “My Name Is Earl” at Academy of Television Arts and Sciences October 2006. Below is Greg Garcia and his wife at the Emmys in 2006. Images thanks to PR Photos.