After a seven-year layoff, television’s Arrested Development — listed among Time magazine’s 100 Best TV Shows of All Time — is back this month on Netflix, which will offer more than a dozen new episodes of the cult classic all at once. Jeffrey Tambor, who plays patriarch to the Bluths, TV’s most dysfunctional and hilarious family, is as pleased about the show’s return as its legion of fans. Twice Emmy-nominated for his work on the show’s first run, the affable 68-year-old is living proof that nice guys get the last laugh.
American Way: Congratulations — you’re back from the dead!
Jeffrey Tambor: We had a wonderful reunion about a week or so into shooting the new episodes. We hadn’t worked together in almost seven years, and there was a scene where all nine of us were reunited for the first time. The camera’s going around the room to everyone in the cast. Everybody had a little speech. As each person spoke, I thought: Everywhere the camera went it was on such an incredibly talented person. These people are the most talented people in any room.
AW: On Arrested Development, your character, George Bluth Sr., is reprehensible. He’s a horrible father and a crooked businessman, but we can’t help but love him.
JT: He’s wily. Even in jail, he’s the consummate businessman. He does have his ways, but he also has heart — almost too much. I like him. I mean, the whole family is suspect. Whose isn’t?
AW: You once said that to do comedy, you have to trust your colleagues with your life.
JT: It’s that old therapist thing: “Fall back into my arms.” Comedy is like that. You have to choose very carefully who you fall with. I’ve been very, very lucky.
AW: You’ve been a part of so many funny shows over the years, including The Larry Sanders Show. What have you learned about comedy over the years?
JT: Funny is funny, and I have to relearn it every day. I think the great comedians that I’ve learned from, to whom I’m indebted — they never wink. They never say, ‘This is funny.’ They play for keeps. No winking allowed.