Jack McBrayer Gets Promoted from ’30 Rock’ Page to Dentist on ‘The Middle’

Patricia Heaton and Jack McBrayer on "The Middle" (Photo: ABC)

Jack McBrayer spent seven seasons playing the guileless Kenneth the Page on “30 Rock.” Now he finally gets to be the boss on “The Middle.”

The actor is guest starring on the ABC comedy as Dr. Goodwin, the dentist who hires Frankie to be his assistant. Unfortunately for Frankie (Patricia Heaton), the needy dentist is more interested in her mothering skills than her knowledge of oral hygiene. In this exclusive interview with xfinityTV, McBrayer shared why he loves working on a show set in the Midwest, discusses why it’s more pleasant to work in Los Angeles than New York, and explains why he’s determined to learn to bake cupcakes.

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Describe Dr. Goodwin and Frankie’s relationship.

McBrayer: I think it’s great that Frankie comes in because that’s a good dynamic because she [can] mother him to success. So they have a lot of fun with that relationship. We’ve only had the two episodes but Dr. Goodwin is definitely someone who needs a little more TLC than I think he would get from any sort of dental assistant.

Frankie gets off on the wrong foot with Dr. Goodwin because she is pretending to be a dentist.

McBrayer: She does overstep some boundaries in the very beginning. But it’s done so charmingly and very funny. I think she just gets a little mad with power early on in her dental career.

Is Frankie a good dental assistant?

McBrayer: From what I can tell, she is competent, which is very important. But also, I think that Dr. Goodwin really truly does hire her for the other stuff. In her job interview, it was the je ne sais quoi, the skills she has outside of digging around in somebody’s mouth. That makes her more of an asset to Dr. Goodwin. I can’t imagine he would hire somebody who was very ham-fisted.

Catch-up on Full Episodes of “The Middle” on xfinityTV

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Is Dr. Goodwin related to Kenneth the Page? They’re both Midwestern.

McBrayer: They do look alike. But I love the fact that Dr. Goodwin is this goofy dentist in Indiana. That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about the show in general. I’ve been working on “30 Rock” for so long, which is so New York-centric, and I’m not from New York. So a lot of it was just pretending for me, whereas coming to “The Middle,” I was like, “This is stuff I relate to very easily.” So finding a connection to Dr. Goodwin was easy to pull off.

If Dr. Goodwin examined Kenneth’s teeth, what would he find?

McBrayer: Lots of splinters from those big chompers.

Will Dr. Goodwin meet the rest of Frankie’s family?

McBrayer: I would love it. I would absolutely love it! Could you imagine? Plus, I know Neil Flynn from way back so if Neil Flynn came in and told me to shut up, I would die. I would just die 100 deaths. That would be so much fun.

Watch: Jack McBrayer Gets in “The Middle”

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Is Dr. Goodwin an Orson native or a transplant?

McBrayer: I would not even dare to make up my own backstory, but for argument’s sake, let’s just say that he’s been an Orson native for all of his life.

Are you going to come back to “The Middle” next season?

McBrayer: Well, I haven’t heard anything, but if they continue that story, I would come back in a second. They would not have to ask me twice. It was such a fun experience. I was very nervous at the beginning but it was just very warm. It was weird. I’ve been used to being a series regular on a show and having guest stars come onto our show, but to have it flipped, gosh, what are they going to think?

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Behind the scenes, how is “The Middle” different from “30 Rock”?

McBrayer: It sounds weird, but the biggest thing for me was I think everybody, maybe it’s just in Southern California, was just so laid back because it’s always sunshine. Whenever you leave the soundstage it’s like, “I’m warm. I’m getting Vitamin D. I hear birds.” But in New York, you open the door and you’re battling a snowstorm and the crew is fighting with the “Gossip Girls” over parking spots and the F Train is rattling over your head so you can’t even hear yourself think. I think the environment itself is very different. Otherwise, the attitude on “The Middle” is so much fun. The writers are just so funny and nice and Patricia Heaton, God bless that woman. She is a pro. She knows what she is doing. It was awesome to watch.

“The Middle” is such a funny show, but it doesn’t get the Emmy love that “30 Rock” does. Is your presence on the show going to change that?

McBrayer: Oh God, no. People don’t pay attention to me. With that being said, I like quality for quality’s sake. So if I see a show that makes me laugh, I’m going to get as much out of it as I can, or in this case, try to be a part of it. So trophy or no trophies, good work should be appreciated. I was very happy to say yes to “The Middle.”

What has been keeping you busy since you left “30 Rock”?

McBrayer: I have to say very shortly after “30 Rock” I was thrown off-balance a little bit because I was like, “Oh my God. My career is over.” I guess I had just gotten used to a schedule and routine over the course of seven years as any human being would do. Now I’m at a point where I’m like, “Let me relax into this unemployment a little bit.” So I’ve been challenging myself to do some creative things and it feels good because I’m seeing some progress. Actually, I’m taking piano lessons. My teacher’s coming in just a little while to watch me do my scales and, okay, my “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Also, I’m doing a lot more improvisation which really fuels me creatively. Also, I don’t cook for anything and I’m like, “You know what McBrayer? You have a beautiful stove in the house. Get to cooking.” So slowly but surely, I’m learning how to turn on the stove.

What’s your favorite dish to make so far?

McBrayer: I’m mainly just trying to stick with cupcakes and stuff because I figure even if I burn them, that’s just a $1.39 of cake mix. So I don’t feel as guilty because I could eat cereal three meals a day. I’m so lazy. I’m like, “I’ve got to pour milk into this? Why does everything bad happen to me?” Now I’m just forcing myself out of my comfort zone. And I’m doing okay. If I don’t burn them, then I’ve succeeded, so onward and upward Jack!

“The Middle” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on ABC.

For more information on “The Middle,” check out the show’s official website.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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