Veteran sitcom actor Jay Harrington, 43, was raised in Wellesley and attended Wellesley High School before studying acting at Syracuse University. He spent several years doing stage work in New York before moving to Los Angeles. Best known for his title role in the ABC comedy Better Off Ted, he has also appeared on shows such as Coupling, Desperate Housewives, Hot in Cleveland, The Inside and Private Practice. His movie credits include American Reunion, True Love, Partner(s), Whatever It Takes, Anywhere but Here and the locally produced The Love Guide. He has also lent his voice to the animated feature A Monster in Paris. His latest role was Phil, a public defender and avid gambler, on the USA comedy Benched, and he’ll appear in the upcoming indie drama Hey Brother, hitting screens in 2015.
Jay Harrington: I’m actually pretty good at it. Put it this way: I get an email twice a week from the Hard Rock asking when I’m coming back.
Yeah. But the first time I went to Vegas, I brought $200 with me. I thought if I only brought that much, what was the worst that could happen? I was down $200 in about 40 minutes, and I had no bank card, no credit card. So I just walked around the casino, and I remember seeing David Schwimmer at the craps table. It was at the height of Friends, and I remember thinking, “I want to be him someday.”
One thing you’d like to erase from your resume? Because I look like such a weirdo, an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. I played the assistant to Donny Most. I had all these prosthetics, this weird nose thing, and it took a really long time to do it. Nothing against Star Trek or Happy Days, but that’s one.
It is a great name. They can put it on my tombstone in parentheses.
American Reunion [Laughs] It was unfairly overlooked by pretty much everyone. I think maybe 10 people saw that movie. I was surprised it didn’t do better.
Biggest lie on your acting resume? My one day that I filled in on Tony ’n Tina’s Wedding for a traveling show in New Jersey. I made it look like I was on a national tour or something.
I swore during Home & Family on the Hallmark Channel, which is like all moms and grandmas in the audience. I think I referred to my character as a “jerk-off.” Didn’t go over so well.
People say I remind them of George Clooney, or John Hamm, sometimes. If I was a little thinner, Adam Levine. I don’t see any of it, but it’s flattering.
Not bad. So tell me about Portia de Rossi. She is hilarious. And she’s so real, for someone who could put on airs or do whatever she wants. I love her.
Mad Men. I’ve watched it since day one, and I can’t wait for it to come back.
Fantasy love scene partner? I’m thinking of my girlfriend here, and I don’t want her to get pissed off. So I think I’ll go with Ellen DeGeneres.
Thing about Boston you miss the most when you’re in L.A.? Besides family and friends, I think the Cape in the summer and fall. I was lucky enough the past two years to do back-to-back movies here in the fall.
Ice hockey. I’m a huge Bruins fan. The Bruins logo is my screen saver on my phone.
Favorite athlete? Right now, for everything he encompasses, it’s got to be [Tom] Brady. The guy’s almost my age. When you’re a sports fan and you’re watching these kids in their 20s, you start to feel like the old guy. So when there’s someone close to your age and they’re still doing it, and at that level, it’s just amazing. He loves his wife and his family. He just seems like a fundamentally decent guy. I think we need more of that in sports.
Unfortunately, I’m not good enough to play hockey professionally. I think if I’d harnessed my ADD and learned to study well, I could have been a lawyer. My mom says I can argue anything.
Best audition disaster story? I threw up, not too long ago, either, at USA. It was a show that did not make it to air. I’d had food poisoning on a Wednesday, and the audition was on Friday. In two days, I had lost maybe 10 pounds. It was awful, but by Friday, I was thinking I was OK. It was me and two other guys, going up for the main role in a pilot that I thought was great. I’m thinking, “This is the one.” The lights were really intense, and I started. The adrenaline kicked in, which is usually good, but then I started to feel that cold flop sweat and I started feeling faint. I said, “Excuse me. I have to leave.” And I went straight to the bathroom and threw up.
Role you auditioned for and didn’t get but really wanted? The Playboy Club. I thought that was going to be network’s answer to Mad Men. The original script was really, really good, and dark. I was one of the first people they saw, and I was devastated that I didn’t get it. But thank God. I dodged a bullet.
It can be pouring, but you still need to wear sunglasses, because it’s always so bright out.
The fact that we’re still living on streets that were designed for horse and buggy.
How’s your Boston accent? After a few drinks, it’s pretty good, but it’s not really in my wheelhouse. My dad kinda had one, but I don’t have a great accent. I just sort of throw a “wicked” in there every few words.
Funniest person you’ve ever worked with? Andrea Anders and Eliza Coupe are tied, because they’re both female leads on shows I worked on, they’re both very pretty, and yet have the dirtiest trucker mouths and say the filthiest things imaginable. They’re hilarious.
LOCATION: W BOSTON HOTEL; GROOMING: LORI GREENE / ENNIS INC.; STYLING: JEFF LAHENS / DRESSCODE BOSTON; WARDROBE: ARMANI SUIT AND BURBERRY SHIRT FROM SAKS FIFTH AVENUE, GENERAL KNOT & CO. TIE, ALLEN EDMONDS BELT, PIN AND POCKET SQUARE