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Bradley Whitford cornered the market on creepy white men. Now he's ready to lighten up

Greg Braxton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

While the series is worlds away from the gloom and doom of "Get Out" and "The Handmaid's Tale," there's still a hint of darkness and bitterness in Cochran. The concept is a showcase for Whitford's slow-burn, dryly comic delivery.

When the first episode opens, a despondent and drunk Cochran is sitting in his car, contemplating suicide. When he asks for a sign from God showing him why he should live, he hears an off-key rendition of the "Hallelujah" chorus coming from the church -- which horrifies him so much it spurs him into action to make the group sing better.

"The biggest trick was to get the tone of that beginning right," Whitford says. "How do you make this scene funny when this guy's life is falling apart and there's so much sadness? It was a character I was very attracted to, the grieving and the bitterness."

Executive producer Lesley Lake Webster, who created the series, said she felt the role was a perfect fit for Whitford: "When we first met to talk about the show, it was a real whiplash for him. The night before, he had been filming 'The Handmaid's Tale.' Bradley can do horrible things onscreen and you still love him. Here he's playing this very damaged human being hiding his wounds, behind his intellect. He's not afraid to go full throttle for the verbal or the physical joke, and he's not afraid to make himself look silly."

Although "Perfect Harmony" has elements of "Glee," "Sister Act" and "Pitch Perfect" (the show co-stars Anna Camp of the latter franchise), both Webster and Whitford say it has plenty of originality as well as optimism -- in contrast to current political and cultural headlines.

"It's about being celebratory and joyful and enjoying all the things we have in common," Webster says.

 

Or as Whitford puts it, "You can't be mad with people you're singing with."

He's not concerned about being compared to similar projects. " 'Glee' was constantly stampeding toward a musical production number," he says, while "Perfect Harmony" has the more varied goal of finding humor in attaining understanding amid conflict.

"I call it 'Hoosiers' meets 'Glee,'" Whitford says with a chuckle.

He is equally thrilled about his involvement with "The Handmaid's Tale," which he calls "a fascinating acting experience. Commander Lawrence is in play. He's a brilliant man who changes from moment to moment, and I'm trying to connect with his humanity inside this unstable canvas. It's a very dangerous dynamic. There's like five different things going on with him."

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