Photo by ABC/Bob D'Amico
If you’ve never seen the ABC comedy series Trophy Wife, it’s time to tune in for a lot of reasons. First of all, it’s great seeing Bradley Whitford every week. You can’t go wrong with Marcia Gay Harden and Malin Akerman, Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden playing dueling ex-wives. And the kids rival any actors on TV, young or old — especially Albert Tsai. The nine-year-old San Jose native is as adorable as kid actors come. So we were very excited to get a sneak peek at the upcoming episode that’s devoted to his character called “Happy Bert Day.” It did not disappoint.
The premise is simple. Having met his contractual obligation to read 100 books in a year, Bert gets to plan the birthday party of his dreams. Of course, he goes with a literary theme. As Executive Producer Sarah Haskins recounted originally Bert’s big bash was going to have a Great Gatsby theme but as she pointed out, “That felt a little too precocious.” Too which series patriarch Whitford added, “And alcoholic.” Instead it’s all about “Aladdin” with fire-walkers and flying carpets alike.
But there’s something for the ladies’, too. When Bert is offered the opportunity to invite a special celebrity guest he chooses none other than fellow-ABC-star Chris Harrison of The Bachelor franchise. Trophy Wife Executive Producer, and rose ceremony devotee, Lee Eisenberg recounted how the cameo came about, “I host a weekly ‘Bachelor’ viewing party at my house… Chris Harrison came to my house for a behind-the-scenes thing to show all the nerds that watched The Bachelor.”
It seemed like a marriage made in heaven for Bert’s birthday episode. “We called him and he was completely down and it was great,” according to Eisenberg. “It was like I called my friend and he was like, ‘Oh, we don’t have to deal with agents or lawyers just give me a call directly.’”
But in true The Bachelor-franchise fashion, the bromance did not last long. As Eisenberg conceded, “I came down to set because it was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. This guy is going to be here.’ And he was talking to Malin and I said, “Hey Chris, I just want to thank you man for doing this.’ And he thought, I think, that I was in craft service or something and he said, ‘You’re welcome.’ And then he just immediately turned back to Malim, which I guess makes sense. And I just stood there waiting awkwardly for him to turn back to me and he didn’t. Then I just shuffled back to the writers’ room.”
Eisenberg wasn’t the only person on set that was hoping to win over Harrison. Akerman’s mother was equally excited to meet the reality TV host. As the Couple’s Retreat star recalled, “My real mom was on the set day. Oh boy, she’s a trip…. I put her in the back room with the hair and make-up ladies so she could have a little chit-chat with the gals. She was out of there in five minutes, straight on to Chris going, ‘Hi, what about an older bachelorette?’ So they had some fun conversations.’”
But not everyone seemed to have Bachelor fever. Young Tsai admitted he didn’t know who Harrison was before he appeared on the show. And as for Whitford, he simply asked Eisenberg during the Q&A, “What do you get out of The Bachelor ” To which the producer replied, “We’ll talk afterwards.”
So back to Bert. The highlight of his big day is a lavish dancer number featuring the diminutive actor. And although it looked like a lot of hard work, Tsai ackolweged, “It was really fun and I actually love dancing in real life so I got to do something that I really like. I rehearsed all day Thursday and we shot on Friday.”
And even thought it was Bert’s birthday, the dance actually seemed more like a real-life present for the crew. “It was one of the most highly anticipated scenes we filmed this season,” explained Haskins. “In the writers’ room there’s a special channel, we can turn on a feed to the stage to watch. And work ground to a halt. ‘There doing a take. It’s happening.’”
As if that wasn’t enough of a present for the adults on the set, Tsai also crafted handmade wrap presents for his coworkers. During the press event, he asked to make one parting statement to his co-stars, “For the past six months I enjoyed the time I spent with you guys and it was all really fun and you guys are all amazing. So I made a family collage of our time together for all of my castmates and the Executive Producers.”
Marcia Gay Harden seemed moved by the youngster, gushing, “They’re beautiful — each one very individual that he made with pictures [of time] that he spent with each of us on set. Very moving and very lovely… and we will each cherish them I’m sure.”
Tune in to the “Happy Bert Day” episode of Trophy Wife when it airs on March 4, 2014. And catch the show every week on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. EST/8:30 Central on ABC.