Animal Practice follows the adventures of NYC veterinarian Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk) whose uncanny gift for working with animals (human beings not so much) makes him the top doctor at a veterinary practice where it often seems as if the patients are the ones in charge. The diverse cast includes JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Justin Kirk, Bobby Lee, Kym Whitley, and funny man Tyler Labine who plays Dr. Doug Jackson. “When you first meet me, I’ve had my heart broken and I’m trying to get back onto my feet,” says Labine. “I’m basically the only logical, reasonable animal and human-loving doctor at the clinic. Dr. Coleman hates people and my character is always running defense for him and smoothing out situations because he’s so anti-social. I’m the one who’s clipping nails and brushing out knots in fur and playing gentle music to make sure the animals are in a happy place.” The cast stars alongside live animals, something that isn’t always easy to do while working on set. “You have no idea. I learned that penguins bite! They take huge chunks of skin! The trainer has pieces of arm missing all over his forearms. In the pilot, I’m giving a basset hound a rectal exam and I thought ‘oh okay we’re going to fake it or they’ll have a sedated dog something.’ But the dog was this fully awake, very spry basset hound that didn’t want my fingers anywhere near his butt. He kept jumping off the table, turning around trying to bite my hand. And again I can’t blame the dog, I have to look at the people who didn’t stop to think ‘oh maybe that dog won’t like getting finger-banged.’ We also had a Bengal tiger that was pissing on everybody. Beautiful creature, but it’s a giant cat with a lot of piss.” Crystal, the beloved monkey from The Hangover 2, also stars alongside her human counterparts. “She’s an international star. They flew her first class to New York. She had her own seat at all the dinner parties. Everyone wanted a photo with Crystal. She’s already the runaway star and scene stealer of the show. But it’s not a gimmicky show about animals; it’s about the people and their interactions with each other. That’s actually the play on words with the show. The idea is that we’re the real animals.”
Perhaps it’s because of his Canadian roots (he’s from Toronto by way of Vancouver), but Labine’s down to earth, tell-it-like-it-is spirit is a breath of fresh air in the ego-sealed ampoule that is Hollywood. The roles he’s chosen over the years, however funny, haven’t necessarily reflected his seemingly grounded nature. “Honestly, there are a couple moments on film that I wish I could erase. My brother and I made a movie called Control Alt Delete and there were scenes while I was watching it with friends and family where it’s literally just me stripped down, banging a computer. I might take that moment back…it was a little intimate. It was brave or whatever but it was hard to watch.” Animal Practice is a bit of a departure from Tyler we’re used to seeing. “It’s still funny but I’m not being that brash, borderline asshole character. After a while that role became a comfort zone and I liked playing that part because I knew I could. This year the goal was to do something different. This is my 8th TV series now and it was time I went after something different. If I come out of the gates doing the exact same thing again and I get slammed for it, I have nobody to blame but myself. I’m a dad now. I want to have some good moral fabric out there for my daughter to see.” Animal Practice premieres September 26th at 8/7c on NBC.
Interview by Ashley Symone Lee Photographed by Vince Trupsin