Interview: Hank Azaria talks bringing ‘Brockmire’ to life

Hank Azaria has been captivating audiences for two seasons now as Jim Brockmire: a famed broadcaster who attempts to stumble his way back into the big leagues after an on-air meltdown sends him into a downward spiral. Tyrel Jackson Williams stars alongside Azaria as Charles, an eager whiz kid who works to rebuild the former major league baseball announcer-turned-podcast sensation’s career. Amanda Peet completes the trifecta as Jules James, the owner of a minor league baseball team called the Morristown Frackers, who matches Brockmire with more than just the love of the game.

“I think the greatest thing that I’ve learned from working with Hank is preparedness,” Williams tells AXS at the May 15 IFC Emmy event in Los Angeles. “He will show up with those huge ‘Brockmire’ monologues ready to go at any time, it doesn’t matter what scene we’re shooting. He always has them memorized.”

What began as a viral sensation on Funny Or Die many moons ago, has now evolved into a brilliant half-hour comedy on IFC. The show brings a level of intensity, complexity and humor that is unmatched by anything else around. Azaria, who is a master of many voices, gives unique life to the character of Jim Brockmire. Along with his co-stars and the writers, they have cleverly managed to up the ante with each episode; which is a key ingredient when it comes to a successful series.

“Hank and I have been doing this for a long time now. It’s been like seven years working on this character together,” writer/executive producer Joel Church-Cooper says about his collaboration with Azaria. “He’s the ideal lead for our show because he can do anything; drama, comedy. It’s just a dream. How we do the show is we write all the scripts ahead of time; all eight. He gets them and he gets off book on all of them before we shoot. That kind of dedication, work ethic and ability to get along with the talent is really rare.”

Azaria tells AXS what initially inspired the creation of the character all those years ago, was actually the voice. “I’m a vocal guy, so it was imitating talking this way, as a baseball announcer would back in the ‘70s that I liked,” he said as he shifted his inflection to the twang of Jim Brockmire. “I would mess around with it. I’d amuse my friends and myself. Do prank calls and whatever nonsense I would do. Then in my 20s and 30s, I started thinking it would be fun to put a guy like this in the middle of a show or movie; do they always sound like that?” Azaria mused. “The short kind of grew out of that idea and then the popularity of the short grew into fleshing it out even more; which is really what Joel tries to bring in.”

Azaria says it’s tough to narrow down the most thrilling part of playing such a scintillating character, but he attributes the ability to do so thanks to the golden age of television that we’re in now. “As someone who started working in TV literally in 1986, I’ve seen it long enough to be very frustrated by the constraints of it all. Having an idea like this where ten years ago if you tried to do it, it’d be so watered-down, even if you were lucky enough to make it, you couldn’t do it. Now to watch TV be this amazing place where the best stories are told - I’m a huge fan of these shows, I love making these shows.”

As executive producer and star of one of those shows, Azaria certainly steps up to the plate (so to speak), offering up a huge lesson in proper storytelling. As far as what the character of Jim Brockmire can teach the world, the Emmy-winner believes, “It’s that you can be just broken, your life ostensibly ruined and you can rebuild after that. We all can. Life goes on. We all get another chance to do what we might.”

Luckily for all of us, “Brockmire” will have more opportunities to do just that. While we are only halfway through season 2, the comedy series has already been picked up for seasons 3 and 4. You can tune in to IFC on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. to catch all-new episodes.