Dylan McDermott is sitting in the corner of a bar in Las Vegas’ Bellagio Hotel & Casino while dressed as a pilot named Capt. Dave, his libidinous character on the new Fox series L.A. to Vegas that premieres tonight.
The actor, known for his work on such dramas as FX’s American Horror Story and ABC’s The Practice, is giving comedy a try with the midseason entry from executive producers Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan.
And yes, it was McDermott’s idea to dress up as Capt. Dave for the show’s press event that involved the show’s team and a group of reporters flying from Los Angeles to (you guessed it) Vegas for a matter of hours last month to fete the series’ launch.
“I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I had to come as Capt. Dave,” the charming and quick-witted McDermott tells Playboy about the show’s unusual marketing move. “It was the best way to get through it.”
“I was like, ‘Everybody’s going to cable. Everyone’s rushing to cable.’ I want to be the guy running into the burning building, rather than running out.”
McDermott has chosen an interesting time to pivot to comedy. Most of the series getting buzz and acclaim these days tend to be of the uber-serious variety, not wacky comedies that feature scenes like one in the premiere of Capt. Dave using his wrestling moves to take out a problematic passenger.
“That’s what I wanted,” the Emmy-nominated performer explains about his shift, which comes after he starred in two recent CBS dramas—Hostages and Stalker—that both got the axe after one season. “I was in a time in my career where I had to change it up. I couldn’t do another drama—I had to fuck everything up. And this is it.”
This isn’t the only way that the actor is going against the grain, as he heads to broadcast TV at a moment when A-list stars are increasingly flocking to cable or streaming platforms. But he’s learned that taking a career risk tends to pay off.
“My theory is, always go in the opposite direction,” he reasons. “When I did The Practice, nobody was going to TV in the '90s. Everybody was going to movies. I said, 'Oh, this is the time—go to TV when no one’s going there.’ That was the perfect timing—I hit it just right.”
He adds, “And then with this show, I was like, 'Everybody’s going to cable. Everyone’s rushing to cable.’ I want to be the guy running into the burning building, rather than running out. When network is failing, you run into the burning building.”
The cultural landscape has changed significantly since the pilot was filmed. In the show’s first episode, Capt. Dave is seen as a philanderer who has his sights set on hooking up with a passenger, a plot point that carries a different tone following the recent surge of workplace-harassment accusations in Hollywood and other industries.
So will future episodes show a changed Dave? Don’t count on it.
“My view is, Dave doesn’t watch the news, so he doesn’t know,” McDermott quips about his character not realizing that the times are changing. The actor continues with a laugh, “He’s oblivious.”
As for that aforementioned wrestling move, it was an idea McDermott himself came up with and pitched to Levitan, who loved it.
“I wanted to do this scissors hold, so I showed it to Steve,” McDermott says, chuckling. “Because it’s Dave-it’s weird and different and inappropriate. That’s him.”
And while Dave is undeniably a rascal, McDermott is proud that the ensemble show’s roster of characters—including disillusioned flight attendant Ronnie (played by UnREAL’s Kim Matula) and charming British passenger Colin (Ed Weeks)—is easy to root for. Plus, if you’re going to try broadcast TV, you can definitely do a lot worse than aligning yourself with a proven player like Levitan, as ABC’s Modern Family continues to attract viewers and Emmys validation.
“The characters are all very lovable—it’s a nice little world that we’ve created,” the actor says of LA to Vegas. “That’s what I like about the show the most, is that it’s such a good cast, and eveybody has their shining moment. And that’s the genius of Steve. He knows how to do that.”
Soon, it was time for McDermott and Co. to make their way back to Fox’s chartered jet and return to L.A. And now, a month later, the team will find out whether they’ve hit the jackpot.
LA to Vegas premieres Tuesday, Jan. 2, at 9 p.m. on Fox.