On The CW comedy series Significant Mother, Nate’s (Josh Zuckerman) world is turned upside down when he comes back from a business trip to find that his best friend and roommate, Jimmy (Nathaniel Buzolic), is now dating his recently separated mother (Krista Allen). To make matters worse, Nate’s previously disinterested dad (Jonathan Silverman) is now determined to win Lydia back.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Nathaniel Buzolic (best known for playing Kol on The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and The Originals) talked about why he was hesitant to do comedy, how empowering it is to play a character that’s not self-conscious, how Jimmy tries to make the best of any situation, why Jimmy and Nate’s friendship works, and why understanding comedy is an important skill set for an actor to have. He also talked about how he’d love to revisit his role as Kol, how grateful he is that fans love the character so much, and being just a little bit jealous about seeing another actor embody Kol last season.
Collider: How did this come about? Had you been looking to do something funny?
NATHANIEL BUZOLIC: For a long time, I actually said to my agents and my managers, “I don’t do comedy. I just don’t do it.” I never really felt like it was something that I was very good at, or was one of my strengths. And I did a lot of theater when I was a kid, and you would do comical things, but when I came over to the States, it was always about drama. I love drama. My passion is drama. It always has been. I love telling those sorts of stories. But, I got sent this audition and I was in a place where I just wanted to get back into some rooms to audition and work on my audition skills. I know that I’m not really overly comfortable with comedy, so I thought it would be a good challenge for myself, just to get into the room and do something different, more for the experience and as an exercise for myself. So, when I got a callback, I was a little surprised. And then, when I was testing for it, I was even more surprised. I thought, “Have they not seen many people? All of a sudden, have the 24- to 26-year-old males in L.A. become unfunny or something?” When I got the job, I was really, really, really surprised. It’s actually been a really, really great experience for me. It’s definitely challenging and it’s definitely something that I have to work on. I probably got more and more comfortable, as the season went on. It’s very different from Australian comedy. We have a very dry sense of humor. I would have to go to the writers and the director of our show and say, “I don’t get this. Can you explain the humor in this?” A lot of the stuff was very American. My character is American, I’m doing an American accent, and a lot of the humor is American stuff that I don’t know about because I didn’t grow up in this culture. So, there were a few moments in the script that I had to get clarification. I was doing a lot of Googling.
This is a very different character from your previous character on The CW, Kol Mikaelson (from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals), who was a lot darker and more tortured than this character is. Is it fun to play someone like Jimmy, who is so different, so much lighter, and really doesn’t seem to care what other people think of him?
BUZOLIC: It’s actually quite empowering. It’s a cool thing. I found that I love playing that. I was in a very self-conscious position. I was obviously, a lot of the time on set, in my underwear. Playing this character of Jimmy, who is just like, “This is the situation, this is who I am, and I’m completely open and cool with that,” allowed me to be more comfortable with myself. I was on set having these deep and meaningful conversations with people on the crew, and I was just in my underwear, but I forgot about it because I got comfortable. Sometimes before takes, I would do some push-ups or something to look the best I could on camera, but I really just forgot about it. Everyone was looking at me and I probably looked really douchey because I got comfortable with that. I think that’s a cool lesson in life. As a society, we’re very, very self-conscious and are always worried about what people think. We have to watch what we say, how we act and how we behave. So often, we have to censor ourselves. It’s an empowering thing when it’s just like, “This is who I am, and I’m very comfortable with myself.” That’s one of the things I love about this character, and it was fun to explore that and how that interacts with the other characters.
How do you view Jimmy? Do you think he genuinely means well?
BUZOLIC: I think it’s a thing where some people look at the cup as half full, some people look at the cap as half empty, and Jimmy looks at the cup and says, “Cool, this is what I’ve got and that’s great.” I think he tries to make the best of any situation. There’s always something he can do or say to fix it. His mentality is that there’s always a solution, and he thinks it will be fun and fix it. He’s a bit like a dog chasing its tail, but he means well. I think he is a very genuine character. He doesn’t look at the situation like, “This could be bad for me.” He thinks it could be good for everybody. He’s optimistic.
How and why do you think Jimmy and Nate (Josh Zuckerman) became friends, and what is that dynamic like to play?
BUZOLIC: It’s really interesting. Me and Josh are so different. If you just stand us next to each other and look at the two of us, we are so different. But the thing I love about that is that not only did our characters find a place where they connected, I feel like Josh and I find a place where we really, really connect, and that’s a really cool thing. If you just look for people who are exactly like you, how do you grow and learn. I think Jimmy learns from Nate, and Nate learns from Jimmy. They take the best of each other and they can learn from that. And working with Josh was a really incredible experience. I was like, “How am I going to connect with this guy?,” ‘cause we’re very, very different people. But we formed a really, really great friendship that came from just understanding each other and understanding that this is how this person sees the world. We found a place where there’s a bridge, and it’s the same with the characters. Jimmy likes to look after Nate, and when there’s something going wrong, he wants to make it better. And I think Nate sees Jimmy as this slightly naive character, and he wants to help him grow. They want to help each other, and I think that’s the cool thing about the relationship. They’re very, very different in the way that they look at the world, but they find a place where they’re both trying to help one another. That’s where the connection is, and that’s a really strong connection in life. That’s what I love about the relationship with these two characters. You don’t necessarily have to be the same person and have the same ideology to co-exist. You can co-exist and help one another grow, in your own lives.
Things obviously get complicated when you’re dating your best friend’s mother, especially when your best friend’s father is trying to woo her back. How is that going to play out?
BUZOLIC: It’s putting people in awkward and uncomfortable situations, and watching them get out of it. That’s what makes this show really, really fun. It’s a really bad analogy, but it’s almost like the movie Saw, when they’re stuck in a room, and one has to chop their leg off and the other has to do something else. Everybody is just trying to get through. The mess that gets created is what happens with our story. Because of the relationship between Jimmy and Lydia (Krista Allen), it just gets messy. I think there’s some really fun stuff. As we go through the season, you’ll start to see how this situation just gets out of hand, with everyday things, and Nate is caught in the middle, as everybody tries to protect him, but also makes the situation worse.
The story for Kol is clearly not over. Are you rooting for his family to get him back to his real body, so that you can return to that character?
BUZOLIC: I’m constantly rooting for Kol to get back to his body. I try to play it cool and be like, “Yeah, Kol was what he was.” I love that character, and I love working with the cast of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. I’ve particularly loved working with Daniel Gillies and Joseph [Morgan] and Claire [Holt]. And it was my first job in the U.S., so I have a soft spot for it. I always have time and energy to put towards that because it was just so good to me, and the fans are just incredible. The fans are just amazing. They’re so passionate, and it makes you want to be a part of the show, just because they give so much life to it. They’re so responsive to everything that happen on that show, and they’re so loving when you meet them. It’s really, really cool. It’s a rare thing. There aren’t too many TV shows that have an audience that’s that passionate, these days. I’d never say no to coming back to The Originals. Whether they write me in or not is another story.
Were you surprised at how much of a fan favorite that character became?
BUZOLIC: I was really surprised. I didn’t expect any of that, at all. When people started shouting and screaming when Kol died, I was really flattered. People are still so vocal about this character, even though I haven’t really appeared in the show, on any significant level, since The Vampire Diaries Season 4 or 5. It’s amazing that they’re still so vocal about it. I think it’s got a lot to do with being one of the Originals. People love that family and those characters, and I’m very lucky that Julie [Plec] gave me that opportunity when she did.
Were you ever jealous that someone else was embodying the character for a bit?
BUZOLIC: I shouldn’t say this, but I did get a little bit [jealous]. Daniel Sharman trains at my gym, and every time I see him at the gym, I do 15 extra chin-ups, so that he knows there’s only one Kol. No. He was great. He’s such a brilliant actor and he did such a great job with it. There was a little bit of, “Oh, it would be great to get those opportunities and open up more of the Kol character,” especially with the Davina stuff. I thought there were some really great scenes that he got to play. But at the same time, I was happy that at least Kol got to have a presence on the show. That’s much more important for the fans. Once you get your ego out of the way, I was just grateful that they continued the Kol storyline and made it impactful for the show. That’s what the fans really, really wanted. So, that was cool. And Daniel Sharman is a good looking fellow. I can’t complain about their choice in casting.
Now that you’ve had some more experience with comedy, do you feel more secure with it?
BUZOLIC: Yeah, I think so. Once I’ve seen the full season, I’ll see what worked and what didn’t, for me personally. I think that’s going to be really beneficial and great. I’ll also see what the audience responded to, as well, and what the audience found funny. You take what works and what people respond to. I’m really excited and hoping that we get a good response, and that we get an honest response, so that I can use that for whatever comes up next. Personally, I think doing some comedy is really great. If you look at Chris Pratt’s career, he’s so funny, but when he does Jurassic World or Guardians of the Galaxy, you can see how he adds that humor to very serious scenes, and it works so well. It’s a very important skill set for an actor to be able to bring the humor into any moment, whether you’re doing drama or comedy. For me, it’s given me a little bit more range and allowed me to give my characters a little bit more color. That’s definitely a really important skill set for an actor to have. You can’t always be so dramatic. I tried to do that with Kol, in certain moments that were very dark or very serious, and I think that’s what the audience liked about it.
Significant Mother airs on Monday nights on The CW.