Fans know the talented and gorgeous Paget Brewster from her role as Emily Prentiss on CBS' Criminal Minds - but what you don't know is that she's one-third of one of the funniest shows on TV. On The Hub's animated comedy Dan Vs., Paget plays Elise, who tries to help her husband Chris keep his perpetually enraged best friend Dan out of trouble - and also happens to be the government's top superspy.
Nov 17 marks the third-season premiere of Dan Vs., in which Dan (voiced by Curtis Armstrong) spends each episode trying to get his revenge against something or someone that he believes has done him wrong. Previous targets of his ire have included Chris (voiced by Dave Foley), Elise's parents, traffic, the state of New Mexico, and a dinosaur. Season three begins with Dan being sent to anger management class - something which Paget is looking forward to seeing.
"What I'm excited about is getting to see [the episodes] again. When we record the voices, we don't know everything that the show's going to be until it comes back. We're only doing one part of it," she explained. "Until we see the finished version, we don't really understand the entire show."
The entire show is one of the most unique ideas on television, taking full advantage of the lack of boundaries afforded by animation, whether it's Dan causing an avalanche that buries large parts of Canada or Elise off on one of her many secret missions Chris remains clueless about. One of the series' perpetual questions is why Chris and Elise remain friends with Dan, who's had them arrested, caused Chris severe bodily harm, and loves to mention how much he dislikes Elise.
"I see how they enjoy him even though he's a terror," said Paget. "He can do the right thing sometimes. It's like a guy you're never going to get rid of. He's your brother, you gotta put up with him. I think they genuinely love him and he genuinely loves them, even though he would never admit it. One of the reasons why the show really works is that these people really love each other." (Ironically, she also voices the one thing Dan doesn't hate - his cat, Mr. Mumbles.)
For a show that airs on the same network as My Little Pony and Pound Puppies, Dan Vs. seems to stick out like a delightfully sore thumb. Episodes have included someone getting kidnapped (in 'Dan vs. Baseball'), someone else being knocked unconscious and stuffed in the trunk of a car (in 'Dan vs. Parents'), and lots of property destruction. The contrast is something the cast and creators have long been amused by.
"I don't know if it's supposed to be targeted to a certain age group," said Paget. "It is a little demented. And I think that's Dan and Chris, the real Dan and the real Chris [series creators Dan Mandel and Chris Pearson]. They're kind of goofy, demented boy-men. That's the voice of Dan and Chris.
She added that it's also a little bit of art imitating life: "Chris's real-life wife is named Elise. She's a rocket scientist or something. She is brilliant. Chris is a big tall guy that eats a lot. Dan is this misanthropic, bitter guy. And they are really friends in real life," she said. The difference being that Dan Mandel has never been thrown in jail, impersonated by an impostor, or chained himself to the counter of a fast-food restaurant. Yet, anyway.
So how does this convention-busting, laugh-out-loud half hour of rampage come together? Paget explained what recording the voices of Elise, Mr. Mumbles and the occasional extra character is like. "When we record, it's usually once a week," she said. "We get together between one and four hours. Hopefully it'll be Curtis and Dave and myself. It's much more fun to record with those guys.
"We do a table read of the show that we're going to record the following week, then the writers discuss that with the network and all those people involved in making the animated part - and then we go downstairs and record the episode that we did a table read of the week prior. It's totally confusing," she admitted with a laugh, especially since the actors won't be able to see the finished product until well after they've finished their voice work.
What's her favorite Dan Vs. episode? "It might have been from the first season, 'Dan Vs. The Dentist,' just because we got to work with Mark Hamill. He was so cool," she said. "Also, I love when I've been able to record with Michael [Gross] and Meredith [Baxter], who play Elise's mom and dad. I love 'Dan Vs. Canada' and 'Dan vs. The Wolf-Man.'"
Dan Vs. is not Paget's first foray into voice acting - it's something she's been doing for more than a decade, at the same time she's been on-screen in series like Criminal Minds, Huff, and Andy Richter Controls the Universe. "I started doing Godzilla," she explained. "I got the part of Audrey Timmonds. There was an animated series on FOX and it was Kevin Dunn, Joey Pantoliano and myself. There were nine or ten of us and we recorded in the room together, all of us, which I haven't seen since."
"A lot of the stuff I've done in animation has been because I did a sitcom or a pilot, and the writers moved into animation and would ask me to come and do a voice," she added. "It's a really hard business to break into."
Paget has been a wonderful presence on the small screen in a variety of roles, whether it's been endearing herself to Criminal Minds fans as Prentiss or making us laugh as the beleaguered boss Jessica on Andy Richter Controls the Universe. For now, though, her fans can get their fix by checking out Dan Vs., or even catching her on stage.
"I've done a show at the Largo Theater called The Thrilling Adventure Hour. We read like radio teleplays. It's a send-up of radio dramas from the 30's and 40's," she explained. "We just did a Kickstarter for that so that we can do a web series and a concert film. I guess the podcasts are doing really well. It's crazy. People from all over the world have sent us like, art with people envisioning the characters that we're playing." For more information on The Thrilling Adventure Hour, including how to get tickets, check out the show's website.
As for her return to live-action television, "I haven't really seen anything that I want to do yet," she said. "There's great stuff out there, but I prefer doing a TV show, going to work every day with the same people, and a lot of stuff is not being shot in Los Angeles and I don't really want to do that because my loved ones are here." But never fear, she's still on TV - just in animated form, wielding a big gun and going by the codename 'Dancing Shadow.'
Dan Vs. premieres today at 4 PM ET/1 PM PT. You can check out a clip from the season premiere, "Dan Vs. Anger Management," below.