By JUDY SLOANE and ANGELA DAWSON
HOLLYWOOD—Actress and former “Dancing with the Stars” celebrity contestant Jane Seymour returns to the small screen in the ‘80s flashback comedy series “Let’s Get Physical.” The perennial British beauty plays a new widow thrust into taking over the operations of her late husband’s run-down gym in order to protect the family’s legacy. Janet (Seymour) enlists her slacker son, Joe (Matt Jones, “Breaking Bad”), to manage the facility. Joe, in turn, faces stiff competition from a slick rival gym, operated by Barry (Chris Diamantopoulos, “Silicon Valley”), an old high school nemesis, who married Claudia (AnnaLynne McCord, “Secrets and Lies”), the girl of his dreams.
“What’s so great is everyone wants to laugh these days,” observes a svelte sixty-something Seymour, who once adorned the cover of a Jane Fonda workout book during the ‘80s. “There’s so much serious stuff going on in the world, and people are obsessed with their figures(and) their health. Here, in this show, we’re able to show how ridiculous that is and to what ridiculous extremes we can go.”
Seymour, along with fellow cast members Diamantopoulos, Jones and McCord, gathered at the Television Critics tour to talk about the shiny spandex-filled comedy series that premieres on cable’s Pop channel Wednesday Jan. 24 at 8:30 p.m./7C.
Q: The premise of the show seems to harken back to those ’80s comedies where you have to win a contest to gain some award. How will you extend that over the course of several episodes?
Jones: We talked about it before starting, and decided that it felt like (the 1985 film comedy) “Brewster’s Millions” in reverse. Not everybody knows “Brewster’s Millions,” but I do, and I love it so much. I love the fact that we got to really play this 90‑minute scenario in an eight‑episode series. We got to just go into how stupid it is in so many ways and kind of follow the trails of why they’re in that situation.
Q: How would you describe “Let’s Get Physical,” briefly?
Jones: The show is about two competing gyms. My gym—our gym— kind of represents the ’80s cheesiness of aerobics, whereas …
McCord: (interrupts) … our gym is not cheesy at all.
Seymour: As much as anything, the show is also about having a son that doesn’t turn out to be exactly how you intended him to be. He was supposed to turn out to be this amazing aerobics person (but) he turns into something quite different. I am still a manipulative mother trying to manipulate him into becoming the Spandex King, which he doesn’t appreciate.
Q: Is Matt’s Joe character motivated strictly by securing his inheritance, or is there love involved?
McCord: My character dumped him, and he isn’t over it. I married his rival, so that’s the motivation.
Jones: My character kind of represents people that are not in a good place in their life and don’t want to admit it to themselves, and then something happens where they have to kind of look at themselves and say, “Wow, my life really sucks and I’ve got to fix it.” This season is about the aerobics competition, but it’s more about me putting my life back together and trying to revive my relationship with my mother and learning that I might be an idiot. Running away from what you should be doing is a lot of what the show is about.
Q: People have a love‑hate relationship with gyms. What’s your personal relationship with gyms?
McCord: I like the brain gym. I would rather spend my time reading or doing something (sedentary. Getting up and having to do something where I sweat just sounds terrible, so I decided to do a show where I have to do it.
Jones: I don’t go to the gym a lot. I did a lot of musical theater when I was younger, and so I can dance a bit but I’m not just like my character. We’re very similar in the way where I’d rather eat and have a drink than wake up and go to the gym, but I also do like going to the gym when I’m in that mode. I’m like everybody—you go in and out of it. Pilates is great, by the way. If you have back problems, guys, Pilates.
Seymour: That’s what I do—Pilates, Gyrotonics (and) light weights—not as often, probably, as I should. I used to be a ballet dancer back in the day, and I actually was on the cover of Jane Fonda’s workout book for pregnancy in a striped leotard. That shows you how old I am and how authentic I am to this project because I still have those leotards and those leg warmers, and I still vaguely remember how to do those things.
Diamantopoulos: I really don’t like gyms at all. I’m kind of agoraphobic, but my brother runs a strength‑training facility. I’m sort of his guinea pig. So, I’ve come to learn there is a secret that the gym industry has been keeping from all of us and the truth of the matter is you can go to the gym all you want, but it’s not going to make any difference in the way you look. The truth is, unfortunately, it really just has to do with what you eat. It’s just diet. You could never go to the gym and eat correctly and look like you spend what people would think are hours at the gym every day. If you can mitigate the diet and then maybe walk a little bit, you should be all right.
Q: Some recall the ‘80s aerobics craze rather fondly. What was so fun about it besides the shiny skintight leotards for both sexes?
Seymour: I loved it. I thought it was really great fun. I used to go to the Jane Fonda workout all the time. As an ex‑dancer, I thought it was really good. The only problem I had was, as a dancer, I knew they were sometimes getting people to do things that were not wise. They weren’t doing the right kind of technique, so I used to try and correct people in the class, and that’s when I stopped going.
Jones: A lot of people go to gyms because they want to feel part of something, like being in a club, and being proactive. That’s what the show is too. The characters, throughout, realize the gym is not just about working out, it’s being a part of something.
Q: Jane, do you get to do a lot of dancing on this show?
Seymour: I wish I could do more dancing on it. I only get to do a little bit, but any excuse to get on stage and dance (is welcome).
Q: How fun is it to be in a comedy series, poking a little fun at yourself? Do you enjoy it?
Seymour: Absolutely. I (wear) this blonde wig (and) headband. I didn’t realize I was vaguely channeling my dear friend Olivia Newton‑John until after I’d started doing it. But I love to be funny; that’s my favorite thing. Since (appearing in) “Wedding Crashers,” I’ve done a lot of comedies. I have a comedy (“The War with Grandpa”) with Robert De Niro coming out pretty soon. Matt and I have worked together on (the 2011 TV movie “Perfectly Prudence”) before, so it was wonderful to play his mother, because I’ve been picking at him for years. I didn’t have to do any research there. Comedy has great characters. At my age, I’m not going to play the ingenue anymore.
Q: Is your friend, Olivia Newton-John, going to guest star on the show?
Seymour: I tried (to get her), but she decided to take a little time off right now. I’m sure once she sees it and the little video I just posted of me trying to sing “Let’s Get Physical,” she’ll want to do a duet with me.
Q: When you do the aerobics dancing, does your dance background help you in the silly way it’s depicted on the show?
Seymour: Comedy is comedy, so you do it. But I do think it helps to have a dance background, just for balance, because then you can do all kinds of silly stuff.
Diamantopoulos: Get people that are really good behind you, and then you can stand there and look okay. I will say this, Jane made it all look easy, and it’s actually shockingly not easy. We were supposed to look like we knew what we were doing, and anytime she would stand up and do it, we decidedly did not look like we knew what we were doing.
Seymour: I don’t know about that, but, at my age, I’m not asked to do it that much anyway, just a little bit.