What makes ABC’s “Galavant” unique, and possibly also a hard sell with viewers, is exactly what appealed to actor Timothy Omundson, who grew up in Seattle and co-starred for eight years on USA’s “Psych.”
Omundson looked through a list of TV pilots and saw the “Galavant” description: “Untitled Dan Fogelman fairy-tale musical comedy.”
“That popped out,” he said. “How often do you read that?”
Omundson, 45, landed the role of the show’s villain, King Richard, who’s revealed to be more wimpy than malicious after he kidnaps the love interest of heroic Sir Galavant (Joshua Sasse).
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“When I first read the audition scene, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, which was pretty big and bold and I went back to my theater roots,” he said, conjuring a nasally voice for the petulant King Richard and imagining Prince John from Disney’s animated “Robin Hood” movie.
On the third day of shooting the pilot episode, director Chris Koch asked if Omundson had played a similar role before.
“I said I’ve kind of been preparing for this character my whole life with all the theater stuff I did in school, but because of TV you have to work on a smaller level and I’ve never gotten to do it,” Omundson said. “For this, the gates opened and the heavens sang.”
It may have helped that Omundson sang and danced in a musical episode of “Psych” and also sang on “Judging Amy.” Disney stalwart Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”) composes the music for “Galavant,” with lyrics by Glenn Slater (“Tangled”). The series was created by “Cars” screenwriter Dan Fogelman, who also created ABC’s “The Neighbors.”
“I did all the musicals in high school and when I went to college I was a very serious, classical actor and skipped the music and went straight to Shakespeare, but I came from a musical family,” Omundson said. “It wasn’t until the ‘Psych’ musical that I had to sing again for real and it really rekindled this love of musical theater I’d always had but I’d put to the side.”
Omundson began studying theater at age 12 at Seattle Children’s Theatre. He was raised in Bellevue, where his parents, John and Lois, still reside, and is a 1987 graduate of Interlake High School.
“I’m a product of the Seattle theater scene,” he said. “It was absolutely fundamental to shaping who I was in a lot of ways.”
He met local actor David Pichette and watched him in two shows while on an internship at Empty Space Theatre. Omundson studied theater at the University of Southern California and credits Pichette with getting him into the USC program.
“The night before I flew down to audition, I saw him and asked him to work on a monologue with me,” Omundson recalled. “We went into the main stage and he hopped on the stage and I was doing Hamlet’s Yorick speech, like ya do, and he played Horatio to my Hamlet. It changed everything about how I did it.”
The “Galavant” pilot was filmed in Wales and the balance of the episodes were shot in Bristol, England.
“We’re trying to mine the funny and we work so hard on the comedic bits and then they go, ‘Can you learn this choreography and by the way you’re recording a new song on Thursday, here’s the music,’ ” Omundson said, describing “Galavant” as a blend of “The Princess Bride” and the sensibilities of Monty Python and Mel Brooks. “It was really interesting and one of the best experiences of my life.”
Now with the show’s first season of eight episodes complete — ABC is airing two episodes back-to-back at 8 p.m. Sundays, starting Jan. 4, for the next four weeks — Omundson sounds confident about the show’s chances for success.
“There’s nothing like it on television,” he said. “Cop shows are great, doctor shows are great, lawyer shows are great but I’m tired of watching them, personally. This is, love it or hate it, new and fresh.”
Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.