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Adam J. Harrington is in the Eye of the Storm on VH1’s Daytime Divas

By on June 1, 2017

Adam J. Harrington. Photo Credit Dana Patrick

Following a number of darker TV roles, including a mercenary for hire, an extortionist and a serial killer, Adam J. Harrington is making a return to comedy this summer.

The Parks and Rec and Drop Dead Diva alum will find himself tackling prima donnas of a different sort when he takes on the role of harried network executive Jason Abel on VH1’s Daytime Divas.

The new series, adapted for TV by Amy and Wendy Engelberg (What I like About You, Drop Dead Diva) is based on the book Satan’s Sisters by Star Jones, former host of The View.

The show stars Vanessa Williams, Tichina Arnold, Chloe Bridges, Camille Guaty and Fiona Gubelmann as co-hosts of fictional daytime show The Lunch Hour. While the cameras are rolling, Maxine, Mo, Kibby, Nina and Heather get along famously, but behind the scenes, power struggles, sabotage, and giant egos paint a different picture.

“It’s five divas, all out for themselves,” explains Harrington. “For Jason, it’s like a giant tornado. He’s just trying to hold everything together.”

And try he should, as Harrington explains, when these feuding women manage to put their differences aside, The Lunch Hour is “like catching lightning in a bottle.”

“Jason is the successful, career driven head of the network, who’s happy it’s all happening, but terrified it’s all going to fall apart at a moment’s notice,” says Harrington. “In this age of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, one right move and suddenly you’re on top, but one wrong step and it all goes to pot. Behind the scenes they’re all desperate for the show to be a hit — and it is — but it could all come apart at the seams so easily too.”

Given that The Lunch Hour is home to a collection of power-hungry, ego-driven characters, just how comfortable is Jason Abel in this work environment?

“He is so tightly wound,” laughs Harrington. “What was fun about him is how nervous and desperate he is for things to go well, and how terrified he is that they’re not going to work. It was a lot of fun playing him. A lot of people have ideas about what and who network executive are. On the surface of things they’re the ‘let’s do lunch’ people who are always smiling. I really loved playing somebody who just so wants it to work.”

Despite the ongoing feuds, there is unexpected warmth and heart to be found in this sudsy summer comedy too, and Jason will both help bring that out — and do the opposite — according to Harrington.

“So as a comedy, there’s a lot of funny stuff coming, but there’s also a lot of heart to this show. I may play Maxine’s boss on paper, but really, she’s in charge of me. I’m just doing my best to try to keep her happy, which in that sense makes me a very smart executive. But Maxine’s relationship with the other women is personal, and as you’ll see, she really is looking out for them.

I think there’s real heart to all of their characters. It’s a real place they’re coming from. It does come out in hilariousness and all that stuff but they’re all very grounded in the type of people they’re representing. So although there’s a lot of fun stuff coming, there really is also a lot of heart to the show — in particular, the relationship between Maxine and her son, and the relationship between Maxine and Kibby. It really creates a nice balance.

Also, it has to be said, Vanessa Williams is an absolute pleasure to work with. Her talent is amazing. She was so nice to everybody. It really does set a beautiful tone on set. I also got to work with Tichina Arnold quite a bit, who is just lovely. Her comic timing is just brilliant.”

Knowing that some people are going to look at Daytime Divas conscious of the fact Josh Berman is executive producing another show with a ‘diva’ in it, I’m curious to know if they can expect some of that old Drop Dead flavor.

“I think it’s very much its own beast,” muses Harrington. “It’s a fun, bombastic show that’s got real heart to it. The name was its own creation. When you have Josh Berman as executive producer on something, it’s generally of a great pedigree. I think fans who loved Drop Dead Diva will love this show as well.”

With his season-long stint on Daytime Divas representing somewhat of a u-turn from recent heavier material, I’m prompted to ask if the decision to take on this particular role was a conscious one on Harrington’s part. 

“As a working actor, sometimes the work chooses you,” he admits.  “I’ve been lucky enough to do a variety of different things. I really do like doing comedy. I got to work on Drop Dead Diva, and of course Parks and Recreation. There’s a job to be done, but you go to a different place when you’re not holding a knife on someone! It’s such a fun way to spend the day, even when the day is hard.”

This begs the inevitable question. Comedy or drama? 

He laughs. “It’s like being asked to choose a favorite parent. I have such an appreciation for the variety I’ve had so far in my career. If I had to pick just one, when it was done, I know I’d probably want to have chosen the other.  What I love about drama is that you get to tell stories and hold up parts of the human condition to the light. It’s a beautiful process to be involved in. But yeah. It’s like being asked to choose your favorite parent …”

Some fans of Harrington’s may be more familiar with his work on genre shows such as The Secret Circle and more recently Freeform’s Shadowhunters. With the summer premiere featuring [spoiler alert] a brief flashback scene to Jace Wayland’s unhappy childhood, I am curious to know if we may see Michael Wayland return, in some form, either this season or next.

“I’m not sure,” says Harrington. “I know that they were very happy with how the Michael Wayland story went. I also know there have been conversations about Michael, but as to whether that means a return? We’ll have to wait and see. I would love to go back. The show is shot in Toronto, which is home turf for me. I was actually born about an hour from there the show is shot. They were such a fantastic group. Dominic Sherwood is extraordinary. Katherine is amazing. I loved being there. I would go back in a heartbeat,” he admits.

As far as other projects go, it seems working actor Adam Harrington is as busy as ever. He has a starring role in Magnum Opus, a military conspiracy thriller recently shopped at Cannes. “I’m so proud of that film,” he divulges. “It’s got a really great team behind it, and I can’t wait for people to see it when it comes out.”

In addition, Harrington is also working on (another!) video game. I ask the man behind LA Noire’s Roy Earle and Battlefield Hardline’s Tyson Latchford what he can divulge, but at this early stage, it’s not much.

“I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” he tells me. “I’m not allowed to say anything about it, but it’s going to be big.”

We don’t doubt it for a minute.

Daytime Divas premieres Monday, June 5 10/9c on VH1.

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