TV

Disney Channel’s Tobie Windham ready to ‘Just Roll with It’

"Just Roll with It" star Tobie Windham admits that he's a little bit out there. An actor would have to be to take on the unpredictable format of the new Disney Channel series wherein the studio audience gets to vote on the outcome of key scenes during the show.

Windham was eager to play Byron, a radio DJ who plunges into any adventure with his newly blended family, in this part-sitcom, part-improvisational comedy production. The Alabama native has always looked for projects that pushed him. It's the only way he can find out what are his full comedic capabilities are.

"Am I capable of being funny in this form? When the creators were telling me about this show I realized that it's both an actor's nightmare and dream at the same time," Windham says during a break from meeting with fans at the recent Disney Channel Fan Fest held at Disney's California Adventure.

The initial episode of "Just Roll with It" airs Friday and it debuts in its regular time slot at 8 p.m. Eastern June 19. Fans attending the festival had not seen the new series. But Windham was known by those in attendance for his starring role as Uncle Will in Disney XD's hidden camera series "Walk the Prank." As Uncle Will, he helped his nephew and a team of practical jokesters pull off over-the-top pranks on unsuspecting strangers.

"Just Roll with It" is a hybrid that starts with a traditional sitcom plotline and will feature many elements from the format. That means a portion of the show can be rehearsed and presented in front of a studio audience. Then a foghorn stops the action and the cast is sent backstage. They have no idea how a scene is going to play out when they return, as the audience will have voted for what will transpire. Only when they return to the set will they be given directions on where the scene should go.

"There is definitely a story from A to Z. There are bits in the story where we aren't going to know, L, M, N, O, P," Windham says. "In the magic of storytelling, you know you have to build."

Kory Lunsford, vice president, Original Programming, Disney Channel, describes "Just Roll with It" as a program that has elevated the convention of a sitcom by adding the keep-you-on-your-toes element of improvisation. That makes it, according to Lunsford, "a uniquely entertaining experience for the live studio audience and viewers at home."

The improvisational element is the key to the show working. That's why the cast members are not only veterans of improv but continue to work on their ad-libbing skills. Along with Windham, the cast includes Suzi Barrett (Upright Citizens Brigade), who plays a decorated military veteran who now produces her husband's daily show in their hometown of Akron, Ohio. Ramon Reed and Kaylin Hayman play preteen stepsiblings Owen Blatt and Blair Bennett, polar opposites who must learn to get along.

Each cast member gets praise from Windham for their deft skills at creating on the spot. He has found the actors are so synched with each other there has been no challenge that has given them pause.

Windham fell in love with acting at the age of 12 after attending a play. After graduating from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and later getting his MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater, Windham's passion for acting landed him in numerous theater performances at various festivals. His additional television credits include the miniseries "The Wesley's" and the comedy short "Stakes."

While Alabama might not be the first place that comes to mind for comedy, Windham says it's not where he was born and raised, but the family that surrounded him.

"I come from a family of funny people," Windham says. "I think my mom could have toured with a comedy show. My dad is funny but he has dry humor. I think a lot of comedians get the root of your stuff from places that are thought of as being dry.

"New York has hard comedy, but you come down to the South to polish stuff so you can take it to the big cities."

'JUST ROLL WITH IT'

9:45 p.m./8:45 p.m. Central Friday, Disney Channel

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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