Bronson Pinchot, No Stranger To Home Improvements

Bronson Pinchot is taking his favorite pastime to the airwaves. Yes, the same actor who played the bumbling Balki on the hit sitcom “Perfect Strangers” is starring in a new series for the DIY Network called “The Bronson Pinchot Project.” Each 30-minute episode follows Pinchot and his crew as they restore old homes. An edited version of the interview with him follows

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
bronson pinchot image
Bronson Pinchot is most comfortable at home fixing fixer-uppers.
Photograph: DIY Network

MORE: You don’t know this, but we spent New Year’s Eve together.
Bronson Pinchot: We did?

MORE: Yes. I was stuck at home with a sick child and I found The Flamingo Kid on cable.
BP [Laughs]: I was so tan in that movie, which seems odd considering we filmed that movie on Jones Beach in December. I was freezing. I mean, I still remember how cold I was shooting those scenes. My voice was so high pitched because of how cold I was. Matter of fact, I landed the role of Serge in Beverly Hills Cop because of that movie.

MORE: Really?
BP: Yeah. The director, Garry Marshall, asked me to improvise a 40-second scene with my costar, Janet Jones. Turns out, that scene impressed the casting director of Beverly Hills Cop, who was at a screening. From there a whole bunch of other things began to happen.

MORE: Lucky you?
BP: I have a nonlinear life. Whenever I want something to happen, the movers and the shakers ignore me. Yet if I don’t care if something happens, then the most marvelous things happen. For instance, I never intended to be a movie actor. I studied to be a stage actor. I also never intended to ever let cameras into my home, and now they are everywhere I look all day long.

MORE: Explain to me why a Yale graduate and accomplished actor is fixing up old houses.
BP: Old houses need me, and I like to be needed. It is obvious how they speak to me and look at me, how they need me to help them. We also need a show like this one, which can have someone fully explain in detail why and how we are doing it, which I can. We also don’t need any more shows that promote that they’re real but aren’t. This series suits me to a T.

MORE: What got you interested in this kind of work?
BP: The houses have their way with me. I was 20 years old when someone took me on a trip to Vermont and I saw a Greek revival house. I remember the big columns and thinking to myself how lovely it was even though it was sitting in a trench. Anyway, I took one look at it and fell in love, and I knew this is what I wanted to do. It was then I decided I was going to love and restore them.

MORE: Did you have any formal training for this line of work?
BP: No, but Shakespeare didn’t have any training either. He just went through grade school. I don’t think much of training. If anything, my training comes from the emotion I have for these houses.

MORE: Are we going to see you wearing a hard hat and tool belt?
BP: I can do 10 tasks at once if I am the visionary, designer and architect. I do sketch everything and supervise every cut. I think it is safe to say I am the conductor of the orchestra who happens to play a few instruments.

MORE: Did you take on this project to reinvent yourself and star in your own TV show once again?
BP: Not at all. I did it because Departure Films, my producers, called me and said they heard on how I was restoring old houses and would I like to do a show about it. When I was starring on a TV show and on Broadway, I would get in my car, drive over two hours to my house in the country and sink every dime I had into fixing it up.

MORE: But your professional background must come in handy.
BP: Does it help after being in this business for 25 years that I am not intimidated by the camera? Absolutely! Does it help that I can do something mundane in a funny way because I am a quirky kind of guy? Of course! Am I passionate about this? Yes, but that is whether or not a camera is rolling. If anything, I welcome the opportunity to not perform but to get ahead on my projects. I get a real kick out of what I am doing.

MORE: Do you miss performing?
BP: I don’t like performing. I like doing. Now I get to come downstairs in my pajamas and do what I love doing while getting paid for it. How delightful is that?

First Published February 10, 2012

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