Geno Segers shares how new NBC comedy Perfect Harmony captures the perfect combination of humor and heart.
Actor Geno Segers is part of the amazing ensemble cast of Perfect Harmony. The new comedy airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30 central on NBC.
I had the opportunity to chat with Geno (also a professional rugby player and former footballer at Western Carolina University) about the unique combination of laughs and heartfelt moments in store for fans from the new series.
Geno’s character, Dwayne, is part of a small church choir in Kentucky. The choir is preparing for a singing competition traditionally dominated by a mega church in the area. Arthur Cochran, who is retired from the music department at Princeton, encounters the struggling choir after the death of his wife Jean, who asked to be buried in the small town that she once called home.
Arthur is both jaded and grieving as he contemplates life sitting in his car outside the church when he hears sounds coming from the fledgling choir. Arthur cannot bring himself to stand by as the choir misses the mark on their music. He immediately begins correcting their technique and giving them insulting (but clever!) nicknames. For instance, Arthur refers to Geno’s character Dwayne as “diet Vin Diesel” due to his large stature.
Ultimately, the choir convinces him to mentor them, but Arthur ends up receiving support from the choir as well. The eclectic mix of choir personalities combined with Arthur as a gruff “fish out of water” brings a richness to the ensemble cast. It’s easy to find yourself cheering for Arthur and the choir.
Geno gives some great insights on Perfect Harmony and fun scoop on his character Dwayne.
Arthur stumbles upon a church choir in a small town with whom he has no history beyond that of his late wife. The members of the small church choir, however, have quite a bit of shared history and know each other well. I’m curious, have you worked with anyone in the cast prior, or can everything we see, that close-knit aspect, be attributed solely to great acting?
Geno: You know, honestly I would really have to chalk it up to great casting because Will Greenberg is the spitting image of my stepbrother, who I grew up with and was my best friend for many, many, many years. My stepbrother was a bit of a black sheep of the family. He was always doing his own thing, and always really trying to just push the envelope as much as he could. I really find Will [Greenberg]’s character, Wayne, very much like my stepbrother.
I know people in the South that are like Tymberlee [Hill]’s character, Adams. I know people who are like Anna [Camp]’s character, Ginny. So I’m very familiar with these characters. I think that, oddly enough, all the people who are playing these southern characters are generally from the South, with the exception of Rizwan Manji, who is from Canada. His character, Reverend Jax, is literally an international character, though, so it kind of works. It really just does work.
No spoilers, of course, but is there any sort of irony around your character being named Dwayne, and his best friend being named Wayne? Is that intentional for the names to be so closely related.
Geno: You know, I think, maybe. I think the writers really sort of worked that out because originally Dwayne’s name was something different, and they changed it. They changed it to Dwayne, but Wayne’s name has always been Wayne. Hmm . . . So maybe they have something in store there. We’ll have to see.
One thing that struck me right away was that the show is very funny. It has a lot of humor, but it also has a lot of heart. Did you know when you signed on to the project that it was going to be so multi-faceted?
Geno: You know, I just knew that working with Jason [Winer], he’s the funny guy. He’s a director who had done a lot of comedy, and I really felt like it was going to be straight sort of comedy.
I did not expect as much heart as it does have. I have to say, I’m really excited. I’m really happy about it, and my character particularly. I have to be 100% honest with you. [Contrasting Dwayne to many of Geno’s previous roles] I’m just really glad that my character doesn’t die a gruesome death, you know. He keeps his faith, and he doesn’t have to kill anyone. I’m really excited to play a character like that.
I feel like the show breaks down some stereotypes. For instance, your character Dwayne is this big strong guy, but he’s kind of mild mannered and shy in some ways. Do you think we’re going to see more of that across the series?
Geno: Yes, I really do think that Arthur (Bradley Whitford’s character) is the person that basically brings out the best qualities in us, in sort of an odd kind of way because he’s so gruff and so in your face.
In the South, we’re not really accustomed to someone just telling us the ugly truth about ourselves. You know what I mean? Even when someone does, they do it in a way that’s almost polite.
[I interject] Yes, like saying “bless your heart”.
Geno: Yeah, exactly, but Arthur doesn’t really care what you think about him, and he doesn’t really care about your feelings. What he cares about is getting good music out on the table for everyone to enjoy, including himself. So, in Arthur finding his purpose in this little choir, we need him, not only to help us be a great choir, but I think we need him to help us be better versions of ourselves. That kind of brings it together a little bit. I think that’s where the heart comes in, and you can’t help but really appreciate that heart as you so put it.
Absolutely! Some might call your character’s choir the underdogs. They are quite talented, however. Arthur brings out even more of this talent in them. What is your take? Would you call them underdogs or would you describe them differently?
I think that, yes, they are underdogs, in the normal sense of the term underdog, but you’re right, they are a very talented group. But they lack direction. At the time Arthur comes into our story, Ginny is the choir director. Ginny is kind of all over the place because of the divorce, because of her son, because of her financial situation. You know, she’s all over the place. It’s just a situation. Wayne may have gotten them into financial issues trying to do all of these different things. There’s a lot going on in Ginny’s life. So, she lacks direction. Her lack of direction finds the choir in this directionless sort of world.
And Arthur, who is all about direction, all about order, all about putting the pieces where they need to be, where they belong, comes in and puts us where we need be. Not only that, Arthur brings out Dwayne’s inner desire for female power ballads. Dwayne loves female power ballads. I mean, who knew, right?
That said, I had hoped that Dwayne would find an old collection of Barry White and maybe Lou Rawls, but I don’t know that that’s going to happen.
That’s very funny. That might not be his direction.
Geno: [laughing] Might not be his direction.
What would you say to folks that are thinking about tuning in but they have no musical history, viewers that are not musical at all. What would say to them to get them excited about the show?
Geno: I would let them know to get excited about the fact that the show is really about finding inspiration and finding your purpose in the most unlikely of places. So, if for nothing else, you will be able to tune in and find out, ‘hey, there’s an opportunity around every corner, I just need to pick it up and run with it’.
Could you possibly select one favorite part about being on the show? Is that possible?
Geno: Wow! My favorite part about being on the show has to be working with such a talented cast. I mean, they’re always “on”. They’re always on. Bradley is always on. Even when he’s having fun and joking around, he’s still very much into Arthur. I get mixed up a lot of times! I don’t know if it’s Arthur or Bradley. [Bradley]’s such a talented guy. I’ve been a fan of Bradley Whitford since The West Wing. It’s an honor and I’m really excited to be working with him.
Let’s reach back to your college days for a moment. I have a young friend, Emily, who just started as a freshman at Western Carolina University.
Geno: [in surprise] Whaaat?
What is a tip you can give her based on your experience there as a student?
Wow! Well, you know, it’s a lot different than it is now than when I went to Western. It’s way different now, and I would probably say just be as active in the Western Carolina community as you possibly can. When I say the community, I mean the administration. Be a part of the team that brings in other students to Western Carolina.
Once you get into that world, it opens up opportunities and doors for you that you would not already have available to you, just as a student, but rather being a part of the faculty, being a part of the administration.
They had a group called Western Carolina Ambassadors when I was there and we would show kids around who were thinking about coming to Western. We would basically show them around and show them the campus. It got me over the hump because once I needed something at the administration building, I got it quickly. I didn’t have to wait in line. I got everything I needed simply because I knew people. I knew who to talk to and knew where to go to get it. They all knew me by first and last name.
It was a relationship. I would say to her, start developing those relationships inside the administration, with the faculty and with the heads of all schools that you’re interested in. That would be my suggestion for her.
Awesome! That sounds like solid advice.
Just a choir and their will to survive.
— Perfect Harmony (@PerfectHarmony) September 23, 2019
I add that Perfect Harmony has a great time slot on NBC, Thursdays at 8:30/7:30 Central. As a former college football player, Geno jokes about competition with Thursday night football. I remind him that streaming and DVR open up opportunities for people to watch all their favorite programming!
It certainly looks like Perfect Harmony will be one of my new favorite series. Insights from Geno have me even more excited about getting to know all the members of the Second First Church of the Cumberlands choir.
Join me starting for a standing Thursday night date with Perfect Harmony on NBC.
Stay connected with So Many Shows: