Adam Pally is sick of playing maniacs.
The New York native made a name for himself as the walking trainwreck Max Bloom in “Happy Endings” and as the sweet but immature Dr. Peter Prentice on “The Mindy Project.” Now, he’s ready to settle down.
“The first decade of my career, which I’m so fortunate for, I played a lot of lunatics,” Pally says. “It’s nice to get to play a character who is absolutely the sane one of the bunch.”
In “Indebted,” which premiered Thursday on NBC, Pally plays Dave, a normal guy with a wife and kids in the suburbs of Connecticut. He’s stable and comfortable.
Then his parents, played by the perfectly cast Fran Drescher and Steven Weber, lose their money and move in, and what follows is a funny, sweet, caring look at a very Jewish, very screwed-up family. But they’re screwed up in a way that’s familiar. It’s parents who didn’t save money and a sister who can’t get a date, not cancer-stricken dads who start making drugs and supernatural disappearances in 1980s Indiana.
For Pally, that looks more like reality.
“I feel like my true self is closer to Dave,” the 37-year-old actor says. “At this age, you have a lot of responsibility. Children, sisters, friends, parents, pets. … I identify with this idea that you just have to get to tomorrow.”
Even his family looks the same, Pally says: Drescher and Weber look similar enough to his own parents that they didn’t even change the childhood photos on the set.
“I draw a lot from my wife, too,” he says, comparing her to his on-screen wife, played by Abby Elliott.
“I go from getting yelled at at home to getting yelled at in the script to back to getting yelled at at home.”
Elliott, daughter of “Saturday Night Live” alum Chris Elliott, is one of the few non-Jewish actors on “Indebted.”
“We call her our shiksa goddess,” Pally jokes. “But (she’s) Hollywood royalty, so that’s almost being Jewish.”
Drescher, the nasally New Yorker who starred as Fran Fine on “The Nanny,” is arguably one of the most recognizable Jewish actors working today, and that comes through in early episodes. But Pally says the family traditions are more “flavor” than plot. Most of the story should be recognizable to everyone.
“The Jewishness of it, hopefully, is the frame on a painting that everybody has in their house,” he says.
“Indebted” is a simple show. There’s not much plot, and the characters, while heartwarming, probably aren’t going to change the world. Drescher’s Linda, a neurotic, over-the-top mother, even has a catch phrase. That’s all intentional.