Timothy Busfield teases the 'Thirtysomething' revival and a possible 'West Wing' reboot: 'I didn't understand anything I was saying on that show'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

You’ve heard the saying good things come in threes? Well, good things can also come in thirties. Case in point: 30 years after it left the airwaves, the groundbreaking primetime drama Thirtysomething — which followed the trials and tribulations of a group of thirtysomething couples — is poised to make a comeback. In January, ABC announced that it had ordered a pilot for a Thirtysomething revival, written and directed by the show’s creators, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, and starring four of the original cast members: Ken Olin, Mel Harris, Patricia Wettig and Timothy Busfield. “It’s a really great script,” Busfield teased when he stopped by Yahoo’s BUILD Series to discuss his new show, For Life, which premiered this week on ABC. “I’m excited — we’re all excited.” (Watch the clip above.)

At the same time, Busfield admits that he hasn’t thought very much about his alter ego, Elliot Weston, in three decades since Thirtysomething’s cancellation. During the show’s eventful four-season run, graphic designer-turned-ad man Elliot experienced such professional and personal turbulence as an extramarital affair, a career change and nursing his wife Nancy (played by Wettig) through ovarian cancer. In fact, his character had so many dramatic events happen to him that Busfield couldn’t remember them all. Before shooting begins on the new pilot, he’s taking a crash course in Thirtysomething by re-watching the entire series on DVD. “My wife ordered them, and I’ve been watching them again and I’m thinking, ‘That’s a lot of energy that guy put out,’” Busfield says, laughing. “I told her, ‘I don’t know if I can play this guy anymore!’ She’s like, ‘Sure you can.’”

It’s worth noting that the new Thirtysomething won’t be a period piece where all of the actors are de-aged Marvel Cinematic Universe-style to play their younger selves. Instead, the series will take place in the present day when Elliot and Nancy, as well as Michael and Hope (Olin and Harris) are part of the 60-and-up demographic. But the original title still applies as the two couples’ kids are now in their 30s and living through the same drama their parents experienced at that age. “Our kids are living together and having problems, and we [still] have a bunch of 30-year-olds suffering,” Busfield says of the pilot. “Ed and Marshall are great filmmakers, and they’ve written a great script.”

If the Thirtysomething revival is a hit, it could spark another reboot fans have been clamoring for: The West Wing. Busfield had a memorable recurring role on Aaron Sorkin’s beloved political drama as Danny Concannon, a journalist who covered the Bartlet White House and fell in love with press secretary C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney). If stepping back into Elliot’s shoes proved difficult, the actor suggests that even more prep work would be required to play Danny again. “I didn’t understand anything I was saying on that show,” Busfield jokes, adding that it’s ultimately Sorkin’s choice whether or not to bring it back. “We really live and die by the writers being on fire. If Aaron’s on fire, we’ll all fall in. If they try to make the show without that central writer being on fire, you look at what we see so often: overdeveloped television where the network thinks they can make a hit by putting people in the right spot.”

For Life airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC; The West Wing is currently streaming on Netflix.

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