The sixth season of Lifetime’s long-running “Drop Dead Diva” starts this Sunday and, in the words of series creator Josh Berman, they are finally ‘going there’ in terms of the revelation of the much-guarded secret of Jane (Brooke Elliott) being the shell for the soul of Deb finally being known by Grayson (Jackson Hurst). Will Jane and Grayson finally be together by the end of the final season?
And then there’s Paul.
Paul, the guardian angel of Jane’s who joined the show last year and, unlike previous angels on the series, has often been distracted by the world around him almost as much as he has been by his finely sculpted physique. But, as played winningly by Justin Deeley, Paul does care about taking care of Jane and regularly brings a warm charm and adorability, even when he’s not wearing clothes.
Deeley jumped on the phone with me recently to talk about the new season as well as how he handles the frequent shirtlessness and his role as a gay teen in the new film, “Geography Club.”
Talk to me about where we find Paul in the new season.
Justin Deeley: As opposed to last year, where he was finding his footing, this year I have a much more of a prominent role as far as the law firm is concerned, which has been great because I’ve gotten to work with Margaret Cho (Teri) which is a lot of fun. I can’t even tell you how much fun that’s been. Last season I didn’t work with her at all so that’s been a surprise and the things that she and I have done together, it’s been quite a ride with her.
If you saw the [new season] trailer, then you see the epic bend and snap move I get to do. We’ve gotten to do things more fun than that from my perspective but we had a lot of fun with it. I had to actually go back and watch the original movie (“Legally Blonde“). It’s been a few years, obviously, and so I had to make sure I perfected that move because if I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. I hope Reese Witherspoon could watch it with pride.
I thought you did the bend and snap beautifully. You got it!
Yeah, I nailed it! In the beginning, I had a little problem with the snap so I had to get more snap to it but we had a lot of fun with it. But it's been a blast so far just like it was last season. It's going to be more craziness with Paul, no doubt about it.
What you’re doing with Margaret, is it more work-related but with some mischievousness?
JD: It’s just teamwork stuff but she helps me get out of some jams and, you can imagine, Paul gets himself in some situations. He has much more responsibility in the law firm and you can’t really be messing around in a law firm so she just kind of shows him the ropes and teamwork with that. She’s kind of my mentor.
What’s Paul’s interaction with Jane since he is still technically her guardian angel?
JD: She’s still my number one girl and she’s still my number one priority but this year she’s got a lot with Grayson but he’s just guiding her the best he can and trying to stay out of the way. But he’s always got his eye on her, despite what she thinks. It will always be that and I think you do see that in the first couple of episodes.
Does Paul get into the dating world at all in the new season?
JD: That hasn’t happened yet and that doesn’t surprise me that they haven’t thrown that in the mix but who knows. We’re half way through [filming] and that hasn’t been established at all. But one of the things I love about him and what I love about playing Paul is his main concern is…he seems to be pretty selfish on the surface maybe but he really does care about the well-being of the other people who’ve brought him into their lives so he likes to concern himself with other people, more so than himself.
Have you noticed that Josh [Berman, Creator] and the other writers have written Paul more towards who you are? Or are you becoming more like Paul?
JD: Maybe a little bit of both. I feel very connected to him, always have, even when I first read for him last April so, to me, sometimes it’s just a perfect fit and it just seemed that way for me. I wouldn’t say they’re writing more towards me but I would say I just have always connected with him since that initial audition and as time goes on I just get more and more comfortable with everything and that just comes with time and that’s what’s happened.
I loved the scenes last year with you and Lex Medlin (Owen). I’m hoping we get to see some more storylines with you two guys this year.
JD: You know something, Jim, you need to work a little harder on Josh Berman to make that happen. [laughs] But you know what? We had one today, episode nine, and we had a scene together today. Every time I see him on the cast call sheet, I get excited. I don’t want to give it away because it’s a big part of what’s coming up but it was a lot of fun. But we’re only at the halfway point and the majority of my episodes are in front of me. But you’ve got to work on Josh Berman about that.
I will nudge Josh when I talk to him. Now, let me ask you about having your clothes off every so often. Are you okay with that or would you like to get away from it?
JD: No, physical comedy to me is always the best. I think it makes things amplified in comedy so when comedy is involved with the nakedness, I guess for lack of a better word, I’m always down for a good joke so who cares? It’s just at the end of the day, if my shirt off, then my shirt’s off. Andsome people may or may not care but I have my shirt on for the most part. I’m always very aware how much I have my shirt off and on but it’s just part of the gig. I don’t try to concern whether or not. It’s beyond my control anyway. If they write it, I’m more than happy to do it.
Have you been recognized more since you joined last year?
I would say yes and no to that question. I'd say I get recognized by a completely different demographic and that is - and I love this - the age is 55 and up, which I think is awesome. They are different kinds of fans. They're just fascinated if someone is on their television and they're standing right in front of them. It's more like 'Oh, you're on my TV and you're standing right here.'
There’s a local gym where I work out at here in Peachtree City it’s not very big, and I’ve had this wonderful elderly couple that watch the show, they’re big fans and they always come up to me and they always have the most wonderful things to say.
And you also have the gay audience now from the film, “Geography Club,” which I know is coming out on DVD on Tuesday.
JD: Thank you! And it’s nominated for Best Picture for limited release at the GLAAD Media Awards. I think the audience, the size of it, is really bigger than maybe we all thought and it only continues to grow by word of mouth, which I think is the most special part of growth that you can have. I am so proud of that project and everyone involved and so happy for everyone involved.
But, you know, something happened the other day and on Twitter and some high school kid tweeted a picture and he said 'Today was my day to pick the background screen' for whatever technical thing they were using and it was the cover of "Geography Club." I'm glad it reached the audience that we wanted it to reach, which is that young high school audience. They're so impressionable and it seems to be going well with that group and I hope it just continues to do so.
“Drop Dead Diva” airs Sundays at 8pm on Lifetime. “Geography Club” is available on XFinity On Demand or is available on DVD & Blu-ray starting Tuesday, March 25th.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.