Oscar Nunez Leaps From ‘The Office’ To USA’s New Comedy, ‘Benched’

Oscar Nunez as Carlos on the new USA comedy, 'Benched.' (USA)

We loved him for nine seasons on “The Office but, of course, all good things must come to an end but we can be thankful that Oscar Nunez is back on our televisions in another comedy.

Benched premiered recently on the USA Network and follows a group of public defenders, led by Eliza Coupe (“Happy Endings) and Jay Harrington (“Better Off Ted), as they tackle cases and also try to get a handle on their own lives. Nunez plays Carlos, who, we find out in tonight’s episode, is estranged from his wife and needs a little cheering up, which Harrington’s Phil decides to take charge of.

I talked to Nunez last week about the new role as well as his past role playing a gay character and how he sees the current state of LGBT acceptance in our country.

This week’s episode we get a lot more of your character, who has some issues with his wife.

Oscar Nunez: It’s one of those deals where he puts out so much energy at work but at home it’s not so great. He’s separated and with the work load and the pressures, he’s in a sad sack period. It’s a very funny episode. Phil is trying to help his buddy, ‘let’s go out and party.’ It’s twisted.

Is Phil really the best guy to help Carlos? He's a bit of a loose cannon himself.

ON: They kind of all are! Boring Larry (Pete Spruyt) is the one who has his s**t together more than anyone. It’s a very tough job. Under paid, over worked.

[iframe http://www.youtube.com/embed/zLdPmkIDKRI 560 340]

And with "Benched" you're in another ensemble. How's that been for after nine seasons on "The Office."

ON: It’s great. I’m very lucky to go from a show like “The Office” to this show. I love and respect the creators, Damon [Jones] and Michaela [Watkins]. I think they’re funny, I think they’re good people, I like them. They’re fantastic and that doesn’t happen that often. To go from one great show into a great project like this.

And I get to work with Maria Bamford. I think she's one of the funniest people out there pound for pound, like Louis CK. I think everyone should know her name. She's a great standup. It's a great ensemble of people. One of the head writers is from The Groundlings. We get to shoot here in town and we've had great people come to help us out. Michael McDonald directed an episode, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon came by and Molly Shannon. It's been great.

With all these hilarious people, have you been able to improv much or are you sticking to the script?

ON: We get to play but we’re just shooting very fast. The scripts are very funny so they don’t need anything. You can riff a little bit but it’s not really needed, ya know?

Do you hope that we get to meet Carlos’s wife, Rosa, at some point?

ON: Like on “The Office,” I don’t think these things need to happen like we need to see this person or that person. All I’m concerned about is that the show remains interesting and funny.

(l-r) Nunez, Kate Flannery and Jenna Fischer in 'The Office.' (NBC)

I'm curious if all your time playing Oscar on "The Office," did it change your perspective on the gay community and how they responded to a gay character. When "The Office" started there weren't nearly as many gay characters as there are today. Maybe Oscar is part of the reason for that.

ON: I like to think so. There are a lot of places in the world that are a lot cooler than we are. I don’t know how that happened. In the 50s and 60s, we were the cool place to be, we were the liberal place to be. But it’s changing. We’re changing litigation state by state with gay marriage and all that but it’s sad that we’re even discussing this at this point in 2014 and it’s still an issue in the United States. We should be discussing other things. I grew up in New Jersey and I was hanging out in Manhattan when I was 16 and 17 and gay people were a big part of my life since I was a teenager. It’s a non-issue for me.

“Benched” airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm on the USA Network. 

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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