Wendell Pierce having fun on The Odd Couple set

Wendell Pierce, who appears opposite Matthew Perry in The Odd Couple on TV, is happy to move away from serious dramas

American actor Wendell Pierce, who is acting in new sitcom The Odd Couple, says that it is one of the first times he has child fans who tell him, "Hey, I saw you on the show".

He plays Teddy, an agent to Matthew Perry's radio talk-show host character, Oscar Madison, in the sitcom.

The 52-year-old, who is married, is known for acting in more serious American dramas such as The Wire and Treme. He said in a conference call with Life! and journalists from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines last week: "It's great to be in something that's fun, that everybody can enjoy."

However, he has no preference for either sort of production, priding himself instead on having as diverse a career as possible. He adds that acting in sitcoms requires "the same sort of acting muscle as in other mediums, just that you've got to use it faster", by being quick on his feet and thinking fast while filming.

This sitcom is the sixth screen production based on the 1965 play written by American playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon. In it, Perry plays Madison, who is a slob, and Thomas Lennon is the obsessively tidy Felix Unger. The two share an apartment after their marriages break down.

Pierce says: "One's very sloppy while the other's very clean. Ultimately, they still get along, as their friendship means more than anything that could pull them apart."

Asked how different this version of the show is from the previous ones, he says: "We pay homage to the original play with some jokes that were there and retain the relationship between these two people with completely opposite lifestyles. Although we've added new elements to cater to people who do not know anything about The Odd Couple, we take care not to throw out the baby with the bathwater."

He was invited to act in the sitcom after being spotted on The Michael J. Fox show last year.

He said with a chuckle: "Joining it was a no-brainer. Having been a fan of Matthew Perry for a long time, it's been a ball working with him. In fact, I was a little nervous being around geniuses like Perry and Lennon."

He has also watched previous television, theatre and movie productions based on the original play. One of the most famous productions is the 1968 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

About his character, he said: "Teddy's a loyal friend and I like to think that I'm that too. Like him, I'm also a little messy, though I'm not the businessman that he is."

He said he prepared for the role by making sure he knew what Teddy's relationship with Madison was like.

He is a fan of popular sitcom Friends, which Perry starred in, and names his favourite sitcom as Real Husbands Of Hollywood, as it makes fun of Hollywood and certain issues in society.

He is also acting in Brothers From The Bottom, a play about gentrification in New Orleans, which is his hometown. It runs till March 29 at The Billie Holiday Theater in Brooklyn, New York.

He also hosts the Peabody Award-winning radio programme, Jazz At Lincoln Center.

Asked about the most important lesson he has learnt in the American entertainment industry, he says: "It would be doing good work and developing good relationships - it's a lot more personal in Hollywood than people would think. For one, being friends with a director makes him more likely to think of you in different projects down the line."

He names his acting influences as late actor Roscoe Lee Browne, an African-American actor known for his rich voice, and British actress Carmen Ejogo, whom he worked with in the historical drama film Selma (2014).

He tries to act in a television production, movie and play every year, and says: "Five years from now, hopefully I'll still be doing The Odd Couple in a nice, long run. If not, I hope I'll be acting in productions in different countries."

sarahgyx@sph.com.sg

The Odd Couple is showing on  RTL CBS Entertainment HD (StarHub TV Channel 509 and Singtel TV Channel 318) on Friday at 9.55pm.