SDCC 13′ Interview with The Neighbor’s Tim Jo


As a huge fan of alien sitcoms growing up, it was refreshing to see ABC’s The Neighbor on TV. It is hilarious. It was my usual Wednesday night line-up to watch The Neighbors and then Suburgatory. When Nerd Reactor was given the opportunity to interview Tim Jo, who plays alien Reggie Jackson, I took it quickly. I was really excited to meet “Reggie Jackson.” The awesome thing about Tim Jo is  – not only is Jo part of this hilarious series, he is also a comic book geek too! So we had MORE to talk about!

NR: I’m a HUGE fan of the show. I watch The Neighbors and Suburgatory. Congrats on getting renewed!

Tim Jo: Thank you. We actually got good news today too. We got an Emmy nomination. I’m constantly getting texts. We got our first taste of people saying there’s something good about this show critically. Even if it has to be the most gigantic Alan Menken and Glenn Slater to bring us there. The Broadway musical episode – that is basically nominating all of the cast members that sang in the episode.

NR: How was singing in that musical? Reggie Jackson did sing a song to declare his love for Amber.

TJ: I was in the reprise of the song. My love song. Most nerve-wrecking thing. I have a band. I’m the guitarist. I’m not a singer. One of the writers texted me asking if I played guitar. I play guitar but I grew up playing it at church. So I only know about this much about the guitar. Not a soloist. She asked if I could sing. ‘I’m not tone deaf. I’m not being humble. I’m not going to be on Glee.” She said, “ok.” And next thing I know, we’re doing this musical episode. And at the rap part, she says, “Tim, the day I texted you, I was pitching you so hard. I just needed to hear you could play guitar and sing.” So she was texting me to Dan Fogelman and everybody telling them “Yeah, Tim is the best singer. Tim is the best guitar player. Simon could sing. We gotta do it.” She was doing her pitch that day. That was so nerve-wrecking.

tim jo 3

NR: I really love the relationships between Reggie and Amber. He declared his love for her. I was worried about Giselle.

TJ: I think parts of the show that really got people to really say there’s something here – other than the brilliant comedy – was the real genuine relationships. Our actors relationships – Simon and Lenny. Clara is so beautiful. She’s gorgeous.

NR: Simon [Templeman] is hilarious. I’ve seen his other work as a character actor. How is it working with him?

Tim: He’s a genuine soul. He has the most heartwarming story. His wife is Rosalind Chao from Joy Luck Club. Beautiful couple. Ros is like my second mom. Two years ago, Simon had a good career doing characters and voice overs. They have two kids and he’s kind of a house dad. He works every now and then, but he was in a funk. She asked, “What’s wrong?” He said started at the Royal Shakespeare Academy and did plays with everybody from Sir Patrick Stewart to Daniel Day Lewis. He wasn’t over but he said he hit his stride and he’s happy. She told him he could do more. He asked what do you think? She asked what did he want? She says in her story, they were watching Modern Family. He said it’d be nice to be the lead in a 30-minute sitcom. Isn’t that the dream? A year later, he didn’t even have a manager or an agent. The casting director of our show cast him in Mad About You about ten years ago and remembered him and called him directly and said, “Simon, you need to come in on this project.” And when he booked the job, he didn’t have an agent. They didn’t have his phone number. So Dan  [Fogelman] had to call Ros. Ros thought it was political propaganda call and said he’s busy and hung up on Dan. Dan called her back and said “No no, this is Dan.” What a story.

NR: That is a really great story! He’s a great character actor. The way they portray him is hilarious.

TJ: And the fact they make him so grumpy. In a weird way, he’s like an Asian dad. I see him like a dad. Any culture – black, white, Asian – can see him and relate to it. My relationship with Amber is easy to relate with. Even with us as aliens is easy to relate with. If you ever felt like a minority or ever felt outside of anything. Then it’s not a show about aliens anymore. It’s a show about not fitting in. Comedic take of not fitting in.

tim jo 2

NR: Your show actually reminded me of a 1990s show called 3rd Rock from the Sun mixed with Modern Family.


NR: Did you watch that show [3rd Rock from the Sun] when you were a kid?

TJ: I watched a lot of 3rd Rock. I think the first ting I do remember watching was Mork & Mindy. Remember the scene when Robin Williams was upside down on his chair on the jeep. I remember thinking about that. Moments like that stand out so clearly. Then Third Rock and ALF. When I think about childhood TV, I think about Nickelodeon and all the alien shows.

NR: Did you watch Sci-Fi shows growing up and did they inspire you to be on this show?

TJ: Watching Sci-Fi made me, when I got this job, really pee my pants and get very scared that this is what I’ve been praying about and wishing for. Is this really going to be sci-fi? Is this really going to be Dan Fogelman? Is this really going to be on network TV? Am I going to get fired? Am I really playing an alien? All the questions come through your head. Everyone is so nice. Are they being so nice because they want to fire me? Am I? This is just the newcomer’s perspective.

NR: I really like the dynamics of your show. It brings the aliens into our culture and current lifestyle.

TJ: A lot of people in the beginning were against our show because “are you trying to be like 3rd Rock?” or “are you trying to be like ALF?” But I think our creators were so smart to putting our spin to it in the right way. It’s not as polished. Modern Family is a specific type of comedy when sometimes we’ll do things like “Boo-Yah!” and we say that ten times in a row. Our director tells us trust me it’s going to work. You gotta trust that things like “Boo-Yah” is going to work.

NR: You have two families- the humans “normal” and aliens. It evens the show out.

TJ: The funny thing like I said earlier, you can relate to the aliens as outcasts. Whenever you feel out an outcast, you can easily relate to the human family too. They are just as weird. We really shine the mirror on like “we put plants in the water bowl next to our beds, but you like to pee and poop in the water bowls. That doesn’t make sense. [the alien family uses the bathroom as a garden].”

NR: What can we look forward to for next season for the aliens and neighbors? Have you started shooting?

TJ: They haven’t told us anything but they told us very little things. The attack. I hope there’s fans of the relationship between Reggie and Amber because that’s going to be huge.

NR: Will their relationship play a big part?

TJ: I think so. I think the buildup is like Jim and Pam had in The Office. My own self as Tim and  loving the character of Reggie really know and trust the writers to approach this new-found love with Amber in a fun and exciting way… and I’m sure very weird. Very very weird. I just had lunch with my alien mom Toks [Olagundoye] the other day. We were like,”there’s nothing we can expect. if we’re doing Modern Family, we’re going to have an episode about buying a car, we’re going to have an episode of this. This, we could have an episode about – I don’t know.” It’s no telling. It’s going to get bigger and bigger. The only teaser I got is that I might have to do a British accent. A Hooligan British Accent. I don’t know to what extent. That itself – why do? I don’t know what to expect.

NR: Do you expect to see George Takei again?

TJ: I do. I hope to. I hope to see Mark Hamil again, but that’s just me. I hope to see Mark Hamil. That was the most amazing day ever.

NR: Will we see other stars?

TJ: I really think so. We had Sandra Bernhard, Bethany Frankel, Michael Bay… so… I think the more that the show gets its critical credibility. I think in the beginning  of last year people were thinking, “Oh The Neighbors, they’re getting their numbers but it’s a stupid show. But towards the end of the season, we got, “I’m a critic and I like this show, but let’s keep this to ourselves.” “I like this show too but let’s keep it on the down low.” I think it’s our duty as a cast and show to really embrace the love that people give to our show. I’m a very private person but when I meet people who watch the show they have a love for it. “I love this as much as you do”. It’s such a magical bond. If we could get together and embrace the show. Mark Hamil only did the show because he was such a fan of it. I was like, “Mark watches this show?”

takei mark hamil

NR: Speaking of George Takei and Mark Hamil… are you more of a Star Wars fan or a Star Trek fan?

TJ: Star Wars. Completely.

NR: What do you think of the new upcoming Star Wars movie – Seventh episode?

TJ: I’m excited. I know it’s a Disney property. I’m a Disney actor now. I could only pray that I could somehow be involved. Somehow.

Tim Jo Kenobi

NR: It’s going to be filmed in London, so you could use your British Hooligan accent.

TJ: Yeah, I’ll send my demo reel from The Neighbors to JJ Abrams. Do you need a character’s that’s Asian?

NR: Moving on from that, I heard you’re a huge comic book nerd and action figure collector… DC vs. Marvel?

TJ: I’ve got good friends at DC now. Comic-Con is such a magical place. I’ve been able to make the the most ridiculous relationships with people. So, one of my idols is Jim Lee. To be able to be friends with him and have dinner with Jim Lee is crazy. He’s what grew my love of comics and Marvel. He was the core of my love for comics. It started at Marvel and now he’s at DC. So I love DC and DC animated universe. I love Batman comics. The characters Jim made with the X-Men – those characters that Jim created that’s where my heart was. And Spider-Man. There’s an equal love. I also love Image as well.

NR: What comics are you currently reading?

TJ: I’m reading a lot of Batman back copies. Jim and friends at DC suggest those books. Scott Snyder’s Batman is good.

NR: Well, with the comic book turning into movies. What comic book movie are you most looking forward to?

TJ: Guardians of the Galaxy. Just because I heard Chris Pratt is a fantastic man. I am happy he got Guardians of the Galaxy. Then to see his work ethic show through his muscles. This guy! No one knows what to expect from this movie. I think that’s the most exciting. I think that’s why I love Thor so much. People didn’t expect that it was going to be as good as it was. I love Thor, that’s my favorite superhero movie.

NR: Is there a comic book movie you’d like to play?

TJ: I’d love to be – I’m Asian, would they gender bend?

NR: Look at Michael B Jordan and his possibility being in the Fantastic Four. They’re thinking about it. They change a lot of character races. So we can change the race.

TJ: I always told Jim. At least in the comic world, Robin looks Asian. Robin needs to be Asian. Black hair, he needs to be Asian. I swear… if someday, if we see an Asian Robin, it was me. I told Jim and he never thought that before.


NR: We should have him modeled after you.

TJ: Oh man. I should. Invincible would be awesome. I think they would be a dream character to play – Mark Grayson. But still, you know Teen Titans, if they made a Teen Titans movie.

Tim Jo Invincible

NR: You know… Robin does look Asian in the Teen Titans cartoon.

TJ: He is Asian! They go to Japan! He is so Asian. So yeah, Teen Titans playing Robin.

NR: I know you’re an action figure collector. What are you looking forward to collecting this year at Comic-Con?

TJ: I have everything that Mattel makes from Master of the Universe classics. I have all the subscriptions. I collect everything – Hasbro, Bandai, Bandai Japan, all the exclusives to get are so hard.

NR: You’ve been to Comic-Con many times. What is it you look forward to the most at Comic-Con?

TJ: Four years. I don’t know. It’s almost like a boys weekend. My best friend Andy and I… and my other best friend who plays on the show The Walking Dead. He plays Glenn [Steven Yeun] – so the three of us. I like to joke with my girlfriend that it’s like Brokeback Mountain. She’s like, “are you really going to Comic-Con?” I’m like, “we’re going to Comic-Con!”

NR: So she doesn’t come with you?

TJ: She’s not allowed to come! No, this is our Brokeback Mountain! This is our paradise away from the girls.

NR: Do you cosplay? Do you plan to?

TJ: My friend Andy bought us masks. I don’t have any trouble walking about but Steven will. So if we want a peaceful day and not get bothered, BOOM! Put the masks on.

NR: I’m sure you get recognized! My friends and I totally know who you are!

TJ: That’s because you love the show and you’re awesome. I met a few people. I was buying “My Little Pony” dolls for my girlfriend yesterday and this little boy was like “hey, you’re on that show!!!” [I said] “Aw, thanks man. Don’t tell people you saw the guy from The Neighbors buying My Little Pony dolls. He was like “too late man. too late.”

NR: Last question, since your show had many guests, who would you ultimately want as a guest on your show?

TJ: I would had said Mark Hamil but now that we had him, I would had said George Takei. Um, maybe Robin Williams because right after I booked the show, I watched Mork & Mindy. So maybe Robin Williams.. or John Lithgow. Why not those two behemoths character actors who rocked the alien sitcom to its’ popularity? Why not bring John Lithgow or Robin Williams? As brothers from Zabvron! That would be crazy! Robin Williams could be my grandma – as Mrs. Doubtfire. I’m going to pitch that to the boss.

Tim Jo

NR: And what about Reggie Jackson? Does he know about the show?

Tim: We’ll see. There were some talks about bringing some sports athletes.

NR: I love the show and I cannot wait to see. Thank you so much!

The Neighbors returns on Fridays THIS Fall on ABC!

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Laura Sirikul
Laura Sirikul 1849 posts

Trekkie. Jedi. Whovian. Sherlockian. Hobbit. Sanrio. Comics. I am Spartacus. Warrior Princess. Superhero. Nerd. Follow me @lsirikul