Melissa Rauch executive produces and stars as Abby Stone in the comedy series, Night Court. New episodes air Tuesdays at 8 PM ET on NBC.
The eternally optimistic Abby Stone follows in the footsteps of her revered late father, Judge Harry Stone, as she takes on the challenge of overseeing the night shift of a Manhattan arraignment court.
We discussed the joy of filming in front of a live studio audience, respecting the original series, what excited her about the character of Abby, deciding to both executive producer and star in Night Court, the comedy genre, and more! Keep reading for our full conversation.
Melissa, I’m a huge fan of you and your work. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Melissa Rauch: That’s so nice. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.
Of course. I’ve been excited about this series and I really think it’s what we need right now. The world always needs more comedy. But to start, I want to talk about making this a continuation of the original Night Court since Abby is the daughter of Judge Harry Stone. Why was this the right path rather than doing a full reboot with all new characters and no connection to the original?
Well, I think, when we started pitching it, we were thinking about what we were going to call it and reboot just didn’t feel a hundred percent right, you know? I also think when you hear reboot, as a TV fan myself, I think your whole body just tenses up like, “Reboot? What are you gonna do to my favorite show? Don’t do that!” So we were talking about it, we’re like, “Well, it really is more continuation, it’s a revival,” and then I was joking around with my husband one day, I was like, “It’s like a new reboot. It’s a newboot!” I thought it was terrible and then I was like, “Wait a minute, that actually kind of works.” And then when we were pitching it, I just started calling it a newboot because it obviously pays its respects and it’s an homage to the original. We’re so lucky to have John back as Dan Fielding. But so the fans of the original, I feel like there’s so much for them, there’s easter eggs everywhere. Obviously, I’m the daughter of the beloved Harry Stone in the series. So the fans coming back to it are going to see so much that they love but then at the same time, it’s this wonderful new cast of characters and we’ve created this new workplace family, so people who’ve never seen the original, they don’t have to have any prior knowledge of it. And so, it’s really this great mix of being able to enjoy it if you’ve seen it before, but then also be able to come into it with fresh eyes and not have any prior knowledge.
The way you phrased that was beautiful. I also think that it might even inspire the new fans to go watch the original. It can have the reverse effect, which is so nice.
I’m so glad you said that! That would be a big hope for me. I would love that because it’s really special, and I really enjoyed going back and watching them as well.
Obviously, you are a pro when it comes to comedy. You have made me laugh a lot over the years, so thank you for that. But what do you love about the genre that makes you keep coming back?
Oh, goodness. I love the live studio audience so much. There’s just this electricity in the air when you’re shooting a live show. It combines the best of both worlds. I come from a theatre background so I remember the first time I stepped onto The Big Bang Theory stage, and I saw the audience setup and my first tape night. It was like I said, it was electric and I was hooked, and there’s just something really wonderful about getting the audience reaction in real-time in the same way you would in a play. It’s almost like having a little focus group right there. The audience will tell you what works, what doesn’t, and then you could really feed off that, which is just such a wonderful medium. When we started my production company After January Productions, and we were starting to develop things after The Big Bang Theory ended, that was really one of the missions of the company was to create more multi-cams, not only because I love doing it so much but really to try and see if we can help add more to the TV landscape and make sure that we’re keeping it alive.
Yeah, I have to imagine that is just thrilling as an actor to be in front of a live studio audience. I’ve always wanted to go to a taping of for a show that I love. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it to one yet.
Oh, you should come! If we get to a season two, you’re coming.
I am ready. That would be incredible. I mean, it has to be so much fun for both the audience, who loves you and your show, and then you as an actress just thriving off of that energy. There must be no better feeling.
It’s really cool and I gotta say, one of my favorite parts too of tape night is I get to come out with a microphone and talk to the audience in between scenes, get to know them, and as a judge, I officiated some weddings. I want to get ordained for if we get another season, knock on wood, so I can really do it because I was just doing it as a pretend judge. But that’s my goal, if we get a second season that I want to be able to actually officially marry audience members.
That is the cutest behind-the-scenes story ever. I love that! And, you know, the concept of following in the footsteps of Abby’s late father is a very real one for a lot of people who want to continue their family legacy. How did you go about playing that?
You know, I think, it was really important to me as a fan of the original that we pay our respects in a really careful way because I didn’t want to be oversaturated with it, but at the same time, you can’t do a Night Court 2.0 without discussing what once was. I really think in writing who Abby was, there was a lot that we took from Harry and that everyone who walked into his courtroom was a person, they weren’t just seen for their crime, and so, that is what Abby does. Everyone who walks through the doors, they have the benefit of the doubt and they have her ear, which is something that Harry did so beautifully, and even though she’s very much her own person and there’s a lot of differences between the two, that really is her North Star.
Was there a quality of Abby’s that you were really excited to take on as an actress? I feel like each character has to be its own individual challenge.
Thank you for asking that. What was exciting to me about it was the fact that I think on the surface, you could say, “Oh, she’s just a sunny optimist,” but I was excited to sort of uncover the layers underneath her that we find out in future episodes and see what her real driving force was.
You’re also an executive producer for Night Court. Why was that role important for you to take on for this project?
You know, really I actually started out just only producing it, I wasn’t gonna be in it. When The Big Bang Theory ended I was just really focusing on producing and so when we pitched this, even when we got John on board, he asked, “Are you gonna play Abby?” And I kept on saying no, and he was very much like — he kept on checking back in about it. Then as the script came together, and our executive producer, showrunner Dan Rubin does such a wonderful job with it, I said to Winston, who’s my husband, “I’m going to be such an idiot if I pass this up. I’m gonna be on set, behind that monitor, watching some actress get to do the scenes with John Larroquette. I’m gonna go, ‘what kind of dummy was I?'” So, then at the last minute I called John and I was like, “I’m gonna do it.” It was sort of like this moment of– because, you know, he was sort of one foot out the door, not 100% sure if he was going to do it, and it was sort of a big step for me to figuring out what my next move post-The Big Bang Theory was going to be and I sort of was like, “let’s just jump out of this plane together and see what happens,” and I’m so glad we did.
I’m so glad you took on this character. Lastly, which dynamic or relationship was your favorite to portray?
Oh, goodness. You know what, I think all– I know it sounds like a cliche answer, but it’s really true. This cast is so wonderful and I love that we were, depending on the episode, we got to be paired up in different configurations, and each time I was paired with someone else. Each one has a different dynamic, and they’re all such gifted actors, India, Lacretta, and Kapil. They all just bring something so unique and special to the table and they’re all so gifted in their own ways. And then, of course, getting to work with John, who’s just a masterclass in comedy. I just felt so lucky at every turn, no matter where I looked, there was a brilliant performance happening and I felt so lucky to be surrounded by such pros.
Thank you so much again for your time. You are wonderful to speak with, and congrats on the show.
Oh, you too! Thank you. Can I just say I really loved your questions? This was great. I hope we get to talk again in the future, you’re awesome.