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Voice Star Hits for the Cycle

Actor Hank Azaria once again steps onto the scripted series field, this time as a boozing, down-on-his-luck minor-league baseball announcer in IFC’s new comedy series Brockmire.

Azaria, who lends his voice to Fox’s long-running animated hit
The Simpsons and more recently appeared in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, spoke with Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead about the new show and his love for sports-themed projects, as well as the opportunities for creating content in a competitive, multiplatform television industry. An edited transcript follows.

MCN:How did you come up with the concept for Brockmire?
Hank Azaria: It’s an idea that I’ve had in one way, shape or form since I was a teenager — the idea of a baseball announcer and whether they really sound in real life like they do during a broadcast. We did a short at Funny or Die about it a few years ago, and that went well, but once [Brockmire writer Joel Church-Cooper] started writing them and fleshing them out, it really came to life.

Related: IFC's 'Brockmire' Trailer

MCN:With scripted sports shows, is there a fine line you have to walk between providing authentic sports action to cater to sports fans while keeping it entertaining for nonsports fans?
HA: When it’s done well, it’s amazing, and those are some of my favorite movies like The Bad News Bears or Slapshot or Hoosiers. Joel and I share a huge love of the sport, of broadcasters, of movies and of TV shows like that. Baseball is a metaphor for the aging — and maybe dying — America, and Joel is able to capture that and make it funny in the embodiment of this man that gets caught up in nostalgia — forget about 1978 for him, but 1948. Some of the best sports stuff does that; it realizes how the sport is a metaphor for something bigger.

MCN:Was this the perfect time to pitch Brockmire, given the number of distribution platforms and outlets available to content providers?
HA: Yes. There’s more and more competition as more people realize that cable in particular is a great place to creatively do what you want to do. A show like this could not have existed maybe even five years ago — certainly not 10 years ago — and definitely not on a [broadcast] network, just for language alone. I’ve been wanting to make shows like this for years, so it’s very gratifying to be able to do it.

Related > MCN Review: 'Brockmire' Takes a Swing for the Fences

MCN:Having done both television and movies, do you find working on a scripted series easier or harder than on a theatrical film?
HA: Shooting is shooting, especially nowadays where everything is so good on cable. I’ve done movies that are a lot worse that what we see on cable now — it all feels very creative.

MCN:What other projects are you working on?
HA: Hopefully we’ll do season two of this, and I have a movie coming out on HBO with [Robert] De Niro called The Wizard of Lies about the Bernie Madoff scandal. I also have a movie coming out called Norman with Richard Gere, and, of course, The Simpsons always.