After dejection, thesp turns 'Arrested' into pure magic

It’s the classic Hollywood story of a Toronto-born actor living in New York.

“I’m not doing pilot season this year,” our hero tells his agent. “I can’t do it. I’m sick of it. I hate TV.”

Then, just a few days later, the pilot gods beckon, demanding he conform.

So it went for Will Arnett, driven as far as possible from Fox’s “Arrested Development” by his loss of faith, before proving so perfect for a part that he couldn’t escape.

The role that captured Arnett, not coincidentally, was that of the aggrieved brother Gob, which is pronounced, not coincidentally, to rhyme with the aggrieved biblical Job.

“I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t understand Gob’s frustration with the world,” Arnett says.

Arnett’s only previous appearance as a series regular was on the short-lived “Mike O’Malley Show.” He did a pilot with Cheri Oteri for CBS that was not picked up and had a part in another pilot, CBS’ “Still Standing,” that was picked up — only without him.

“When it went to series, my character got cut or I got fired,” Arnett says. “I’m not entirely sure.  I know that both things happened.”

As time passed and frustrations mounted, Arnett swore off pilots, as if the surgeon general had warned that they were dangerous to his health. In his determination not to relapse, Arnett refused to audition for “Arrested Development,” even though he says that every actor in New York was raving about the script.

“My agent said, ‘Look, they can’t find this guy and they think you’d be good for it,’ ” Arnett recalls. “I said, ‘You know, I don’t even want to know about it.’ “

Then a play Arnett was to perform in “unraveled” on him. About 45 minutes after he and his reps exchanged the news, Arnett received a faxed copy of “Arrested Development’s” script, read it on the subway and put an audition on tape.

The tape was sent overnight to Los Angeles. Right after his audition was viewed, Arnett was on a West Coast-bound plane himself. Once he arrived in town, Arnett read for the network executives and was told he had the part.

“That night,” Arnett looks back, “I was staring out the window and saying, ‘How did I get here?’ “

“Arrested Development” went from pilot to series, and though it is still ratings challenged, critical praise has been exceptional and Fox picked it up for a second season. Through his performance as lovable loser Gob, Arnett has gone from being a virtual unknown to … well, less unknown.

“This pilot, by far, was the best I ever read — and I hope that insults every other pilot I worked on.”

Best part about working in TV: “Probably knowing that you’re going to work every day. The consistency of having a job.”

Hardest part about working in TV: “Getting the job.  There are a lot of steps and every year you do a pilot and you wait and see. If you don’t (get the job), you’re right back at square one.”

Favorite scene this season: A scene where Gob’s wife, played by Arnett’s real-life wife, Amy Poehler, tried to explain she was in love with his brother. “We just kind of shot it on the spot. The writers are so on it, so into these characters, that it was just really quick and amazing.”

TiVo season pass: “The funniest show that I’ve ever seen is ‘The Office.’ Ricky Gervais is obviously a brilliant writer and comic mind.”

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