“Joey” is getting a new friend as producers of the NBC laffer look to shake things up for the second season.
One of the biggest changes: Miguel Nunez Jr. (“Juwanna Mann”) is becoming a series regular, playing a self-important thesp who becomes best bud to Joey (Matt LeBlanc). Casting of Nunez — which comes after a two-month search — is part of producers’ plans to move the show away from the family dynamics of season one and instead explore the idea of Joey as budding star.
“The stories with Joey and his family were great, but the landscape was too narrow,” said exec producer Kevin Bright. “We missed that camaraderie he had with Chandler and Ross. We needed a best friend for him.”
Ratings for “Joey” started strong but faded over the course of the season. Earlier this summer, Warner Bros. TV and NBC brought in Jon Pollack (“Just Shoot Me”) to join Bright and Scott Silveri as exec producer-showrunners.
Among other changes when “Joey” returns next month:
- After years of bit parts and sudser roles, Joey will finally find showbiz success, landing a leading role in a summer tentpole feature.
- With more coin in his pocket, Joey will finally ditch apartment life and buy a house, giving producers a new set to play with.
- Jennifer Coolidge, who plays Joey’s agent, “will appear in every episode,” Bright said. Drea De Matteo’s character will also get a gig working at Coolidge’s office.
“We felt last year was a lot of Joey getting acclimated to life in California,” Bright said. “We’d like to move the show into a bigger, funnier mode.”
As for the Nunez character of Zach, Bright said he’ll be an actor who “thinks he’s a lot better than he is. He thinks he’s a mover and a shaker, but he’s not.” Zach will also have more brain power than Joey: “It’s not going to be ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ ” Bright quipped.
What won’t be happening anytime soon on “Joey” is a guest appearance by any of LeBlanc’s former “Friends” friends. “Part of the plan of last year was getting past ‘Friends,’ and I don’t know if we’re there yet,” Bright said.
NBC will relaunch “Joey” with a one-hour season premiere Sept. 21 at 8 p.m.