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|ELVIS AND PARKER TOGETHER AGAIN
The king and his keeper return in CMT's 'Sun Records'
February 17, 2017 - New York Daily News / Elvis Express Radio
After six years of serving up gut-busting laughs with Melissa McCarthy on the killer CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly,” Billy Gardell is singing a completely different tune.
The corpulent comic will be putting the laugh track in the rear view mirror for the time being while he slips into the persona of anything-but-funny Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's
sociopathic manager, in CMT's new series about the birth of rock 'n' roll, "Sun Records" (debuting Feb. 23).
The Machiavellian manager was known to chew up and spit out virtually everyone he came in contact with — including The King — and is the opposite of nice guy Gardell, best
known as the jolly cop conjoined with Melissa McCarthy.
And that's just the way he wanted it.
"I wanted to get as far away from Mike as possible," he said. "Everybody loved that character. Now I'm playing a guy with no scruples — somebody I would never wanted to be
unless I was acting."
The show rewinds viewers to Memphis, Tennessee, at the exact time and place where the blues met rockabilly and country and the world met rock 'n' roll.
"It was like the big bang theory for music," Gardell said. "Everything collided to create the music that would define our lives."
Gardell looms large among the cast of mostly wide-eyed unknowns playing the founding fathers of rock including Chad Michael Murray as Sun Records founder Sam Phillips,
Christian Lees as Jerry Lee Lewis, Drake Milligan as a young Elvis Presley and Kevin Fonteyne as Johnny Cash.
But Gardell will tell you, the real star of the series is Memphis itself.
"Memphis has the lead role," said the Pittsburgh native playing a Dutchman masquerading as Southerner.
"It gives the series an authenticity you would never be able to duplicate," he said. "We shot in the actual Sun Record studios where Elvis recorded his first records. We did another
scene at his high school. Beale Street. You can't replace what's real."
What wasn't real was the Colonel's persona.
"He was actually a Dutch guy, pretending to be a Southerner who was reputed to be on the run in Europe for his role in an alleged murder," Gardell says.
"That's a lot of layers. I figured I could cover it all if I just gave him a New Jersey accent."
As good a job as Gardell does playing such a dark character, he'll never give up getting laughs with his first love — comedy.
"I enjoy acting, but standup is my first and lifetime love," he says. "When I started, I just wanted to pay the rent and now it's given me an incredible life I never could have dreamed
So naturally, the next stop on Gardell's runaway success train is a Feb. 25 standup stop at the St. George Theater on Staten Island which has become a base camp for comedy in
New York, hosting Chris Rock, Amy Schumer and Carol Burnett, among others.
"One of the gifts of being able to do gigs like this is to see the history behind the venue," he says. "I love hearing about all the other performers who have played there."
His favorite comic? Former co-star Melissa McCarthy who he says makes the funniest Presidential press secretary in American history.
"You gotta root for your teammates," he says.