Cast from the Past: Two Guys & A Girl (and a Pizza Place)

The 90’s sitcoms were not just dominated by Peter Engel and the multiple teen sitcoms that he created. There were other sitcoms that shone brightly within his teen-centric domination. One of these sitcoms was Two Guys, A Girl & a Pizza Place (later becoming just Two Guys & a Girl). This sitcom started off being similar to Engel’s sitcom template, which included a small group of friends, with an educational link to it. However, this sitcom did what Engel never let occur in his sitcoms. Instead of staying in the same environment, the show followed the characters on past their graduations and onto their separate studies, jobs or even on to some completely different path from what was originally expected. For me, this helped the sitcom grow, the characters went and got jobs, others decided education/the job wasn’t for them and changed careers, just like real life. All whilst still being absolutely hilarious. This portrayed to the audience a lot better in my opinion, with the change of environment keeping it fresh, meaning I thoroughly enjoyed every season of it. The cast bounced off each other brilliantly too. It was hard to have a favourite as each character had their unique likeable persona.

If you don’t know what Two Guys & A Girl is about (why wouldn’t you?!) it’s about two guys and a girl and their lives during college with most of the sitcom’s focus being about life choices on love, their studies/ jobs, whilst the guys having a part time job at a pizza place. It was created by Kenny Schwartz and Danny Jacobson and it ran for 4 seasons, airing 81 episodes from 1998 to 2001.

Where are the cast now? After attempting to make contact with most of the cast, I was lucky to receive a couple of replies from Richard Ruccolo, who played Pete Dunville…

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…and Suzanne Cryer, who played the part of Ashley Walker..

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…who were willing to answer my questions. Here is what they had to say:

How much of an impact (professionally and personally) did the show Two Guys and a Girl have on your life?

Richard: Two Guys was a huge impact for me. My first series after only living in LA for three months. It completely changed my life. Had to learn on the job. It was like winning the lottery. At the same time it gave me a legitimacy. Which I had never had before. On a personal side it made things seem a bit too easy. Looking back I had a very “Well this is how it works. You come to LA and land on a series. No big deal.” I didn’t have any idea as to how lucky I truly was. Going from begging people to pay attention to you to getting everyone’s attention almost overnight is a bit of a mindfuck.  

Suzanne: When Danny Jacobson cast me in “Two Guys”, it had a huge impact on me, both professionally and personally. I will always be grateful to him for believing in me. “Two Guys” gave me the opportunity to work with a really interesting, bright and funny group of writers. I still cross paths with them all the time and am so thankful they created such a smart and hilarious character for me to play. I also got to work with many of the best comedy directors in the business. We did multiple episodes with Gail Mancuso – and then I shot a pilot with her only last year. It is so great to work with people years later having known them from early on. It was an unbelievable introduction to 4 camera television.

I really love doing 4 camera shows because I come from a theater background. I love the energy and immediacy of film in front of a studio audience. It is always funny to me because people complain that laugh tracks seem fake. I tell them – based on my experience – that the artificiality of the sound tracks is mostly coming from the fact that they have to be trimmed so much. Our audiences would laugh so long, so hard and so much that it is hard to understand how our poor sound department ever got clean takes. I never remember looping, so those guys were geniuses. Well, I had really wanted to get on a 4 camera show and knew I would be happy doing one. I had been testing all over the place after grad school, and producers thought I was funny, but no one was actually putting me on a show. I think networks thought I was too acerbic for a lead female, and not kooky enough for the best friend. I was really blessed to enter a show that already had a dynamic established and had Traylor Howard in it. I may have been brought on to play as Ryan’s girlfriend, but perhaps the more important dynamic was that I was so different from Traylor. She and I had a lot of fun doing scenes together and the writers put us together a lot. I feel really lucky to have gotten to work with her. She is a lovely woman and a terrific comedic actress.

Being in the shadow of “Friends” and “Will and Grace” was hard. However I think our producers were brave and funny and we had some ground breaking episodes. How many sit coms geared for a young demographic would be brave enough to do a silent episode? We really did some crazy, interesting and fun things on the show and our fans went along for the ride. I do believe the show, though loved ardently by fans, was unfairly dismissed by critics. It wasn’t hip to love us, but honestly, there was some truly terrific episodes of the show and we had a tremendous cast. Everyone is well aware of how immensely talented Ryan is. His comic skills and fearlessness are tremendous. Rich Ruccolo’s comic ability is massive. He and Ryan really worked together brilliantly, and Rich has a dry wit, a creative mind and a soulful pathos that make him unforgettable. I loved watching the guys work together and play. Getting to join them was truly a treat. Traylor was fabulous and I learned so much watching her work. She has a skill set I truly admire and she made me laugh so often. She had an ability to make things real and grounded so that you cared about her, even when her character was making poor choices. She really understood how to craft a full character, and I think her work is sometimes not fully appreciated because the boys were so hilarious with their clowning. But anyone who saw her do the “money dance” for Johnny will know this woman is a real comedienne. Nathan and I joined at the same time. I adore him. His work was just flawless. I loved that drain episode. He and I had a great time. He was so kind and Ashley was so cruel. It was great working with all of these actors – I learned from all of them and was allowed to be myself. So yes, the show couldn’t help but have a huge impact on me.

Was there anything from the time at Two Guys and a Girl you would have liked to have changed? If so, why?

Richard: The only thing I would have changed. As I stated above is my appreciation for how blessed I was. I let it fly by so quickly and never really gave myself the chance to appreciate how fortunate I was. People gave advice. I wish I had listened closely. Most of them wound up being right. 

Suzanne: Well we all wanted the pizza place gone. It left… but not soon enough. A bigger sadness was that it ended right before syndication. There was all this ridiculous energy over “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” at the end of our run. The network started putting it on the air 24 hours a day. It was hilariously insane. We were a steady performer and I wish we had done one more season. Plus, as I understand it, it wasn’t only because of WWTBAM. I think we got caught in the middle of some studio/ network negotiations that made our return complicated. Ah well.

How was it for the cast when it changed format and left the pizza place?

Richard: Ryan used to call the Pizza Place the ‘albatross set’. Because we were stuck in there at least once in every episode. It became difficult for the writers to find a reason to be in there. Hence losing the name. We were all pretty happy seeing it go I think. I think the writers more than us. But it was time to put it down. haha.

Suzanne: A huge fucking relief. Rick and Kenny (the two show creators) put that pizza place in there on a whim I think, and it was fine for a while. But then it was a pain in the derriere for the writers and actors. You cannot have a damn physical life in a pizza place. You don’t have personal belongings there. My character didn’t work there. Sharon didn’t work there. Johnny didn’t have a reason to be there. Why would we want to go there? And poor Berg and Pete needed to grow up and do interesting things. So it was a giant albatross. Like a pet you thought was cute and then realized it was a bloody nightmare – coming home all excited from the pet store with Clifford as a puppy and having him slowly morph into Clifford the huge, nightmarish, big, red dog. Who could feed that thing? Who knows where to put him???

Is there anybody from the cast that you still keep in touch with regularly?

Richard: I still talk to Suzanne Cryer. Jillian Bach. And a bunch of the crew and most of the writers. Facebook helps. In fact I just saw the creators of the show last week. Rick and Kenny. Great guys. 

Suzanne: I always loved being on set with those other actors. It was a warm and welcoming place to be. We had fun working together and always really were excited and happy rehearsing our scenes. However I did not hang out with them after work. I really prefer to keep my work and my personal life somewhat separate. It is important to me to have a life that is not about the industry and separating the two worlds helps me a lot. Plus I was in a different place in my life toward the end of the show. Ryan and Nathan were beginning to have major film careers and I was really thinking about getting married and having kids. You cannot wait to do that as a woman. But Rich and I have always been close and I talk to him a few times a year. He is a peach. 

What are you up to these days? What is your latest project in life?

Richard: I’m honestly up to nothing. I’m always looking for work. Just the way this business is to some. I spend all of my days with my wife who’s my best friend. We have a great life and an RV that we’re usually in traveling around doing mostly nothing in different places. I’ve started writing but it’s no easy task. I wrote a comedy script with Greg Coolidge and Kirk Ward that we’re shopping around now. 

Suzanne: I am on a tremendous show – “Silicon Valley”. Brilliant writing and a hilarious cast. And HBO is a great employer. I occassionally am on “The Fosters”, which is a show I deeply respect. It grapples with issues that are thorny and complicated. I love how bold and unapologetic it is. It is helping American kids and doing a great service culturally. Also, I am in “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Briefly. I do things when they work with my schedule and when they come up. I am a busy, busy mom. Three kids. Lots of work on that front.

If there were ever to be a reunion show in the future, would you be up for it? Or would you leave it as it was?

Richard: I would love to do a reunion. It would be great and strange at the same time. I doubt Ryan or Nathan have that much time to do something like that. And I don’t even know if Traylor is acting anymore. I would love to see what the relationship between the three of them is now. It’s amazing to think where our real lives took us all. And where those characters would be. I’m sure it would involve Berg running for President…and winning of course.

Suzanne: Well, there surely won’t be a reunion because everyone is off doing different things. On one hand I would be happy to try to recapture the magic, but on the other hand, I think it is nice to allow things to be as they were. That show was very specific to a certain time, and it wouldn’t work in the same way now. Also I am not wearing bikinis and leather pants on TV anymore. I was 10 years older than Ryan and apparently ABC thought I could get away with that at 30, but now, yikes. That would be hard. No one wants to see an actress in her 40’s pretend she is 10 years younger than she is – that leads to a lot of botox and creepy work on the face! We already see it too much and it is sad and frustrating to me. We should be allowed to mature without frantically scrambling to pretend we are still nubile youths. Americans are terrified of aging and it is a bummer. So if Ashley returns, she needs to be Head of Surgery and have made her choices about her personal life – with a family or without one. But not screwing around and dating. She needs to be able to be a woman in her forties. And she has a kid, we know that. She was pregnant and about to be a mom. I don’t think that is what the show is about – so I think we need to let it RIP.

Is there anything else you would like to add for the fans?

Richard: Just that it means a lot to hear all of the good things. I wish the show didn’t end so quickly. Our cancellation was mostly REALITY TELEVISION related. It was the birth of it and the death for us. (Who wants to be a millionaire on 4 nights a week…really?) The compliments and the comments don’t go unnoticed. So proud to have been a part of it. 

Suzanne: I am glad to hear the box set of DVDs is available. I will show it to my kids when they are a teeny bit older. I hope the fans are psyched they can own “Two Guys” and see those insane Halloween Episodes whenever they want to chuckle. I also want them to know that I truly appreciate the opportunity I had working on that show. It was a great time in my life. So much fun to do and so much fun to remember. 

Ryan Reynolds (Michael “Berg” Bergen) has been in several big movies, such as Blade Trinity, Smokin’ Aces and Green Lantern with his latest being the record smashing Deadpool.

Traylor Howard (Sharon Carter-Donnelly) went on to star in the TV series Monk. I believe she is no longer acting as she hasn’t appeared on anything since 2010 and is enjoying being a full-time mother.

Nathan Fillion (Johnny Donnelly) has starred in many TV shows and films since, notably Firefly, Serenity, and his current TV series, Castle.

Jillian Bach (Irene) went on to star in multiple TV shows, such as Gilmour Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Bones and The Mentalist. It seems she has taken time out of the industry to become a full time mother.

I would like to personally thank Richard and Suzanne for taking time out of their lives to speak to me and answer my questions. It is truly appreciated and wish them all the best in the future. Keep an eye out and fingers crossed for Richard’s comedy script and tune in to Suzanne’s Silicon Valley. Don’t forget, as Suzanne said, the box set for Two Guys and a Girl complete series is available already in the UK, but is available in the USA on June 28th 2016. If you are wanting it in the USA, you can pre-order it from most online shopping sites, including Shout! Factory here, so go reminisce and enjoy a fantastic sitcom that can be enjoyed for many more years.