Like brothers at the bar

Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer, stars of TNT's new lawyer show, have an awful lot in common.

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"Franklin & Bash" stars (from left) Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Malcolm McDowell as the boss, and Breckin Meyer.

It's no surprise that Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer have such strong chemistry as a pair of outrageous attorneys on TNT's new series, Franklin & Bash.

These two guys are so much cut from the same cloth, they probably share threads.

They're the same age - 37. Both got into the business as child actors. Even their hair color is so similar that Meyer had to lighten his for the show to avoid confusion.

Both have held onto unusual first names despite advice early in their careers to adopt more conventional showbiz handles.

"Breckin is a Welsh name," says Meyer as he and his costar barnstorm through Philadelphia to promote their show, which debuts Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TNT. "My father heard it once and liked it. But he spelled it wrong; it's supposed to be Brecken."

And that middle name, Erin?

"If I was a girl, I was going to be named Erin," he says. "I guess they thought, 'We bought 'em, might as well use 'em.' "

As for Gosselaar, "there's no explanation for why I have two first names," he says. "All my siblings except me have very Americanized names for a Dutch immigrant family."

(Yes, Meyer has some Dutch blood in his ancestry.)

The easiest distinction between the two actors is that Gosselaar enjoys a height advantage over Meyer who has been taking grief for his 5-foot-5 frame his whole career.

"My first starring role was in Road Trip [a 2000 film]," he says. "I was so excited reading my first review. I remember it was really positive. Then in the middle the critic referred to me as 'a trash-compacted Bill Maher.' I thought, 'There's no reason to write that. That's just [expletive] mean.' "

The ribbing has followed him onto the Franklin & Bash set. He remembers shooting a scene in the pilot with Malcolm McDowell, who plays the boss who hires the two cheeky iconoclasts for his corporate law firm.

"I don't know him at all," says Meyer. "To me, he's a living legend. The whole time we're doing our lines together, he's staring at my scalp.

"I'm like, 'Come on, meet my gaze.' I figure he's messing with me. Finally we get the scene and I go, 'Malcs, what the hell are you doing?' He said, 'I'm looking at the height of a normal man.' "

Gosselaar has the more standard matinee-idol looks. The only razzing he has taken for his appearance stemmed from the shoulder-length hair he adopted for his previous TNT series, Raising the Bar.

"I'm the Felicity of legal dramas," he says, referring to Keri Russell's celebrated locks on the drama of the same name. "No one could look past the hair. It created this polarizing reaction. We had seven million viewers for Raising the Bar's debut and I think half of them didn't show up the next week because of the hair."

Both actors are still often recognized and accosted for work they did decades ago. Meyer often gets "Hey, it's Travis" from his role as a teenage skateboarder in the film Clueless.

(Weird trivia: Brittany Murphy played Meyer's girlfriend in Clueless. Years later, he would replace her as the voice of Joseph Gribble on the animated series King of the Hill.)

Gosselaar admits his head still turns when someone shouts out "Zack." That was the name of his character on the tweener comedy Saved by the Bell, a show that has gained eternal life in syndication.

He's pretty sure his first kiss was a scripted one on that sitcom.

Meyer's earliest buss is a matter of public record, thanks to Drew Barrymore's memoir, Little Girl Lost. "We were 11," he says. "Drew changed the names of everyone in the book. Except mine."

His first on-screen kiss was also memorable. In the 1998 film 54, he locked lips with Ryan Phillippe.

Between them, Gosselaar and Meyer have nearly 50 years of on-camera experience.

According to Jason Ensler, the executive producer of Franklin & Bash, that seasoning is a huge asset.

"We got very, very lucky," he says. "These guys never miss a mark; they never miss a line. When you've got that in your back pocket, you can play with other things. Their professionalism gives us so much creative freedom."

Work ethic. Just one more thing these two have in common.

 


Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.