James Van Der Beek is playing a post-"Dawson's Creek" James Van Der Beek in ABC's "Don't Trust the B----- In Apartment 23," which premieres April 11 on ABC.
"I had to audition against six other James Van Der Beeks for this role. I was lucky that four of them were not actors and two of them did not speak English," the actor laughed as he took part in a panel to promote his new show at the Television Critics Association Winter 2012 Session in Pasadena, Calif. on Tuesday.
In the half-hour comedy, which also stars Krysten Ritter ("Gilmore Girls," "Veronica Mars") as the "B" (yes, it's short for that word), James plays a fictional version of himself, who is single and - at least in the pilot - happy to use his "Dawson" fame to get the ladies.
"This character is just kind of crazy," he said of the fictional James. "He's really sweet, but he's... narcissistic. He's got so many blind spots, it's been really fun to kind of exploit those blind spots... and go as far as we could into the land of ridiculous, but just keep it grounded somehow."
In the pilot, there are a number of references to James' past work (remember his scene with Ali Larter in "Varsity Blues"?), but the real life actor told the show's producers he was ready to have fun with his past.
"I said to Natch (Executive Producer Nahnatchka Khan) and David (Hemington, E.P.) at the beginning, 'Don't ever be afraid of offending me, just go with what's funniest," he said.
When asked during the panel how long it took after the end of "Dawson's Creek" to be comfortable making fun of his past work, James showed off the same sense of humor he's displayed recently in his online Funny Or Die clips.
"I think once the residual money ran out (laughs), it became OK to make fun of it," he smiled. "Thankfully they've kept me around long enough to have a second coming and it's a lot more fun to not take myself so seriously... It's fun to have a lot of laughs ... The real reason to do this... it was far and away was the funniest script I'd read."
The first episode has a fun reference to Dawson's penchant for flannels, but James admitted he never pocketed one of the famous clothing items from his youth.
"I thought my mom might have kept one oddly enough," he said, mentioning he called her up recently to check. "She did not have any flannels. I think they've all gone the way of Salvation Army at this point."
Although James is ready to play a parody version of himself on TV, using his real name has resulted in an apology to his little one.
"Every once in a while I come back home to my daughter and say, 'Sorry [for] what I'm doing to the family name, kiddo,'" he said.
"Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23," premieres April 11 at 9:30 EST/PST on ABC.
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