Many sitcoms and dramas have explored the world of sports, but few have taken a magnifying glass to the day-to-day workings of team behind the scenes. That’s why Yahoo! Screen’s Sin City Saints, a new comedy about an NBA basketball team in Las Vegas, is such a breath of fresh air. It mixes the air of an office comedy with a sharp wit and daring approach to storytelling. Two of its stars, Andrew Santino and Keith Powers, bring an energy to the show as web-mogul turned team owner Jake Tullus and injured rookie LaDarius Pope. We had the chance to speak with Mr. Santino and Mr. Pope about the rhythm of comedy, why Yahoo! Screen was a good fit for the series, and whether an NBA team could ever thrive in Las Vegas.
FreakSugar: What was it about this show that Yahoo! Screen saw it being as a perfect fit for Sin City Saints?
Andrew Santino: I think it’s an interesting look at something I don’t think has been explored. I think we’ve looked a lot at sports in a documentarian view, but we haven’t done it from a scripted view really. There’ve been a few attempts. But I think this is a great way to show the world behind the sports, but it’s not overbearing. If you don’t like sports, you’re not going to hate the show. It has to do with sports, but it has more to do with the relationships that exist behind the curtain of sports.
Keith Powers: You don’t have to love sports to love this show. It’s surprising how much we have in this show as well. There’s a lot of goofy action. You’re going to have people who don’t watch or like basketball, and so they’ll get to see a little bit behind the scenes of being an NBA star in a different light. They’ve easily done a serious take on basketball, but they chose to do something different, which is great.
AS: Yeah, it’s a really nice twist on the typical office comedy.
FS: With a lot of the dialogue on the show, it almost feels very kinetic. Is there a rhythm you have to get used to in order to prepare working with the dialogue?
AS: Yeah. I think there is a rhythm to the show that the dialogue matches. I naturally speak fast. A lot of the characters I’ve done are like that, but there’s definitely a rhythm to how Jake Tullus speaks and the way he handles situations. He has a rhythm to how he squirms out of stuff. [laughs] We like to say he gets pie in the face constantly. There’s always mud on my character. He can never get away from the fact that he never really does it right, so it comes back to him. I will say that we definitely had to find a rhythm to the characters. It’s easy to float through giving the lines because there’s some funny stuff in there, but there is an obvious rhythm to how Jake acts in certain situations.
KP: I just feel like comedy and the art of comedy have a rhythm anyway. The energy comes from Andrew’s experience. I learned a lot from being around my cast mates. But I would just say that, by default, comedy has a pace that’s different.
FS: How well do you follow basketball?
AS: I follow it a lot, both the NBA and college ball. But I would argue that my character is Mark Cuban’s brain and Donald Sterling in action. [laughs] He makes a lot of mistakes. Jake is an intelligent guy who’s very forward-thinking and thought that maybe his web-space brain could help in the sports world, but they have nothing to do with one another aside from running a business. But the sports world is another world. That’s why the Sterling reference makes sense. He makes a lot of mistakes, but he doesn’t understand the reasons behind them. [laughs] I don’t think he understood Sterling understood what he was saying about culture to the girl he was dating when those tapes came out. That’s what Jake does: He doesn’t understand what he’s saying or what’s going on.
KP: I think my character was inspired by LeBron James with a 12-year-old, naïve, momma’s boy mind. You drop money on him for doing what he’s been doing his whole life, but when it’s taken from him, he doesn’t know what to do. He starts looking for love where he never looked for it before. Starting-wise, though, he’s LeBron James. That’s why I love it. You get to see this unique side. You get to see him as a human, not a superstar. This could be anyone in the audience, but he’s just an NBA star. He sees it through a lens of being exciting.
FS: It’s interesting that you talk about LaDarius’ naiveté, Keith. You almost seem like the straight player among characters who more worldly or more hardass or more scuzzy. How do you approach bouncing off the other characters when acting like a straight man?
KP: I think that I just play it real. If you heard something crazy like the owner Jake Tullus would say, then you act like, “What?” But LaDarius is so naïve that he’s listening. That’s the comedy. “You drafted me, I’m so naïve, I’ve never been put in any of these circumstances.” I think just playing it real works.
FS: How do you think having an NBA team in Vegas would work out?
AS: We’ve talked about that. Just logistically, you quite literally couldn’t do it because of the gambling that goes on in Vegas. But would Vegas have room for it in a vacuum? No, I don’t think so. I think Vegas is a city of tourism and hospitality. If you work there, there’s a good chance you work in the hospitality and tourist world. It’s kind of like Hawaii. So a local pro-sports team would be difficult. There’s so many other things to do. With Cleveland and LeBron there, the thing to do is to go see the game.
FS: Will we see LaDarius back on the court?
KP: We see him working his way back on the court, but it’s a matter if he’ll be that star again. Being a rookie, but then having to work his way back from zero is a mental thing.
FS: Are you ready for a second or third season?
AS: That’s up to the Powers That Be, but we hope so. I like it. It’s new and fresh. I don’t think there’s been anything on television like it.
KP: It’s daring.
AS: It’s daring. It goes out on a limb sometimes. We would love to go back. We’re hoping that people will want to come back again.
You can see all eight episodes of the first season of Sin City Saints over at Yahoo! Screen.