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Carl Tart – Wine and the Grand Crew

Updated: Apr 7

Carl Tart

Wine and the Grand Crew

By Jay S. Jacobs

It’s sort of the ideal working arrangement; a whole group of friends hanging out at a wine bar, joking with each other, philosophizing about life and trading stories over glasses of merlot, pinot grigio, or chardonnay.

Comedian, actor and writer Carl Tart is living that dream on the new NBC series Grand Crew.

In the series, a group of friends including Tart, Echo Kellum, Nicole Byer, Justin Cunningham, Aaron Jennings and Grasie Mercedes share the Los Angeles night life in a wine bar named Cru. They share their lives and experiences and in jokes and deal with the complications of real life.

The series was created by Brooklyn Nine-Nine veterans Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Gore. Tart worked on the writing staff of that series. Tart has worked as a writer on other shows as well, including Mad TV. He is also currently doing a voice over role on the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks. And he is a part of the popular LA improv group The Big Team.

We recently got together on Zoom with Tart to discuss Grand Crew, wine, Star Trek and the finer aspects of roasting.

What was it about Grand Crew that made you want to be a part of it?

A job is a job. Of course I want to be a part of it. (laughs) One of the bigger draws to this one is that it's a family affair. It’s really a collaboration. Me and Phil Augusta Jackson have been friends for a very long time. About a decade, about 10 years. Dan Gore was my boss [when] I was writing on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as well. Then once Nicole [Byer] was signed on, it was just like, “Man, I got to figure out a way to get in here.” Also it was a weird place to be in, because it was that thing: “Okay, my friend just sold a TV show. How cool is that? I'm happy for him.” But also, hook a brother up. He wasn't able to hook me up. I still had to audition quite a bit for it. But I'm so happy and grateful to be a part of it because it's a real family affair between the writers’ room and the cast. I’ve got so many friends, so many close friends, people who I've been collaborating with closely for the past 15 years basically.

Like you mentioned, you've done writing as well for things like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mad TV. Do you have any input in your character at all? Or in the character arc or anything? Or is that something that you just leave to the writers?

That's something that I really leave to the writers. Like I said, there are people in that writers’ room who know me better than I know myself. They do a lot of good stuff. But sometimes Phil is definitely like, “Hey, if there's something that you really don't like, let me know.” There's usually nothing like that, but sometimes I go, “Hey, man, can I change the way this is said?” Or “I got a joke pitch on this. Let me try it and see if you like it.” Sometimes it makes it into the show, for sure.

You said that they know you, so in what ways is Sherm like you? And what are some of the ways that he different?

What Phil based this character off of, when I knew that I could play this guy, he said, “This guy didn't go to college, but he's probably the smartest guy in the room.” I'm not going to gas myself up like that. But my friends joke with me a lot, because I know a little bit about a lot of stuff. Somebody will ask a random question and I'll know the whole backstory of it. They'll be like, “How do you know that?” I went to college, but only for a year. I think that was one part of it. The kind of indignant indignity of him. My friends told me that I'm like that. Just that comic relief in the group I think I bring to it. I help it out in that way.

One cool thing about the group is like you said, you seem to be one of the smarter ones in the room. I won't say the smartest, but you're a little bit more street smart. I like the way that all the characters, they're very different and yet they work together so well. Why do you think that your group – both as characters and as actors – mesh so well?

I think it's exactly what you said. We are all different as people. We all have different interests. We all like different things. Yet, we are all such great friends. I think that's any friend group. Any friend group is going to be different people who have like-minded tendencies within that group, but definitely, different personalities, different opinions. That's what supports a fruitful friendship. I think in my opinion, you're going to argue with some of your people, but it's all love at the end of the day.

I've got to admit, I don't quite see Sherm as a wine guy, though. What do you tend to drink if you were out drinking with friends?

If my kitchen wasn't dirty right now, I'd show you how much wine I got over here. The show is based off of our real friend group hanging out at a wine bar. We started going to this place around 2015, I would say. One thing that is great about that place is that they sit you down. You say okay, what do I like? I tell them what I like, and they go “Okay, let me get a couple of options for you.” Back when we first started, I would go, “Give me something fruity. I don't want that sour stuff.” I didn't grow up a wine drinker. I didn't grow up a drinker of anything. That sounds crazy! (laughs) When I became an adult, I didn't start with wine. That place that we go to they teach you about it. They say, “Look out for these notes. Look out for this. What do you taste? What do you feel when you drink it? Is it this? Is it that?” Once it becomes like a science, it becomes more fun to drink. That's how I got into it more.

In the first episode of the season at one point you said that the truth doesn't matter, it's what you want people to believe that really matters.

That’s the world we live in right now.

What would you like for people to believe about Sherm?

Believe that he's got everything in control.

In the upcoming episode you're supposed to teach Wyatt all you know about roasting. What does he need to know?

There's a lot of historical elements of that. You got to teach him the hand motions. You got to teach him what to go at. What's off limits. What’s okay. All that type of stuff. There's an art to it. There's an art to the roasting with your homies. That's basically what he's teaching, the ballet of it, if you will.

Do you think that LeBron James is happy?

I do think LeBron James is happy, honestly. I hope that he is. He deserves to be happy. But I hope he's not happy after tonight's game. The Clippers play the Lakers tonight and I hope he's very upset.

Not only are you doing this show, you've also been playing a character in Star Trek: Lower Decks. What is it like to be part of such an iconic franchise like that?

I play Lieutenant Kayshon on Star Trek: Lower Decks. That's a Tamarian character. It was pulled from when Paul Winfield did it on Next Generation. It's so much fun being a part of that. People love it so much. People have come to my improv shows with puppets of the character and they want me to sign and stuff like that. It is so cool. I wish I had more of the lore with that show. I didn't really grow up watching it that often. And I'm not really into it now. But it's so much fun to do. I just have to make sure when we're recording that I'm getting the words exactly right. Because if you get something wrong, they will come after you.

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: April 6, 2023.

Photos © 2023 Jabari Jacobs, Elizabeth Morris and Jordin Althaus. Courtesy of NBC/Universal. All rights reserved.

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