The former Friends guest star admits he was hesitant when he was approached to tackle the titular role as a conman fresh out of prison, especially as the project, then set to air on U.S. network CBS, would involve long hours and likely shoot for months on end.
“My agent reached out to me and said that there’s this script, it’s Sneaky Pete, Bryan Cranston is doing it…,” he recalled to Vulture.com. “I went in and looked at something I’d made this promise to myself that I would never do, hour-long episodic television for networks. That was just my thing because I’d heard that was the toughest job for any actor.
“The hours and also the length of time (are insane). You go, I think, 10 months (to shoot) and it’s kind of like you go into a hole.”
Ribisi decided to take a chance on the show and “explore” the role, but when CBS officials decided to pass on the pilot, he found himself wondering if he had done the right thing.
It was only after Amazon bosses picked up the show, co-created and executive produced by Cranston, to stream online that the star realised how great the opportunity would be.
“It was indeed one of the more challenging things I’ve ever done,” Ribisi confessed. “CBS didn’t pick it up, and then six or seven months went by and I got a phone call from David (Shore, showrunner) and Bryan saying that Amazon’s interested. I thought, ‘Oh, well that’s a whole different medium really.’
That’s going into shows where it was like, ‘OK, we’re going to make a 10-hour feature film.'”
And Ribisi is now glad he didn’t reject the Sneaky Pete script, even though it initially went against his TV rule.
“I mean, I’m not afraid of hard work,” he shared. “At the end of the day, it is what it is. For me, if you respect the people and they are all trying to do the best job that they can and stretch their own parameters, then no matter what, we’re there to do something that’s effective.”
Sneaky Pete, which also features Margo Martindale and former Breaking Bad star Cranston as a crime boss, premiered last month (Jan17), and was renewed for a second season just days later.
Cranston also served as director for one episode of the first season.