The Beek is back! We won’t make any bones about it — the best thing about the pilot for “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23” is James Van Der Beek, as a fictionalized version of himself, and his endless “Dawson’s Creek” jokes. (Of course he uses flannel to seduce women and exploit their weakness for ’90s nostalgia. Of course.)
On Tuesday, Van Der Beek and the rest of the cast and creators of the show stopped by the Television Critics Association press tour to discuss the show, but let’s be real — we mostly cared about Van Der Beek. Creator Nahnatchka Khan would agree with us. “As soon as I heard there was James Van Der Beek, I was so excited. That he existed, in the world, as an actual person. I can’t imagine anyone else in this part except for James.”
“I had to audition against 6 other James Van Der Beeks for this role,” he jokes. “This has been the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything. We came up with this ‘character’ and by Episode 3 it bore less and less resemblance to me, which just made it more fun.”
The show doesn’t shy away from parodying not only his resume, but the idea of being a past-his-peak celebrity in general. “I said, ‘Don’t ever be afraid of offending me, let’s just always go for what’s funniest and we’ll see where that takes it,'” Van Der Beek says. “I fully commit to being myself.”
It’s no secret that he made an effort to distance himself from “Dawson’s Creek” after the series was canceled. As for why he decided to talk about it again? “The residual money ran out,” he quips. “Thankfully they’ve kept me around Hollywood long enough to kind of have a second coming. It’s a lot more fun to not take myself so seriously, so this is a great opportunity to have a lot of laughs and to be a part of something that I’m really, really proud of. It was far and away the funniest script I’ve read this pilot season or really any pilot season … I’ve always found that if you tell a joke at a party, you always get more laughs if it’s a self-deprecating joke as opposed to a self-aggrandizing one.”
Some critics wondered how long the Dawson joke will be funny — it works beautifully in the first episode, but thirteen episodes later, we might tire of the Paula Cole. “We actually, by episode 3, we’re kind of into all kinds of other weird facets of celebrity culture that we skewer. We don’t really make another ‘Dawson’s Creek’ mention until later,” Van Der Beek says. His “character” will be joining “Dancing With the Stars” and competing against Dean Cain on-screen.
Okay, so the show isn’t exactly about him. The “B in Apartment 23,” as they’re referring to her officially, is Krysten Ritter, whose character describes Beek as her “gay best friend, but straight.”
“It’s also a really fun dynamic to have a male/female platonic friendship. We have a sexual history… in real life…” Ritter teases. Dreama Walker‘s character, June, is Chloe’s new roommate — and a huge fan of “Dawson’s Creek,” which we may or may not be able to relate to on a deep, personal level.
“I’m really just part of the ensemble. The show’s really about these two girls… I’m just kind of the seasoning for the steak,” Van Der Beek says, admitting, “Every once in a while I come back home to my duaghter and I say ‘Sorry about what I’m doing to the family name, kiddo.'”
As for whether the producers had a back-up plan in case Van Der Beek wasn’t available (or wasn’t willing to roast himself on a weekly basis) — there was none. “There was no one else,” says exec producer David Hemingson. “It had to be James.”
The series premieres on April 11 on NBC.