TLC’s two-time Emmy nominated docu-series “Who Do You Think You Are”, which follows a different celebrity each episode as they probe into their own ancestry, is one of the most unique and fascinating programs out today. And what viewers may not know is it is executive produced by Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”) and Dan Bucatinsky (“Scandal”).
Zap2it got a chance to catch up with Dan and find out exactly what he and his best friend and business partner do for the day-to-day of “WDYTYA,” his favorite stories from the show, as well as a few tricks on how he balances all of his work projects and still manages to have a family and a social life.
Zap2it: How do you choose your subjects for the stories?
Dan Bucatinsky: It’s a combo platter actually. We get people who, now that we’ve been on
as long as we have, come to us and approach us about it. People who are
passionate about their ancestry and want us to dig into them. Lisa and I do some outreach, but for the most part, we will certainly hear from the people that want
to do it. That’s always the best, because you get the most passionate
One of the many things that is so cool about this show is the celebrity often shows an entirely different side of themselves. Can you expand on that?
I agree, it’s different than when they are talking about their career or their
upbringing. This has never been “E! True Hollywood Story,” which by the way
is great, but it has a completely different focus. The protagonist and
the star of each one of our films is not the celebrity you think it is. They are just the tour guide to introduce and to explore and to
discover the real protagonist and star of the show, which is someone who
lived hundreds of years ago. Watching that person uncover it and
watching the person make the connections to tent poles in history or to
why they’ve always felt a certain kinship towards, whether it be a
particular line of work or a part of the world and to make those kinds
of amazing connections is something we don’t normally get to see.
You produce this with the amazing Lisa Kudrow. What is your involvement day to day on this show?
Lisa and I are pretty hands on. We are involved in the selection of who we’re going to be researching.
We read all of the research and help shape the stories with the team. We
read the outlines of where these stories are going and help shape the
order in which that journey is going to take place. We give notes on the
cuts. Lisa and I have been involved from the very first season, from
the choosing of the opening theme music with our partners, right down to
each episode’s act breaks, commercial breaks. When we can we will go to
the sessions or opening and closing interview film days with the talent.
So we are pretty hands on executive producers on a show like this.
Especially because Lisa and I are the only two executive producers here in
the states that have been with the show since the beginning and we sort
of help bridge the communication between talent, network and the
Has a particular story stood out to you?
My background is so similar to my partner’s and Lisa Kudrow’s is one of the
first ones we ever did. We went back to Poland and it was a Holocaust
story and I lost so many of my relatives there that I had a personal
connection to that one, so that will always be a memorable one to me. I think part of what I love about this show is learning about things we
learned about in history books in school, but with a completely personal
I do love the stories that bring a person much closer to a person they
remember, whether it is a grandparent, a great grandparent, or even
their own parent. That said, i also have some favorites that take us
back to major tent poles in history like finding out Rob Lowe’s
connection to the American Revolutionary war. That was really
powerful. I also think Rita Wilson is among my top three favorites. Her level
of investment and emotionality, going back to Bulgaria and uncovering
what she was able to uncover about her own father and her own father’s
family and her level of enthusiasm, curiosity and emotion in her
episode was very unique and inspiring.
You and Lisa seem to have a great working relationship as well as a great friendship. What’s the secret to such a successful partnership?
A strong friendship is probably key and we had that to begin with. Lisa and I love each other, we’ve have a very very long friendship and
mutual respect for each other as professionals, as writers, as actors. We enjoy each others company. We’ve raised families side by side. I
think that stuff has really helped us when it came to doing the work. I also think she’s brilliant. It’s lucky for me to be
able to work with someone I think is as talented, smart and as good a
writer and producer as she is. I think all those things have been sort
of the perfect chemistry for success.
You seem to have your hand in so many different projects (“The Comeback,” “Marry Me,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) in the fall, what are your tricks to balancing your work load and still making time for a family?
I have a good therapist and I make time for meditation and exercise
almost every day. I also happen to just be someone who
has always sort of liked a buffet. I like variety in my life. I take every day as it comes and tackle the matter at hand
in the moment that I am doing it, which is always a hard thing for me to do. I do try to compartmentalize. When I’m home with my kids, I’m
focusing on my kids and focusing on time with them and when I’m looking
at a cut of “Who Do You Think You Are,” I’m focusing on that and when I
was on “Scandal,” that day it was about that.
But it’s a juggling act especially when everything is happening at once
and this fall many of the trains are coming into the station at the same
time, so I just hope I don’t lose my emotional luggage.
“Who Do You Think You Are” airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on TLC.