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PASADENA, Calif. -- The timing couldn't have been worse for actor Nicholas D'Agosto. He finally captured the spiffy role of a frazzled lawyer in NBC's new comedy, "Trial and Error," premiering March 14. But his wife was pregnant, and they'd just made a big move back to L.A. after he'd spent a season on "Gotham" in New York.
"We bought a house, made a baby room. I organized my life to fit the structure of this show," he says in a noisy lounge of a hotel here.
"I wasn't quite sure how tired I'd be and the amount of attention you have to give to the work while you're in it. That's the great joy of the work, it's in short chunks, you can take time off. But this was really demanding and the way we shoot, it's non-stop But that required a lot from my wife, a lot of generosity from her, getting closer and closer to having the baby," he says, leaning back in a beige club chair, his hands resting on the small table in front of him.
"Having to take on all these other things, I couldn't help as much as I would've liked to have done, so I was intimidated at first."
Being intimidated was a natural state for D'Agosto, 36, while he was growing up in Omaha.
"I never felt like I was smart when I was young," he confesses. "I think I was, in the sense that I was very curious, but I never thought of myself (capable) for a long, long time. One of my teachers took me aside and said, 'Do you know you're smart?' I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.'
"He pressed that to some extent and became one of the great friends in my life. But it was the first time I realized that I could trust my instincts. It built confidence in me. That was really, really essential. It's how you become an artist and can take chances."
Taking chances was not in his makeup. His dad, who owns Arby's Restaurants in Omaha, came up the hard way. "I grew up in a very blue-collar household, the middle of five children," says D'Agosto, who's wearing a charcoal-gray suit and a blue-and-white checked shirt, no tie.
"My mother and father are very intelligent, but neither of them are collegiately educated. Both of them had to go to work early, came from very poor families," he says.
Hailing from abusive backgrounds, his parents were determined to build a solid family unit. "My dad worked his a -- off. My mom worked her a -- off raising us, but I come from a very 'people pleaser-y' background. Confrontation is not easy."
D'Agosto's decision to take a flier on acting was upsetting to his parents -- especially his dad. "I have a marvelous family but, as I grew, my dad and I have different views on politics, religion, culture. He's a really smart and powerful figure in my life and one of the hardest things I've had to do was engage him in honest 'discussion' with the intention that we're going to love each other more by the end of it," he says.
"It feels safe to love each other now because it feels like we're always about to fight, and how can we avoid it? It's growing up and becoming who you are. What road are you going to travel? I needed to travel a different road and in order to do that, I've had to strike out on different paths than the way some of my family members have, and that was hard for me because our family loved each other very much."
He did try a different road in high school when director Alexander Payne came to town looking for young actors for his soon-to-be hit movie, "Election." Tentatively D'Agosto tried out and won a role. "I can't believe it, but I got the part. And all of a sudden I was acting with Matthew Broderick, and I had no idea how critically acclaimed it was going to be."
D'Agosto finished college with a minor in history and set out with a pal for L.A. He's been working as an actor in shows like "ER," "Heroes," "Masters of Sex," on and off ever since, with only a short side job as a telemarketer for ADT.
He met his wife, Andrea, -- a food and lifestyle photographer -- on a blind date. Though they are both Wisconsin transplants -- she from Green Bay and he a graduate of Marquette University in Milwaukee they'd never met. They're now the proud parents of a 5-month-old baby boy who was born during the filming of "Trial and Error."
"He was considerate. He came on a Friday, so I only missed one day," says D'Agosto, smiling. "We spent Saturday and Sunday at the hospital and came home Sunday night, and I went back to work on Monday. So he was nice in that way."