Fat people are coming to Hollywood, and actor Billy Gardell couldn't be happier.
Gardell, who for years has labored as a stand-up comic and bit part actor, stars in the new romantic comedy "Mike & Molly" that begins airing on CBS in September, revolving around two people who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous self-help group.
In entertainment, the move toward more portly TV characters is part of a trend that producers say reflects the growing waistlines of Americans. Gardell has no problem calling himself fat, and joked on Wednesday that he had broken a chair when sitting on it earlier in the day.
"When you are a fat guy in Hollywood, you either play the bad guy, a cop, or a neighbor," said Gardell, 40. "I am humbled to be, at this weight and this age, in Hollywood and working with this team. I can't wait to go to work every day."
"We are fat. The show is funny," he added. "Everyone else on TV is 82 lbs ... This is a show where viewers can say 'I look like that' rather than 'I'll never look like that'."
"Mike & Molly" follows the new ABC Family cable network drama "Huge," about a group of teens who are sent to a fat camp. Both shows represent a departure in an industry that has more recently featured large people mostly on reality weight loss shows like "The Biggest Loser" and "Dance Your Ass Off."
The CBS program also stars Melissa McCarthy, 39, best known for her role as chef Sookie St. James on the TV series "Gilmore Girls", as plus-size teacher Molly, who strikes up a romance with Gardell's extra-large police officer Mike.
The show's creators said "Mike & Molly" was not about the problems of overweight people, nor is it trying to be edgy or politically correct.
"It's about real people with real issues trying to have a relationship," said executive producer Chuck Lorre.
"Television would have normally cast (actors) Chris O'Donnell and Courteney Cox as the people in Overeaters Anonymous," Lorre joked. "It may be odd for television, but I hope it's reflective of some people's reality."
Two-thirds of U.S adults are considered to be overweight, according to official statistics.