Both Gilpin and her costar Spencer Grammer's characters have wild sides, the actress teases

By Lanford Beard
August 05, 2015 04:25 PM
Chris Haston/NBC

Most parents probably wouldn’t want a former good time gal shaping their children’s young minds, but when Peri Gilpin started creating her character Eileen Taylor for the new series Mr. Robinson, she realized that a little bit of a checkered past might actually be a good thing on a high school principal’s résumé.

“I have a feeling she probably had a pretty good time as a groupie,” Gilpin tells PEOPLE of Eileen, who squares off against Craig Robinson‘s music teacher in the School of Rock-esque NBC sitcom.

For starters, Gilpin reveals that viewers will quickly learn during Wednesday’s premiere episode that her character “was the inspiration for the [Dexys Midnight Runners] song ‘Come On Eileen.’ ”

Though Gilpin, 54, didn’t dish all the dirt on Eileen’s “major backstory,” she ultimately thinks “all that experience is fantastic for what she’s doing. I don’t think anyone can get one over on her. … She can use her experience to help people have fun but stay engaged and stay on the right path.”

Though, adds Gilpin, “[Eileen’s] life was pretty crazy for a while.”

The blasts from the past aren’t just limited to what’s happening on screen, though – Gilpin just happens to be sharing a sound stage with her former Frasier costar Kelsey Grammer‘s daughter Spencer, whose character Ashleigh Willows has her own wild side: “[She] plays a teacher who moonlights as an exotic dancer,” teases Gilpin.

“She has a very saucy part,” Gilpin adds. “And I love how she’s playing it, too, because she’s very seasoned. She’s a chip off the old block.”

The two actresses even had a full-circle moment when filming began: “I took my 11-year-old twins into the makeup trailer and introduced them, and I realized I met Spencer when she was their age,” says Gilpin. “I just love that we’re working together. I can’t believe it. She had to drag me across the stage in one of the first scenes that we did together, and I was like, ‘Do you know how many times your dad dragged me across the stage?’ It’s just amazing.”

Mr. Robinson premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.