When Growing Up Fisher premieres on NBC this Sunday, viewers may find it hard to believe this family-centric series is actually based on the real-life childhood of creator DJ Nash, but it’s true. The Fisher clan is dealing with divorce and a blind father (who doesn’t let his disability get in the way of, well, anything) and somehow they handle it all with heart and humor.
Veteran actor J.K. Simmons heads up the cast as Mel Fisher, the family’s patriarch, but in an interview with OK! he reveals whhe didn’t immediately jump at the role and what eventually won him over.
OK!: What do you like about this guy?
J.K. Simmons: What I like about him is he’s a real guy. Initially I balked at it when I was sent the breakdown with the description. It didn’t look like something I wanted to do until my agent convinced me to read it. First I read the script and it hits the trifecta for me of being smart, being funny and having heart. And then to discover it’s really a memoir. I’ve been giving DJ Nash, our head writer, a hard time that at some point if we’re successful you’re going to have to start making stuff up because you’re basically just borrowing stories. It’s an amazing story and obviously we’re taking a little license with it here and there and they’re coming up with their own funny subplots. But so far every story we’ve told has come from DJ’s childhood.
OK!: A lot of actors shy away from working with kids, is that something that worried you?
JKS: I’m not gonna lie, when my agent sent me the concept of the show I said, “You’re breaking both of the W.C. Fields rules here. There are dogs and kids.” Also, I had told him a long itme ago, every time we come around to pilot season and I’m available to do pilots I really wasn’t interested in being number one on the call sheet or being the “lead” in a show. I was more interested in having supporting parts and honestly having more time at home with my family and not being at work 60 hours a week. So it was really strike one, strike two, strike three. And then you add the technical layer of playing a blind person which is not something I was looking to do. But, again, he said, “You have to read it. There’s a lot more there than the breakdown will tell you.”
OK!: Have there been any other roles you have been this strongly opposed to playing?
JKS: Well my first big television job was Oz. I had done theater for 18 years and then started doing a couple of little guest spots. When they asked me to audition for Oz and I got the idea of what the character was, I went into that meeting with basically no resume in television except for playing a similar character as a guest star on Tom Fontana’s show Homicide, which is basically why he thought of me for Schillinger on Oz. I basically went into that meeting trying to talk my way out of the job because I was afraid if this was the first thing that a wide audience sees me in I’d be stuck playing that for the rest of my life. Tom kept reassuring me there’s going to be a real arc before we find out what a horrible person he is, and then it turned out that arc took about the first 20 minutes of episode one before I became the most despicable person on television. Having said that, it’s nice to play someone who is the polar opposite of that now.
Watch the premiere of Growing Up Fisher on Sunday, February 23 after the Olympics on NBC.
Which midseason TV show are you most excited for? Tell us in the comments or tweet @OKMagazine.