The Michael J. Fox Show (premiering on September 26th) sees Michael J. Fox return to NBC as Mike Henry, one of New York’s most beloved news anchors, who puts his career on hold to spend more time with his family. Five years later, with the kids growing up and Mike getting restless, it’s time for him to get back to work.
While at the NBC portion of the TCA Press Tour, actor/executive producer Michael J. Fox talked about how much the show draws from his real life, how his family feels about the way their characterized, handling the humor in an appropriate way, pacing himself differently now, the possibility of former Family Ties co-stars appearing on the show, whether he’d be up for returning to movies, and if he’s ever seen the Teen Wolf television series. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
MICHAEL J. FOX: It’s a little bit of both. I think that with my kids are happy that I’m going back to work, from just from a pure sense of being happy for me. But, there’s a scrutiny of their stuff that won’t exist, if I’m occupied doing something else.
How do they feel about how they’re characterized?
FOX: Well, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. There’s a deniability level, but they’ll recognize things. There’s a germ of something in our relationship that I’m taking a run with, and in that germination of it, it’s moved away from their experience, so they’re cool with it.
There is a lot of reference to Parkinson’s, in a humorous way, on this show. Did you vet the script with people in the Parkinson’s community, as you were establishing the character?
FOX: No, I didn’t. I don’t vet creative instinct. I just go with it. I feel that this is a reflection of my experience and, certainly in the pilot, it was more prevalent than it is in the following scripts. The way I look at life, and the way I look at the reality of Parkinson’s, is that sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes it’s funny. I need to look at it that way, and I think other people will look at it that way. But beyond that, I think we all get our own bag of hammers. We all get our own Parkinson’s. We all have our own thing. I think that we’ll look at it through the filter of that experience, and we’ll say, “Yeah, I need to laugh at my stuff, too.” If someone wants to be outraged, they can be outraged. I don’t think it’s that outrageous.
When people are dealing with a disability, as individuals, there is a tendency to delve into gallows humor and make jokes about things that people on the outside of the situation are horrified by. How do you find that fine line between dealing with the humor of a bad situation and not going too far into the realm of shock?
FOX: Well, I don’t think we’ve run into shock. When this show deals with Parkinson’s, it becomes absorbed as the normal course of the family’s life, as it has with mine. But, it’s about perception. A lot of times, when you have a disability, one of the things you deal with is other people’s projections of what your experience is and their fear about it, and not seeing the experience you’re having. There’s nothing horrifying about it to me. It is what I deal with. It is my reality and my life, but it’s not horrible. I don’t think it’s Gothic nastiness. There’s nothing on the surface that’s horrible about someone with a shaky hand. There’s nothing horrible about someone in their life saying, “God, I’m really tired of this shaky hand thing” and me saying, “Me, too.” That’s our reality. We have no control over it.
What changed in your health that made you feel like you could take on a series like this, and did the guest spots help you feel like maybe it was something that you could do, more long-term?
FOX: The guest spots were great, and it really brought me to a place of, “This is what I was built and programmed to do.” I wanted to do it. It’s what I love to do, and what I’ve enjoyed, throughout my life. I just thought, “Why can’t I?” There was no reason not to do it. And in terms of what happened over that hiatus that I took, I just rested. I spent that time with my family, during their really formative years, and enjoyed that, and I messed with pills and new medications that help me to deal with dyskinesia and some other things I was struggling with, that I don’t have as much now because of medication to counter the side effects. So, it just seemed like the right time to do it.
Do you also feel like you could be up for going back into the movie realm, especially to do Back to the Future 4?
FOX: I would have to play Doc Brown. To answer your question, I don’t know. I’m going to knock this off, first. In doing this show – and we’ve done six episodes now – I knew that one of two things was going to happen. I was either going to atrophy, as I went on through the year, or rebuild the muscles, and I’m planning on rebuilding the muscles. I’m getting more comfortable with this schedule, every day and every week, and I’m really happy with how it feels to be back at work. As far as movies, I don’t know. I’d have to take it as it comes. But, I can’t imagine doing 22 episodes of this, and then spending my summer doing movies, like I did in ‘87, with Light of Day and The Secret of My Success. That’s crazy, and that’s how I got into this mess.
FOX: No, I haven’t seen it. I hear it’s really serious and scary, so I don’t know if I would.
Do you get residuals for that?
FOX: I don’t think I do.
Do you find that you have to pace yourself any differently now, as opposed to when you were doing Family Ties?
FOX: Well, I think that’s partly because I’m 52 years old. I say to Tracy [Pollan] all the time, “Betsy’s old,” and that’s not the Parkinson’s. That’s just being old. So, I do pace myself a little differently, but I find that the muscle gets strong again. First of all, the scripts have been fantastic. We get these scripts, and they’re such a joy to work with. They’ve really captured this unique perspective of this family. We just fell into the rhythm and all enjoy working with each other so much. It’s different than Family Ties. I’ve developed a different way of working because I’m working with different people and we’re doing a different thing. It’s really unique and exciting, and I love working with these people.
Will Tracy or any of your Family Ties co-stars make any appearances on this show?
FOX: Hopefully. That would be great. Tracy actually did an episode of the show, and she was great. It was really funny. She had a lot of scenes with Wendell [Pierce]. As characters come up, we’ll certainly mine old friendships and old working partners, and get them involved.
The Michael J. Fox Show premieres on NBC on September 26th.