Based on the best-selling novel by Nick Hornby, written and produced by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) and directed by Jon Favreau, the NBC comedy series About A Boy tells the story of Will Freeman (David Walton), a good-looking, charming guy who’s single, unemployed and loving it. But then, Fiona (Minnie Driver), a needy single mom, and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) move in next door and disrupt his perfect world, in what could turn out to be the best way possible.
During this exclusive interview with Collider, actress Minnie Driver talked about how she came to be a part of this show, why she wanted to work with executive producer Jason Katims, what she enjoys about this character, how natural the dynamic between the cast is, why she wanted to develop her character separately from the original book and movie (starring Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult and Toni Collette), what makes this show more than just a comedy, how much she enjoys doing a half-hour TV show, and how the dynamic between Will, Fiona and Marcus will evolve. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
MINNIE DRIVER: I’d met with Jason [Katims], just generally, to talk about doing something together. And then, probably almost a year later, they sent me this script and it was really well written. I knew that it was something that I could do, and do well, but there were also aspects that would stretch me. I knew that it would be an interesting jumping off point. Nick Hornby created great characters, and Jason is a great unraveler of people and characters. It was all just a great confluence of events.
What made you want to meet with Jason Katims, initially?
DRIVER: I just love Friday Nights Lights. He’s a great writer, and he’s a great person. This show is very funny, but it’s very rooted in a heartfelt drama, as well. But it’s not a drama, it’s funny. You have to have both.
What was it about this character that you were drawn to?
DRIVER: She’s broken, conflicted, fragile and funny. There were extremes to her that are really interesting to explore. She’s neurotic and she over-parents. She’s already a funny person to me. Her sincerity is funny. Her earnestness is funny. Anyone that couches their life in some form of fanaticism is funny to me. She’s a fanatical vegan. That’s funny. That’s always hiding something else, or it’s always an excuse for something else.
DRIVER: Yes, but I think it really helps. I can’t pass a puppy, a kid or a baby without stopping. It’s really annoying to every boyfriend I’ve ever head. My mother will roll her eyes and go, “God, really?!” But, I find children funny and great, and I love them. Having a son, though, just gives it another dimension. She really loves her son. And out of that comes all of this humor. There’s this crazy music thing that they have, and they dance together, and they have funny little handshakes. It’s all rooted in real love. When you’re a mother, that’s just in-built. That stuff, you don’t even have to work for. It’s just there. Ben [Stockham] has a great mom, and he’s a lovely boy who has a very good relationship with his mother. It’s very natural. They cast it well. Our dynamic is really sweet and funny.
Did you go back and watch the film or read the book, at all?
DRIVER: No. I’ve read the book so many times, and I’ve seen the film so many times. I’m not going to do anything that Toni [Collette] did in the film. She was just perfect and brilliant, in that. The character of Fiona is not nearly as dark in our show. She’s not suicidal, as she is in the book and in the film. But, it’s the same collection of neuroses. It’s a jumping off point, but I really created my version of that character. It’s like somebody else doing a Shakespeare play that’s been played by many different people. It’s your version of events. It’s also about trusting Jason. He sets up worlds. It’s set in San Francisco, which is Jason’s stomping ground. It just works. It’s not going to let down the idea of that book and that movie. It’s going to expand it into something else that you can be proud of.
DRIVER: I’m really interested because I think Jason is creating a different thing. It’s not a sitcom. It’s not 30 Rock. It’s its own gem, and I love that. You just create a niche for yourself. It’s funny, but it’s heartfelt. It’s family, but it’s cool. Jason is good at that.
Do you enjoy doing a half-hour show, or do you feel like you never learn enough about the characters?
DRIVER: I don’t ever look at anything as that. It’s just the work. I feel like I’m going to make a movie, every day. I go to the set and everything looks the same. People are doing the same jobs. You move at a faster place, which I really enjoy. I like it. I like the discipline of it. We’re having a really good time. I love David Walton. He’s lovely.
What can you say about how the relationship between Fiona, Marcus and Will will evolve?
DRIVER: They can never get away from each other because they live next door to each other. Their worlds begin to expand. They date other people, they have other friends, they have other jobs. Well, Fiona does. Will never has a job. The kid is always the centrifugal point of both of them. It’s cool. It’s great. Will’s world is not a world that Fiona really wants her kid living in, and yet that’s what happens because they have this relationship, and that creates conflict between the two of them. Will doesn’t realize how much he needs Fiona, but that will come later. She really reluctantly realizes that she needs him because her son needs this father figure.
It’s really nice to see that Marcus is a kid who’s just happy with who he is, and doesn’t let what other people say get to him.
DRIVER: Yeah, exactly. He’s not questioning himself, which is a great indication of the love that he’s had. He’s just himself. And it turns out that that really has been a theme, with him being bullied and not accepted because he’s different, but it doesn’t change him.
About a Boy airs on Tuesday nights on NBC.