The 2013-14 Upfront

Michael J. Fox Explains How His New TV Comedy Mirrors His Real Life

His Parkinson's is in full view

So when you balance the two sensibilities, you basically get Uncle Ned from Family Ties?
Sort of, although you’re not going to see me guzzling vanilla extract [laughs]. But yeah, this is a conscious return to that sort of earlier dynamic. I’m really happy with it. … There’s an ease to it and a familiar, uh, family wit that I think a lot of people can relate to. And the cast has already bonded in such a way that there’s a familiarity there as well. In just a short amount of time, we’ve all developed these incredible working relationships, and so on the set it already seems like a lot of time has passed between us.

The TV landscape has changed so radically since you first came up with NBC. Does the fact that people consume content in such radically decentralized ways change the way you approach making TV now?
It doesn’t change anything in the basic sense of working with the script and shooting the show and my wanting to serve the interest of being funny and creating a character. That basic stuff is all the same. … I guess you’re a little more careful with the powder in the makeup room because every aspect of your visage is plain to see, but as far as the actual workaday stuff, none of that has really changed.
How we promote the show is different and the ratings are different. I mean, at any given time I can find three shows about antiques in barns. It’s an anything-you-want, anytime-you-want-it universe, and so maybe the conventional networks can no longer have the impact that they used to have. But there are still some network shows like Modern Family that sort of speak to the zeitgeist and have mass appeal. So you go in hoping that you can find an audience and give them something they can relate to and they’ll keep coming back—and I think we can do that.
I think there’s an appetite for this kind of show, and we’re going to meet it. I’m pleased with how it’s all coming together … and I think that while some of the subject matter is very specific to my condition, there’s a relatability to it. I mean, one way or the other everyone’s got a bag of hammers they have to carry around with them, so …

What was behind the decision to make a single-camera comedy? Was it just a nod to the genre or an acknowledgment of the inherent physical demands of making TV?
Single-camera is easier for me from a pure man-hours perspective because with a four-camera show, there are rehearsals and changes in the scripts … and basically you have to be present and accounted for during every second of the shoot. Whereas for this, there can be whole chunks of time when I’m just chilling.

OK, this is a question that has kept me up at night for the last 30 years. How did becoming a werewolf help Scott Howard [in the film Teen Wolf] become a better basketball player? I mean, other than Air Bud, dogs really suck at basketball.
[Laughs] I think it had less to do with any technical considerations and everything to do with his sheer rage. He displayed this [Dennis] Rodman-esque insanity … and I think it was intimidating to guard him.

Speaking of another one of your iconic roles, a few years back Marty McFly [Fox’s character in the Back to the Future franchise] and Nike raised quite a bit of money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Yeah, Nike did a thing where they auctioned off 1,500 pairs of the sneakers I wore in Back to the Future II. They raised $4.7 million and that was matched by a donor … so altogether, we raised more than $9 million for the fight to cure Parkinson’s.

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