ABOUT A BOY: Jason Katims, David Walton and Minnie Driver Talk About Bringing Their Heart-Warming Comedy to Life (2014)

"About A Boy"
“About A Boy”

At a recent press interview, executive producer Jason Katims and stars David Walton and Minnie Driver talked about what drew them to this particular comedy and characters, as well as what they especially love about the show. As became quickly evident during the interview, this is a passion project for all of them. They are not only betting it succeeds, but that viewers and fans will fall in love with it just as much as they have. (Based on previewing a few upcoming episodes, there is a lot to fall in love with!)

Tone of Show

In striving to create a uniquely different tone for the show, there was a concentrated effort to balance the comedy with a bit of poignancy, and yet also embed a little adult humor to give the show some comedic layers. Jason Katims revealed, “One of the things that I was excited about in the potential of the show from the beginning was that we could do a show that was really funny, but also that would have heart and unexpectedly emotional moments — unexpected for a comedy.”

He also stated that in the upcoming”About a Plumber” episode, when Will tells Fiona how connected he feels to Marcus that was a huge turning point. Jason described it as, “It was one of those moments where you definitely laugh and you feel connected to these people, and you love them. But there’s also this potential to be moved.” That’s the secret to the success of the show. It is not just a pure comedy going for laughs, it is aiming to touch your heart in the process.

Minnie Driver added, “The whole notion of having it be real and having this great heart — how rare is that? You never get to do that . . . If you cast actors who have an interest in and an ability towards shifting those worlds, you should be able to go to a really heartfelt place with people and then turn back and tell a joke. Jason and the writers have set up a place where you can do that.”

Attraction to Show

When actors approach a future project, they look for something to hook their interest — a concept and character that they want to inhabit and bring to life. For Minnie, she described that hook as, “[Fiona’s] lovely. She’s all flawed. It’s not interesting playing someone who is perfect and pretty and all together. It’s much more fun playing someone who is falling apart, who is barely keeping it together. The whole single parent thing is something I relate to. I love that story and telling how you can have such a strong love for your son and also be such a giant mess. That gets good and real. She’s funny and she’s sad. There’s a lot of things I love about her. But flawed, mostly. That’s the most fun to play.”

Then for David Walton, he said for him it was, “You read a script and you immediately have a visceral reaction to something, and this one was like body-shaking because it was so good . . .What was so different about this one was the character was so evolved.” He noted, “[Will] is growing up and becoming more mature and more in tune with what’s important in life. . . So it’s like in every episode you’re getting to play someone new and to get to go on a journey like that creatively is extremely exciting.”

Jason then added that when in casting the part of Will, he knew he had found the right actor when he saw David. He said,”I just thought of Will as this man-child, a guy who was in his 30’s but had this sort of spirit of being a boy. Somebody who loves his free time and loves to hangout. He hasn’t taken on a lot of responsibilities of adulthood. We wanted somebody who would be all those things. He would be very immature, but he would still be someone that you’d would embrace and love. I think David Walton has this incredible quality to sort of embrace his inner man-child and still be incredibly likable so that you are always sort of leaning in, watching him. So it was incredibly fortuitous to get somebody like David to do the role. He’s sort of been phenomenal doing it.”

Working With Benjamin Stockholm

It may take two tango, but in this delicate balance of a family comedy, it takes three to make a fun-loving familial triangle to engage the audience, and that one crucial element was filled by the incredibly gifted Benjamin Stockham, who portrays Fiona’s son Marcus. Jason described it as, “You might be in a position as a writer when you have a 13 year old in the cast that you have to write around them or just know what they are capable of doing — not at all with Benjamin. With Benjamin, we could write a story for him. We could write complicated scenes for him. He ca play both the humor and grounded emotional stuff.”

David said, “It’s sweet to see a kid so grounded and down to Earth,” and Minnie added, “It’s a bit weird seeing a kid so grown up, but it’s fun making fun of that too.”

Jason admitted that it is the secret mix of how Will, Marcus and Fiona come together as a family that really matters. He stated, “Really the main thing is telling the continuing story of this weird family forming between Will, Fiona and Marcus, and kind of watching how that plays out in various ways.”

Marcus’ Dad

Just to throw in a bit of an unexpected element to this newly fledgling family, Marcus’ dad, who will be portrayed by the hilarious Tony Hale, will make an appearance this season for one episode. Jason described that episode as “one of the funnest episodes” and “one of the most emotional and moving episodes.”

Introducing Adrianne Palicki

Also infusing a bit of spice to the story will be the introduction of Adrianne Palicki, who will be portraying a new love interest for Will. In fact, her character Sam has an extended arc this season, which continues for the remainder of the first season. Jason described it as, “We will be just watching that relationship develop over time. She’s been great and doing such a wonderful job.” Jason also confessed, “I’ve wanted to work with Andy again since FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and was looking for an opportunity to do that, so I was so thrilled the she was available and interested in doing this.” He added, “I thought with this particular role of Sam that it was somebody who really needed someone to come in and do that role and be ‘the one’ for Will. We had made so much of this guy who is this bachelor — he’s not of the mind that he wants to find someone. So somebody had to come in to just be that person to him. And when we were thinking about different actresses, I thought of Andy because I thought she has this quality to her that is so special, and I was really excited about the idea of working with her again.”

As for David, he laughingly noted, “I always play these characters that date people way out of my range — I’m way out over my skis with these very beautiful women. It’s very fun. I had heard [Andrianne] was a very sweet and nice person, and a no drama kind of person and awesome to work with.”

(Having previewed the episode where Will and Sam meet, I can testify, that the addition of Adrianne to the show is fantastic. Plus, that is the episode where viewers will finally get to hear the infamous Christmas jingle that Will wrote that finances his very cushy lifestyle. It’s both fun and touching.)

Guest Appearance by Dax Shepard

Just because Jason Katims cannot resist pulling characters from his other shows and having them cross television universes, viewers will enjoy seeing Dax Shepard guest starring in an upcoming episode as his character Crosby from PARENTHOOD. Jason sheepishly admitted, “It takes it to another level. But it is so much fun to do.”

Will/Fiona Romance

As for the fans pushing for a future romance between Will and Fiona, that may be a long wait and definitely will not be happening this season. David said from his perspective, “It doesn’t seem right at the moment.” Minnie noted, “What people are attracted to is that anticipation and we seem to have lost that in this whole world of instant gratification — everything is paid off right away. But what viewers have forgotten is how lovely it is to want something. . . It’s good to keep people guessing. It’s good people want it and it’s good that they don’t get it.”

Jason also explained, “I think the idea that to everybody and the rest of the world watching around them sees something that they don’t see in each other is really interesting. From a writer’s perspective, it gives you the potential to tell the story very slowly. If this were a love story between these two people, and I don’t really think of it that way so I am not saying it is — but if it were, what’s great about it is that they are starting in such a place where they are so not in the frame of mind, either one, that the other would not be anyone that they would be interested in. It gives you the opportunity to dole things out very slowly, so that maybe there’s a moment in episode 10, let’s say. In fact, there is, but it’s not like a romantic moment, but there’s a moment, a connection — and if you had seen the pilot or the first few episodes, I don’t think that you would have anticipated or expected that they would get there. But there is a way to watch that story kind of evolve that is in a great way that feels very deliberately.”

So where is ABOUT A BOY going this season? It is Jason’s fervent wish that, “As comedic as we’re going, I would hope that when people are finished watching an episode, not only were they entertained, but they saw a good story too.”

To see the hilarious hijinks of Will, Marcus and Fiona as they continue down the path to a fun-loving family life and enjoy few romances along the way, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of ABOUT A BOY on Tuesday nights at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

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