BWW Interviews - James Caan, Maggie Lawson Chat New ABC Comedy BACK IN THE GAME
Academy and Emmy Award-nominated actor James Caan returns to television this season in the new ABC series BACK IN THE GAME. The actor appears opposite Maggie Lawson (USA's Psych) in the comedy which follows Terry Gannon Jr., (Lawson) an All-Star softball player until life threw her a couple of curve balls -- a baby, a lost college scholarship and a cheating loser for a husband.
After striking out on her own, Terry and her son, Danny move back in with her estranged father, Terry Sr., aka "The Cannon" (Caan). The Cannon is an opinionated, beer-guzzling, ex-athlete who never quite made the cut either as a single father or professional baseball player. As hard as Terry tries to keep Danny away from the sports-driven lifestyle that corrupted her youth, Danny continues to be interested in baseball.
This week, the actors spoke exclusively with BWW about the new comedy which airs Wednesdays, (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
James, what was it about the show that appealed most to you?
James Caan: Well, number one, is this little thing sitting next to me.
Maggie Lawson: It was all me Caryn. He heard I was involved and at first he was intimidated and then he was really nervous, and then he was like, 'alright, I need to work with this old pro.'
JC: Yeah, but she didn't say 'old pro', she actually fell to her knees and started crying profusely. No actually what happened was, these two maniacs that we have as showrunners, they said, "we wrote this for you, we won't do it without you," and everybody knows that's nonsense.
ML: I don't think that's true at all. They wrote this for Jimmy. They have known him for a long time and they love him and it was written for him and that's okay to say it.
JC: Ok, you have your interview - good-bye. No actually, they are very, very funny and the truth is for me, the movies I had been doing, the last three I call the same title, "Paying The Rent". So I wasn't feeling really wonderful about those projects. So this opportunity presented itself to me, creating a new character, working with great people like Mag, and I just basically enjoy getting up every morning and having a little fun everyday, that's where I'm at. They're working us a little hard, but Maggie and I are getting together, we're going to ask for a little more money so things will straighten out.
ML: Yeah, we're gonna make some demands.
Since the two of you play father and daughter on the show, I was going to ask you about the chemistry between you but it's obvious that it is very strong.
JC: No not really.
ML: We don't get along well at all.
JC: There's a lot of stuff going on here.
ML: We can't expose any of that now James.
JC: I have ties older than her and she doesn't seem to care.
ML: I don't see age Jimmy.
JC: No actually, we are having a great time. We have a great cast and a great crew. I know you hear that all the time but it's true. We laugh a lot.
ML: It's true. We have our little family, our little group.
I wanted to ask you both about your prior baseball and softball experience. James, I understand you used to coach Little League for your son.
JC: Yeah, for my son Scott. I had quit acting for six years, I didn't do any movies and I coached for six years, which was great, I wouldn't trade it for anything. But then I woke up one morning and I couldn't afford to buy a sandwich so I thought, 'I better go back to work.' And by then people forgot by name. But I did play some ball, a little semi-pro when I first came out to California. I played for my schools. And baseball is a pretty big part of my life.
ML: And I played softball for a few years growing up. Both my brothers played baseball. So all of my summers were spent at the Little League ballpark, so there's a comfort in that for me.
So Maggie, you didn't require any sort of training to make it look more convincing that you were an All-Star player like your character?
ML: (laughing) No, no training - I was a perfect pitcher. No - that's not true at all! I had Mark Cohen, who is a coach train me a bit because baseball is quite a bit different than softball. I had to get used to that. And Jimmy of course helped too.
JC: Yeah, by the end of the year, Maggie will be throwing a good 70 mph pitch.
ML: Well I'm almost there now Jimmy.
JC: Yeah, I just have to crank your shoulders a bit. I'll show you later.
James, from the description of your character, he almost reminds me of a modern-day Archie Bunker. He seems to have his own sense of morality. Is that a fair comparison?
JC: Well, I mean these guys write the lines just so funny that my character can go from anger to love - it's more a question of patience, he is just very impatient and really doesn't want to talk small talk, he just says what's on his mind. He doesn't go out of his way to hurt anyone, but on the other hand, he doesn't go out of his way period!
And Maggie, can you talk a bit about your character?
ML: Well, I'm a newly divorced single mom and I'm moving back in with my dad and we've always struggled to get along. And he sort of raised me as a boy in a baseball world. And then I go off to college and get pregnant and then I come home with a 10-year-old boy who plays baseball himself. So we're repairing our relationship -baseball was what tore us apart, but it will hopefully be what brings us back together again.
JC: And so that people don't get the wrong idea, the show is not 'Bad News Bears.' It's not really about a bunch of kids playing baseball and getting better at it. The baseball team is more of our social club, where we meet the other characters, the coaches, the players, different relationships. And the kids are great and really funny.
It sounds like the series is going to be terrific. Best of luck with it.