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.
JC: Thanks, and let's talk again when it's not 3 o'clock in the morning here. Maybe we'll chat more like we're on speed next time!
Well I do appreciate you guys getting up so early in the morning - hope you get some sleep!About ABC's BACK IN THE GAME:
"Back in the Game" stars James Caan as Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, Sr., Maggie Lawson as Terry Gannon, Jr., Ben Koldyke as Dick Slingbaugh, Griffin Gluck as Danny Gannon, Lenora Crichlow as Lulu Lovette, JJ Totah as Michael Lovette, Kennedy Waite as Vanessa Leeds, Cooper Roth as David Slingbaugh and Brandon Salgado as Dudley Douglas.
"Back in the Game" was written by Mark & Robb Cullen ("Lucky," "Las Vegas"), who also executive-produce along with directors John Requa & Glenn Ficarra ("Bad Santa," "Crazy, Stupid, Love") and Aaron Kaplan ("The Neighbors"). "Back in the Game" is from 20th Century Fox Television/ Kapital Entertainment. It is broadcast in 720 Progressive (720P), ABC's selected HDTV format, with a 5.1 channel surround sound.
The seires airs Wednesdays, (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on ABC.
ABOUT THE NEXT TWO UPCOMING EPISODES
"Stay In or Bail Out" - Terry becomes determined to find a job and finally get out from under her father's roof. The Cannon teaches the Angles to overcome their fear of getting hit by the ball by taking them to a prison where the warden uses some unconventional techniques to get them to stay in the batter's box. Meanwhile, the Cannon is secretive about an unused bedroom and bathroom in the house, on "Back in the Game," WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2 (8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
"Play Hard or Go Home" - Terry attempts to find the Cannon a girlfriend in hopes that he will start being nicer to her and the Angles, but it backfires big time. Meanwhile, Danny goes on a mission to tell Vanessa about his feelings for her, on "Back in the Game," WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9(8:30-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.ABOUT JAMES CAAN
One of the most versatile actors in motion pictures, James Caan is best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Sonny Corleone in "The Godfather" and for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of football star Brian Piccalo in "Brian's Song."
Appearing in more than 50 feature films over the course of his career, Caan earned recognition in Rob Reiner's highly successful and critically acclaimed film, "Misery," based on the novel by Stephen King, and in "For the Boys," a romantic drama co-starring Bette Midler. He was also praised for his performance as a brain damaged football star in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People," earning the Best Actor Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. In addition he received the Actor of the Year honor from the National Association of Theater Owners for his role in "The Gambler."
Born in the Bronx and raised in Queens, New York, Caan knew early on that he did not want to follow in his father's footsteps and work in the family meat business. He entered Michigan State University at age 16 to study economics and play football. He later transferred to Hofstra University to study law, and during spring break was interviewed by and accepted to Stanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. Caan won a scholarship to study with Wynn Handman and went on to get the first four jobs he auditioned for in the theater. He began his stage career in the 1961 off-Broadway production of "La Ronde," and followed that with a powerful slate of guest appearances on virtually every major television series of the day.
Additional feature film credits include "Cinderella Liberty," "Funny Lady," "A Bridge Too Far," "Thief," "T.R. Baskin," "Slither," "Silent Movie," "Rollerball," "The Killer Elite," "Another Man, Another Chance," "Comes a Horseman," "Gardens of Stone," "Alien Nation," "Flesh and Bone," "The Program," "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Eraser" and "Mickey Blue Eyes." Caan also starred in "The Yards," for Miramax Films, opposite Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron; Artisan Entertainment's "The Way of the Gun," with Benicio Del Toro; New Line Cinema's mega-hit comedy, "Elf," with Will Ferrell; Lars von Trier's "Dogville," co-starring Nicole Kidman; and the NBC drama "Las Vegas." His most recent projects include a guest star appearance in several episodes of the Starz Channel series "Magic City," as underworld boss Sy Berman, and co-starring with Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup in the indie drama, "Blood Ties."ABOUT MAGGIE LAWSON
Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Maggie Lawson started appearing in local community and dinner theater when she was eight years old. She became a youth journalist for the local FOX station before moving to Los Angeles.
Lawson was most currently seen on the USA Network original series "PSYCH." Her numerous television credits include regular roles on the series "Justified," "Crumbs," "It's All Relative," "Inside Schwartz" and "Spellbound," and guest starring or recurring appearances on "ER," "Tru Calling," "Party of Five," "Smallville" and "Felicity." Other television credits include the TV movies "Killer Hair" and "Hostile Makeover," both for Lifetime, CBS' "The Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman" and ABC Family's "Model Behavior."
Feature film credits include New Line Cinema's "Cheats," "Pleasantville," opposite Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon, and "Nice Guys Sleep Alone." Lawson was also seen in the feature "Cleaner," along with Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris and Eva Mendez.
Photo credit: ABC/Michael Ansell//Bob D'Amico/Eric McCandles