John Stamos: 'Grandfathered' Character Isn't Really Me

"The truth is I'm not really that playboy that people think," the star of the rookie Fox comedy tells THR.
Courtesy of Fox

Here's the truth about John Stamos: He's not really the lady-killer he's made out to be, either in the media or on his new Fox series, Grandfathered.

Not that he's not convincing at it -- his character on the show, Jimmy, is a proud single guy whose comfortable life is blown up when he meets Gerald (Josh Peck), the son he never knew he had, along with his baby granddaughter. Stamos took a key role in developing the show with creator Daniel Chun, and he allows that the writers do use elements from his own life in creating Jimmy.

"But guys don't want to hear the truth, that it's a bit of a facade," Stamos tells The Hollywood Reporter with a chuckle. "I'm not really the Lothario people have painted me as. It's a fun thing to [play along with] in the press and on talk shows. But the truth is I'm not really that playboy that people think. They don't want to hear that as much. But I do go into the writers' room a lot, and I'll say something and see it in the script a few weeks later. But it's mainly the funnier side of being a bachelor."

Stamos talked with THR about how Grandfathered came to be and where it's going, as well as his involvement with Fuller House.

What about the idea of Grandfathered appealed to you?

For years I sat back and said, let me sit back and see what scripts are out there this season and what I respond to and see if people respond to me. I'd been doing that for a few years. In the old days -- 10, 15 years ago -- you'd sign development deals with studios and networks and develop your own show, and I'd had success with that. I mean, I didn't keep anything on the air, but I certainly got shows I wanted to make piloted or [on air for] six episodes or one season -- Jake in Progress, Thieves.

I wanted to go back to that. Everyone was like, "Oh, you can't develop your own stuff," and I was like, "Well, watch me." Agents are saying there are no development deals, so you shouldn't do this for free. But I did. I just started meeting with writers, and I met with Danny Chun, who's very smart. I liked his ideas about how to portray me on television as a bachelor who gets this instant family. Then I called my friend Dan Fogelman, who's a guy I wanted to work with. I just worked with Chris Koch on Galavant, and loved him. So I put the whole thing together.

What have you and the writers talked about Jimmy's arc being? Is it overcoming the shock of finding out he's a grandfather, letting these people into his very ordered life, coming to terms with the fact that he's not 30 anymore?

I think that's all a rich area for comedy with a guy like me. You can certainly be self-deprecating, put me in uncomfortable situations. [Jimmy] has a good amount of vanity about him -- I think that's a great place for me to try to be funny, and the guys have really tapped into that.

It's a different kind of self-deprecating thing I have in real life. Jimmy is a little more clueless about him[self]. I think a funny area is for him to desperately cling to fighting his age, whereas Sara [Paget Brewster, who plays Gerald's mom] is a woman in her mid-40s -- which I think is a great character. She's proud to be in her mid-40s, proud to be a grandma and a mom, she looks great and she's healthy. I like that.

But I think the mandate for moving on with this character is two steps forward and one step back. He tries to do the right thing but he gets in his own way.... Some of the stuff that was written was like, "I hope it doesn't stay in a Three Men and a Baby kind of thing," or every week it's, "Oh, he has to change a diaper." We got away from that fast. It's really about relationships. All the main characters are single, so that's how they relate to each other and this new situation.

Will the show introduce any of Jimmy's family or offer hints about why he is how he is?

Not yet. We talk a little about his backstory. Mainly what I wanted to get into was why did she not tell him she was pregnant? We dig into that fast. I keep pushing these things -- I don't want him to be like a deadbeat dad, because he wasn't. He didn't know about it. It's a lot about what if. What if I had known about it -- what would my life be like now? Would I be this guy, would I be a different kind of person? That's the backstory, really -- what happened in this relationship, and why did she not tell him? He was kind of into himself, not mature enough in her opinion to be a father. As he hears that, he's like, maybe she's right.

How long will it be before Gerald brings up that the one woman Jimmy could have seen marrying is his mom?

We get into that in the third episode. He's curious about it and wants some answers. The third episode up is called "Guys' Night." It's obvious I don't really know my son, and we're playing a game where I'm trying to guess his age, I don't know his middle name. Sara suggests I spend quality time with him, so we go out and get drunk one night. He does ask -- he saves that picture and asks about the relationship between Ponyboy and Sushi, and I say she was the one who got away. That leads us right into a season of will they or won't they, but the guys have been very deft about writing that story. We're just tapping on it.

You and Josh work well together on screen, but you have to do this kind of awkward, halting thing as Jimmy and Gerald get to know each other. Is that tough to nail down?

It's a good question. It's something I have to think about because he and I -- and the same with Paget and the rest of the cast -- we've already become very close. Josh and I spend a lot of time together, and my friendship with him is more advanced than [Jimmy's] relationship with him as a father is. Sometimes we have to go back -- last [week] we were doing a scene where he comes up and hugs me, and I gave him a big bear hug. The director was like, "Maybe the first hug, you don't hug back so fast."

Has working with small children changed much for you in the past 20 years or so?

No.... I love it. I love being around kids. I'm not doing this for fun. I want to be on TV. I want to stay on TV. I like going to work every day, and I like acting, and I like entertaining people. If people like seeing me with a baby, I'm gonna give it to them. This show is not only about that, which is a saving grace. It's a lot different from Full House. It's not about kids. It's about adults finding their way in a new situation and navigating life and other people's lives.... The babies have been incredible, and we're just getting better and better scenes. But we're trying not to overdo it.

Full House was a show about three guys raising kids, and when the kids were so good and so funny, the show became more about them. That's not happening with this one, and I don't think it will. It's still a family comedy, but mainly concentrating on the adults.

Speaking of Full House, where is Fuller House in terms of production?

I spent a lot of time in the development of it. I've been peddling that show around town for seven years, wanting to do it right.... We're up and going. I think they're on the sixth or seventh episode. I did the first two before Grandfathered, and I go down to set when I can and read scripts and look at cuts. I'll have done four out of the 13 shows. We all did the first one, and we're planning on all doing the last one as well. So we're all sprinkled in throughout the 13, but the show works very well on its own.

You've said in the past that, at the time, you were sort of ambivalent about Full House. Did the time and distance away from it change your thinking enough to be so involved in Fuller House?

I think exactly that. And also I was afforded to do a lot of other work and different work, and work I felt was legitimate as an actor. Doing a lot of theater, working with people like James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury and other greats. Then going on ER for four years. Once I got that into my soul, it really helped me look back and see what a gem and delight Full House was. Not that I didn't have fun doing it, but I always wanted to do more, something deeper.

Grandfathered airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox. Fuller House premieres on Netflix in 2016.

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