'Ben and Kate': Dakota Johnson on Nat Faxon Sibling Dynamic, Romancing Geoff Stults
UPDATED: The Fox actress admits to drawing from Hollywood’s iconic brother-sister duo, while “New Girl” showrunner Liz Meriwether praises Dana Fox’ freshmen comedy.
Family comes first on Ben and Kate – as in, there aren’t any other brother-sister duos in television history for Dakota Johnson to look to when acting opposite improvisation comedy alum Nat Faxon. Though she admitted feels “a little bit” of pressure to set the precedent, they have the unique dynamic down.
“He and I feel really wonderful around each other and we work really well together,” Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter at the New York Television Festival’s “A Salute to FOX Comedy” panel last week. “We’re able to completely riff off each other, and I’m so comfortable with him and the way that he works at this point. It’s easy. We just want it to be accessible to people and relatable -- that’s the main goal.”
To play a leading lady who can keep up with Faxon, she looks to a certain set of real-life siblings for inspiration.
“I think a lot of John [Cusack] and Joan Cusack for some reason,” she said of the two, who only sometimes play family members onscreen. “I think about them more so in real life and how they support each other, and they probably mess with each other a lot.”
Lucy Punch also expressed her affections for her bold character, BJ – who, Punch asserted, is nothing like her.
“It’s a lot of fun, she’s like a loose cannon and can do or say anything,” she told THR. “She’s a little bit darker and meaner, not necessarily intentionally, just because she’s rather selfish, so that’s fun.”
THR’s Tim Goodman reviewed the show as “fall’s most fully realized sitcom” and noted that it "should be given a long leash by Fox" in his season predictions. The network seems to agree – Fox has ordered six additional episodes of the freshman comedy.
“I think that we’re trying to bring back the idea of family being really important, instead of just having a TV show about funny people doing funny things all the time,” Johnson explained. “People, luckily, have accepted us as a new show very quickly, so on set, we feel more comfortable getting creative and making things more personal. Just knowing that people appreciate the work that we do helps us to be honest and to be real, to get into it and make things different.”
Ben and Kate creator Dana Fox based the comedy on experiences with her own brother, and developed the show after consulting on New Girl – and Elizabeth Meriwether couldn’t be happier to see the producer spin off on her own.
“She’s my best friend!” Meriwether told THR. “She’s putting so much heart into it, and I think it’s real characters and great stories. I’ve just been really proud of her.”
Punch signed on to play BJ immediately after meeting Fox. Said the actress, “She’s really a very, very special person. It’s amazing that she’s brought this all together.”
Ben and Kate first opened to a 2.1 adults rating and 4.2 million viewers and saw double-digit growth in its second week with Live+3 Day DVR data. It has remained steady with a 1.4 adults rating for the past two weeks -- the most recent of which debuted Geoff Stults as Kate’s love interest in a multi-episode guest arc.
“He’s really awesome and talented and funny,” Johnson said of Stults. “It’ll show Kate in a different, sort of sexy light, and you’ll see her do some different things. I’m interested for people to see that relationship.”