MIPCOM: 'Family Ties' Michael Gross on Beating Back Prostate Cancer
CANNES -- After successfully battling prostate cancer, Family Ties' Michael Gross is ready to look back on 2012 as his annus horribilis.
"We're great," Gross told The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday while at MIPCOM to tub-thump for the Canadian dramedy Call Me Fitz, which stars Jason Priestley.
A year ago, he was diagnosed with cancer, his wife had her own cancer scare and his daughter suffered through complications from surgery. As if that wasn't enough, Gross' father and his wife's mother passed away.
"People kept dying. Friends kept dying," he recalled.
But despite his cancer struggle, Gross never stopped battling, and working.
Eight days after surgery to successfully remove his prostate cancer, the actor was on the set of Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike.
Gross was also due to fly to Canada in late 2012 to perform a five-episode arc on Call Me Fitz, where he was to play an eco-industrialist looking to destroy the used-car industry as part of a Fitzpatrick family smackdown.
"I was in need of an adventure," he recalled telling Sheri Elwood, creator and showrunner of the Canadian series, who had written the part for Gross after seeing him perform a villainous, guest-starring role on Parks and Recreation.
Elwood remembers turning to Gross, a veteran stage actor long before he lucked into the role of nice-guy Steven Keaton on Family Ties, because she needed someone to stand out in a comedy about endless Fitz family dysfunction.
"It's a challenge creating interesting villains for a villainous family," she said.
But with Gross cleared to fly to Halifax to shoot the HBO Canada and DirecTV Audience Network dramedy, panic set in over his family's health.
Afraid to leave his wife's side, Gross overcame his worst fears to board the transcontinental flight to Atlantic Canada.
"Then I got up there and was welcomed like family," he recalled.
Call Me Fitz is produced by Amaze Film + Television, Entertainment One and Big Motion Pictures.
The Canadian series has built a cult following, and Elwood and Gross are in Cannes this week to help drum up additional foreign sales.
Elwood also wrote another comedy, Bagel Nation, which ABC is developing from Warner Bros. TV and Jerry Bruckeheimer Television.
Just as Call Me Fitz was inspired by Elwood's brother who is a used car salesman, Bagel Nation also is taken from her family's real life as it recalls her Lebanese father and his family running a Jewish deli in Toronto.
Call Me Fitz is executive produced by Elwood, Teza Lawrence, Michael Souther, John Morayniss, Michael Rosenberg and David MacLeod.
eOne handles worldwide distribution.