The 'King of Queens': Kevin James
EmptyCritics like to talk about shows using pejoratives such as "formulaic" and "predictable," but CBS' "The King of Queens" turned those negatives into positives. After nine years on the air, the show's formula proved prescient, and the predictability of its characters became comfortable for audiences. Oh, and lovable stand-up comic Kevin James became a primetime star. On the eve of the series' final signoff, James spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Christy Grosz about how the show changed his life and how wistful he feels about seeing the end of its run.
The Hollywood Reporter: Critics were not kind to "The King of Queens" when it debuted, so it must feel pretty good right now not only to have proven them wrong but to have seen the New York Times write about the show's creative resurgence in the last few seasons.
Kevin James: Whether they like or don't like the show, that's fine, you know? It's very difficult in the beginning to identify with a character. It takes a little while, and if a show can survive long enough for people to really get into the characters and identify with them, that's a great thing. Unfortunately, a lot of decent shows don't get that opportunity, and they're canceled really quick when they could have turned out to be a great show as well.
THR: What do you consider the key to the show's success? Most shows don't reach 100 episodes, let alone 200 these days.
James: I think in the beginning, we were in a hammock spot. We were in between "Cosby" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," and "Raymond" was kind of doing really well, and we kind of piggybacked on them for a while until we got strong enough legs. We kind of developed a little audience that followed us and liked us, and when they moved us, we panicked, but we held on like they couldn't kill us.
THR: How does it feel to leave behind a character that you've played for nine years?
James: No doubt about it, it's amazing. It's longer than I've done anything in my life. I've never held a job for that long, so in that respect it's bittersweet, you know? You look back, and you're proud of what you did, and you're like, "Wow, this was really a great run." But you just miss everybody so much -- it's this feeling of, "How can we re-create this? Can we go on more?" It's so sad because right down to everybody on the crew, I spent more time with them than I did with my actual family in the last nine years.
THR: You're starring in Universal's comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" with Adam Sandler this July. Are you planning on pursuing film full time now, or would you ever consider doing another primetime series?
James: I would! Not right away -- I think people are kind of sick of me in primetime. I'm going to enjoy my daughter, (and) we've got another girl on the way, so I'm going to be enjoying them for a little bit. But definitely, I would never rule out doing a sitcom again because I just had so much fun. The hours are the greatest, and as much as I love film -- and I do -- there's no replacement for that live audience. It's something that I've grown accustomed to over the last 10 years, and it's something I know I'm going to miss. I get it a little bit with stand-up, but I just miss doing a different play every week.
THR: It seems like it gives you an opportunity to kind of reinvent the show every week. If you're not happy with one episode, you've got next week.
James: Exactly. It's like we did 207 very short movies. When you're working on a movie for what could be two years from writing to (shooting) and editing, if it's something that doesn't do well, it's so brutal. I feel for these people that have movies bomb out of the gate -- it's out of the theater a couple weeks later, and it's gone. It's so much effort for this one night, one weekend. That is the one benefit of a TV show: If you miss one week, you go, "All right, we'll get 'em next week."
THR: So, should we keep an eye out for "The King of Queens" reunion show in a couple years?
James: I wouldn't hold your breath, but who knows? You never know. I'll never say
never. I'm one of those guys who may just do it for my own benefit, just have them come over -- and we'll just act out a play in my house.