Matt LeBlanc Talks 'Man With a Plan' Season 3 and Playing Joey for 12 Years
In a recent studio interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor opened up about his time in and away from the spotlight over the last 25 years.
In 1994, Matt LeBlanc shot to stardom playing Joey Tribbiani on Friends. After ten seasons, he immediately went on to star in the spinoff sitcom Joey for two years. Though for some it might get stale, LeBlanc had no trouble keeping the character fresh for 12 years because, he said, “that always comes down the the writing. The character continued to evolve, and it was never really a challenge to keep it fresh. The writing supported that, so that’s a testament to the writers’ ability. I tried to be inventive. I never looked at the character as the dumb guy; I never looked at him that way. I always found him to be incorrect, but not dumb. There’s a difference.”
With the recent resurgence of Friends on Netflix, LeBlanc and the rest of the cast still receive recognition everywhere they go, but at least for him, “it’s nice to be associated with a character that everybody liked. I’m not famous for playing a mass murderer or anything like that. Joey was a fun guy to be around.”
After Friends and Joey, it was time to take a break from the spotlight. “I was going to take a year off, and that turned into five or six years," LeBlanc said. "I was having a good time. My daughter was little. I was enjoying life and just having a good time. It went by really quickly.”
He then went on to star in Showtime's Episodes, which gave him the chance to play a completely different character: himself. “I was a little intimidated about doing that until we got going, and then it became really fun because the writing was so good," he said. "The writing was really exceptional on that show. It’s a show I would watch.”
Episodes aired for five seasons, and was a hit with critics and audiences. As the series wound down, LeBlanc started thinking about his next move. “A lot of pilot scripts that I read at the time were about a single dad back on the dating scene…the one thing those scripts all had in common was they seemed to use the children as pawns in his dating adventures, which I thought, frankly, was kind of shitty," he said. "I didn’t like that. So I said, 'What’s wrong with being married with kids? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.'”
Man With a Plan, which is now on season three, centers on LeBlanc’s Adam Burns, a contractor who takes on new familial responsibilities when his wife decides to return to work after 13 years raising their three children. The cast includes Liza Snyder, Kevin Nealon, Matt Cook, Stacy Keach and Swoosie Kurtz. “In Friends I was part of a cast where if you equate it to a football team, you could give the ball to anyone and they’d run it to the end zone. So that’s what I was looking for,” LeBlanc said about his Man With a Plan castmates. “I wanted to have a strong cast around me, where anyone could score the joke, where anyone could drive story. You want to have craftsmen around you. It makes me look better.”
Although in his earlier years he faced some nerves performing in front of a live audience, that’s not the case for the veteran actor these days. “The crowd doesn’t intimidate me anymore,” he said. “I look forward to it. I look at them now as a sounding board for the jokes, because if they’re not laughing it’s probably not funny. I’m looking at it from a slightly different perspective nowadays.”
When asked if there’s a possibility of one of his former Friends castmates making a guest appearance on Man With a Plan, he was short but optimistic. “It hasn’t been discussed at this point, but there’s a chance, sure. Never say never.”
LeBlanc has been nominated for a total of seven Emmys for his work on Friends and Episodes, and he won a Golden Globe in 2012 for his role on Episodes.