Leah Remini previews FAMILY TOOLS on ABC
We all know Leah Remini – from a sassy no-nonsense second in command at a summer resort called Malibu Sands to almost a decade married to the KING OF QUEENS, she’s been a constant presence on our TV sets over the years. Tonight on ABC, we get to see her latest jump into the comedy waters. Her latest show, FAMILY TOOLS (8:30c/7:30c), follows a handy-man (JK Simmons) with a successful home improvement company that finds himself passing the reins over to his not-made-for-the-job son. Leah plays JK’s sister, Terry, a no-nonsense woman who tells it like it is and supports her family no matter what.
What follows is my fun chat with Leah about FAMILY TOOLS – what’s coming up, why she wanted to do FAMILY TOOLS, and what JK said when she tried to decorate his dressing room.
I’m excited to have you back on TV!
Aw, thank you, me too!
What brought you to this show, and back to sitcoms?
It’s funny, after KING OF QUEENS, I didn’t really know what to do. I also wanted to do something different so I made a deal with Paramount to do a talk show, and that got delayed for a year, and then I did THE TALK for a year instead, and then I did two pilots for ABC that didn’t get picked up. People are like, “Where’ve you been?” It’s not so easy! It’s not a list that’s like, “here’s a list of successful shows, dummy, step into one!” It’s not an easy thing to do! And then of course, I thought, people, Martin Scorcese was going to call and say, oh I’ve been waiting for you to be done with this show so I can put you in my next DeNiro movie. That didn’t happen either [laughs]. What attracted me to this, was Paul Lee, the President of ABC, was so gracious. After THE TALK thing happened, he called, and said, you’re coming back here, and offered me the deal to go there and do something there, and this was one of the last shows, the pilot, that was going to be made. I was sitting around eating Devil Dogs and Twinkies, and I was like, “I’m too busy Paul, getting fat!!” Everything I do is by committee, so I had to ask my mother, and everybody, should I do this show? My mother was like, “well, who is in it?” I said JK Simmons, and she said “JK Simmons? He’s a real actor! You have to do it, Leah, you have to act with a real actor!” As opposed to the non-actor that I am! You know, JK has a real resume, as opposed to me. She was like “oh my god….” So really it was because of my mother wanting to meet JK!
Talk about Terry and who she is – what we can expect from the character.
She’s very loving and caring, but in a ball-busting way of course. She takes care of her family but also is a ball-buster. She’s in everybody’s business and has very strong opinions about the way people should be living their lives. I really, really love the role, because it’s very similar to me. I try not to do too much acting in my career. Apparently, I’m not really that talented, per my mother, I just play myself. And she’d like me to wear more color, as opposed to the black I normally wear.
I read an interview that you gave which mentioned being able to play with the characters on the pilot.
Doing a pilot, it’s always very uncomfortable, like with THE KING OF QUEENS, it’s like, oh, pretend you’re married, and makeout! It’s really uncomfortable, man, it’s not something you’re comfortable doing, but with the pilot to the first episode, you can see, we really bond, because you’re spending a lot of hours on the set, as opposed to multi-camera [laughs]. I like to impose myself on everyone anyway, so they really got to know me right away, probably more than they wanted to, because I was already decorating everybody’s dressing rooms, and the green room, and decorating the stage for the crew. JK was over me, I think, Day 1, where I knocked on his door, going, “So JK, I just need to make a list of the things you need in here, because I know you’re not going to decorate it, and I feel like, if you build it, they will come, and you need to put the energy out in the world that we’re going to be here. I just need to take some notes – get you some throw rugs, maybe some candles, in case you do your business in here,” and he told me to get out right away! I’m like laughing-crying at him. He’s like the grumpy old man – I call us Grandma and Grandpa of the stage. We’re like the old couple. Even though we play brother and sister, it’s still the same dynamic, where I’m like, “JK can I have the pictures of you from Disneyland because I want to put them on set” and he’s like, “I don’t want to be a part of your cute stuff.” He had me crying from laughter every day. The both of them, Kyle, too. I don’t know how many takes I ruined because of my laughing. I don’t get it, the whole film thing. Whatever you do and master, you gotta do again. I’m like, I don’t understand this! I have to go home! [laughs]
You’ve shot the season now – what are some fun things we can look forward to?
I think you’re going to see family. If you like shows about family, and sit and watch with your kids, you’re going to see family. Family acting inappropriate to each other. By yelling, and that’s the way we show our love. That’s how I show my love. It’s not yelling to us! I know people in LA are different. It’s like, oh are you fighting with your mom? I’m like, what breakfast were you at? Yes!
My mom is the same way. She would have the “a real actor” reaction, as well! Maybe that’s why I relate to the show because it’s not a lovey-dovey-we-are-family, but everyone clearly loves each other!
Of course! You can’t have that kind of emotion for somebody you don’t care about. For me, it’s all about the love and family. Working together and living together. That’s love. That’s what attracted me to the show. It was a dynamic that I understood.
Why do you think fans will relate to the show?
No matter the combination – me and JK are brother and sister; Kyle plays my nephew, Jonny plays my son – even though it’s not traditional combination of mother and father live together, son, etc, it’s still a dynamic that people recognize and understand. And say, oh my god, that’s us, that’s how we react to each other. People just want to laugh. They want to laugh at the simplicity of family. It’s not over-complicated. We didn’t stunt cast anybody to get people to watch it. It’s a typical, easy show to watch. You get it right away. You know, how with some shows, you’re like “wait, who is…what is..huh?” When I watch television, I don’t want to use my brain. Drool should be happening. It’s too much work! I just want to sit there and veg!