Reginald VelJohnson talks THE NEIGHBORS, HART OF DIXIE, and our new internet campaign for a FAMILY MATTERS reunion!
As a fan of TGIF from the early 90s, it’s always so much fun to see someone I admired back in the day show up on my favorite shows – tonight, Reginald VelJohnson starts a fun arc on THE NEIGHBORS, playing Jackie’s dad, visiting from Zabvron. To celebrate the episode, I spent some time chatting with the man famous for Det Powell (DIE HARD films) and Carl Winslow (FAMILY MATTERS), about why he’s heading to the neighborhood, how much fun it is to play Dash Dewitt, and what we should do to get the FAMILY MATTERS reunion we all want to see!
I have to say I’m a huge fan of THE NEIGHBORS – proponent of it wherever I turn. What brings you to the show?
The Jackie Joyner Kersee character played by Toks, I can never pronounce her last name, that Toks is a sweet girl. We play her parents – I saw we – myself and Meredith Baxter. We of course play aliens from another planet. They asked me to come on board and I was very excited because I’m also a fan of the show. I love the quirkiness and the craziness, and the people on the show are so easy to work with and so much fun. When they asked me to become a part of it, I said hell yeah, excuse my expression [laughs]. There wasn’t anything that would forbid me from taking the gig! I’ve had so much fun. We’ve done two episodes so far; this is the first one that’s airing, on Friday, and I hope that they bring the character back quite often because I enjoy doing it so much when I’m there.
That was a question I had – is this a character that you could see returning? They incorporate their guest stars so well that I wouldn’t be surprised to see you come back, and often.
I got that!! They kind of write the scripts or organize the scripts, it leaves it open to return as many times as they would like us to, because I’m glad about that. Because it’s always good to have a gig [laughs].
What brings her parents to town?
It’s sort of like, for the holidays, and her character is sort of missing her experience of having parents; everyone has their parents, and she misses that feeling. She wants to know what the feeling is like, to have that love, one on one relationship with parental guidance, so she calls her parents to come for a visit, all of a sudden, so she can get that feeling of having that parental relationship that she misses having on the show.
Is there a lot of improv on THE NEIGHBORS – was there a lot of play?
Oh yes! All of the time! You can’t have a comedy show, and not have improvisational moments, where people go “oh keep that in!” That happens quite often on set because everyone is so funny! It’s really hard to keep a straight face and sometimes the moment just calls for an improvisational line or action that they keep them, and it works. You couldn’t do it without being spontaneous, and being rigid with everything. It wouldn’t work that way. Every sitcom that I’ve ever done, always left that open for the actors – if it happens it happens, go with it. There is room for that.
As a fan of the show, in addition to being someone on the show, what would you say to someone about why they should watch THE NEIGHBORS?
Because it’s funny [laughs]. That’s the one main thing. If it’s funny, you’re going to laugh! The reason to watch sitcoms is to sit and forget about troubles or whatever you’re going through, and have moments of pure laughter. THE NEIGHBORS is the kind of show where you come out with guffaws and burst up. That’s not a publicity stunt – it’s very funny. If anyone would ask me what is THE NEIGHBORS about – it’s about laughter and humor, so watch because of that!
I agree completely with that – it harkens back to the days that you obviously remember – the days of TGIF!
Absolutely! Let me tell you something – I don’t mean any harm, but I was talking to a friend of mine the other night and I was saying – Have you noticed that there is a lot of stuff on about witches, and demons, and blood suckers? People walking from the dead, and it’s kind of disturbing to me. Sometimes, you watch that stuff, and you go to sleep, and you dream! You wake up and you’re having nightmares! [laughs] I personally appreciate the fact that they’re bringing back comedies and laughter as opposed to demons and the blood suckers and everything. I prefer laughing as opposed to watching someone get cut and blood shooting out of their faces and what not!
I’d be remiss to let you go without asking – we’ve seen a lot of talk lately about FULL HOUSE reunions, the BOY MEETS WORLD / GIRL MEETS WORLD spinoff – has there been talks, have you ever discussed FAMILY MATTERS reuniting?
It’s so funny! Everybody always asks me that because we really never had a real complete ending to the show, I don’t think. I say that I wish that were the case, but nobody has said anything about it, but I tell people – if you log in to an internet site and kind of request that, maybe people will listen! A lot of people ask me that same question, but nobody has said anything about a reunion or anything like that. I wish it was true, but unfortunately, it’s not!
I did want to mention Dash, of course – you have to have so much fun on HART OF DIXIE. Gossip, one man plays.
He’s a busybody, right?
I can imagine going to set and playing him could be so much fun!
It’s funny to be this kind of character who is developed to be the male Rona Barrett of the town. He’s always gossiping and putting the blog out there, and [affects Southern accent] doing it with a Southern accent. It’s kind of funny to me that I had to play that role, to get used to the character. It’s fun! Every time they give me something new to do, I relish in it. I love playing the character and people like the portrayal. I was a little nervous in the beginning of the show to play this Southern character. You already know what goes on with Dash – it’s fun playing him. I love it, and they are encouraging me to get even more outrageous.
THE NEIGHBORS airs Fridays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC; for more info head to ABC.com. HART OF DIXIE airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.