KEVIN CAN WAIT: Mary-Charles Jones previews a Season 2 of change

Season 2 of KEVIN CAN WAIT kicks off tonight on CBS with a time jump and a new series regular (S1 guest star Leah Remini is back). To celebrate kicking off Season 2, I spent some time chatting with series star Mary-Charles Jones about what’s coming for Sara now that Kevin has to parent this teenager alone!

It’s got to be exciting; you never know when you sign on for something that it’s going to take off whether people are going to like it. And here it is. Huge success coming back for season two.
It’s super exciting. You know obviously I had a wonderful time filming the first season. I think whenever you leave a show for the break between seasons, it’s always like that. Am I going to see these people again? I hope that I get to be with these people again! Because some of our cast members live in LA, some are in New York. It’s a very nerve-wracking feeling, the separation between the first and the second season. But once I found out, I was just super ecstatic. I was so excited to come back to New York because it’s so beautiful here [laughs]!

You film on Long Island, right?
Yeah we film on Long Island which is where Kevin James is originally from and he lives there now. But I lived there a first season and then now I live in New York City because there’s just a lot to do in New York City [laughs]. There are sample sales, and places to shop! And Broadway shows which I’m a big fan of. So I live in New York City but we do film on Long Island.

You mentioned coming back to the cast and reuniting. It’s obviously a different dynamic this season with Leah Remini. What’s it been like so far kind of getting back on the swing of things and getting ready for season 2?
It wasn’t as hard to create a relationship with Leah because she was there for our season finale. I think that really helped getting to meet her before. It wasn’t our first time meeting her. For the rest of us, it was a very good experience. Everyone getting back together. It was kind of like a reunion, like when you go after summer and you go back to school and you see all your classmates again? It’s that feeling [laughs]. Leah’s just extremely nice to all of us. She’s so grateful to be on. She’s just super welcoming to all the cast and we have all created a great bond, and it’s a really great dynamic this season.

What can you tease for people about what we will see in Season 2?
I’m super excited for everyone to start watching it! Personally with me, I think it’s more with my character, Kevin’s a single dad now, which is something that affects the entire family. So it’s more about watching him navigate being a single dad with three children. I mean I’m the middle child, I’m the teenage girl. So it’s more him navigating like I’m a teenage girl, that whole entire craziness of growing up. And so it’s more of me trying to find like that relationship with him where I’m feeling comfortable and just like that single dad environment that is really explored in the second season. Which I’m very excited about. There’s a lot scenes, just me and Kevin, having dad and daughter conversations.

Did you watch KING OF QUEENS? How familiar with Kevin’s work were you before joining the show?
Well, I had seen the Mall Cop movies and I just watched Hitch like a week ago, and I loved it, it was so great. I’ve only seen like 2 episodes of KING OF QUEENS and the reason for that? I was born in 2001 and the show ended right around that time, so I was a toddler and not exactly the type of show I was watching [laughs].

That cuts me deep!
I’ve seen clips of it. I’ve started watching more, but it’s also like 9 seasons, so that would be quite a lot of time to watch the whole thing!

Do you think that people can pick up season two without having watched season 1 or should they go back and binge season 1? Do you think you can jump right in?
I honestly think that people could jump right in and watch season two because we do address why Donna or Erinn is not in the show anymore. It’s been a year since her death. Even if you do pick up in season two, you get to see Kevin as a single dad. But I do think it would be cool to go back and watch the first season and just like the progression of like, I say whenever you watch a show if you watched the first season and the most current season or the first season and the second season, the jump is always so big with every show, the first season is just trying to figure out all the movie pieces and figure out ways that characters are going to develop, figure out which characters are going to be friends. What conflicts are we going to have. So I definitely say you don’t have to watch the first season to understand the second season. But just for the dynamics to see the progression from season 1 to 2.

It’s interesting that you point that out – that’s coming up with critics right now where they’re asked to judge a show on the pilot, and so much changes across the progression of a season!
Yeah just like I was going back and I was watching a couple of episodes of the first season of MODERN FAMILY and the difference between it is so huge because it’s that first season that you have to figure out OK like which stories do we want to talk about, which characters do we want to develop more than others. So I think that’s very interesting. Like which characters have dynamics together. At the beginning of Season 1, we didn’t really have much of Ryan, who plays Chale, and Kevin interacting, but by the end, their dynamics of them being so different were so funny together that you see them four or five times together because they’re such opposite characters that complement each other.

Are there things you want to see this character experience? What would you love to play for her?
I think a cool idea for Sara because I know that, as we know, her dad is a retired cop and now he’s working with Leah, and so I think it would be cool to just like experience like maybe even driving or something because I know that’s something that everyone has to go and do. I’m starting to learn. I get my license very, very soon so I think that would be something cool to explore. And you know, like relationships – I’m a sophomore in high school. There are relationships and dances. That could be cool to explore in the second season.

I know you’re active on social media; what are people saying to you about the show?
I think that everyone is just super excited for season 2. A lot of people are really excited to see Leah and Kevin just because their dynamic together is so funny, so they complement each other. And so I’ve been getting a lot of like how is Leah? [laughs] And she’s wonderful and also, this season, with Sara, that she’s going to be developed so much more because it’s her, and her dad, and they’re trying to create this relationship with her in her teenage years and him without his wife.

What else do you have coming up besides this show?
Well our show pretty much has a pretty tight schedule, so I’m not working on anything right now. I’m working on getting my license, if that counts [laughs]?

That could be a major undertaking. I get it.
Yes. Very stressful. Hopefully I pass.

You’ve been cracking me up; I was watching some of your posts from NY Fashion Week. Are you a big fan of fashion in general or is that something you’d like to get involved in? What’s that been like?
Yes. So this was my first New York Fashion Week and it was absolutely wonderful. Actually my cousin who is a big fan of fashion, she wants to do modeling, I kind of suprirsed her and asked if she wanted to come and go to the shows with me. It made it so much fun to have my family there. She was ecstatic the whole time, as was I! But I definitely do feel like I like fashion a lot more, just because I know that there seems to be whatever is on trend in fashion, and that’s something that I like, what is on trend. But there are definitely parts of me that wants to go off the beaten path. And if you go to the basic stores that are in every mall, they’re kind of all starting to streamline the same, and I like things that are a little off of the trend.

I read that you were exuberant as a kid and that’s how they could tell you wanted to be an actor. Was it a family trend? Did Maggie and Lillian follow in your footsteps? How did you all end up in the biz?
I would definitely say that my sisters wanted to follow in my footsteps, but it wasn’t like “you definitely have to follow me!” It was more “oh, let me try this” and then we’re all doing well at it, and we all enjoy it. That’s been super cool that they also liked it. I’ve done two movies with my sister Maggie, and they were one of the most amazing things. You get to work with someone who you’ve literally lived your life with. Forming that relationship wasn’t exactly hard [laughs].

Are there actors whose careers you’d like to emulate?
Definitely. I mean I’m a huge fan of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Melissa McCarthy, and I’ve I thankfully had the opportunity to work with Melissa McCarthy and I think that they’re so wonderful and how they’re smart in writing their characters. They’re not just the dumb girl. They’re super smart in their comedy, and their jokes are though out. With Melissa, she just won her Emmy and I thought her performance was hilarious. Also, these women that are writing their own things, not playing the dumb character that says stupid jokes, but are doing something smart with their comedy are some actresses that I really look up to.

Is that something you want to do, write for yourself as well?
I do kind of would love to be on SNL. I think that’s one of the goals of mine. I think those people on that show are so creative and writing for yourself is a very, very hard thing. I’ve tried a couple of times! So I think I want work on that more and see what comes.

You talk about SNL. Is there are a lot of room for improv or any kind of room within a script on a show like KEVIN CAN WAIT? Do you get an opportunity to take your own take?
Yes, there’s definitely a lot of improv with our show! I would say though that most of it doesn’t show up in the episodes, and it’s more when we’re doing our live show. If something’s not working and the audience, like we say a joke, and the audience doesn’t laugh, immediately after, when we are doing our next tape for a live audience, the writers will run in, we’ll all circle and be like “why don’t we try this?” Sometimes, Kevin won’t tell anyone and he will just say a joke that no one knows about because he’ll say a joke and we’ll all start dying [laughs]. So yeah there’s definitely a lot of improv on our show, during the live tapings. If something’s not working, or if we’ve set the scene three times and we’re trying to get a different show, we’ll say different lines to keep the audience interested.

Having a live audience there probably fuels the energy on set, I’d imagine!
The live audience is probably one of the biggest blessings with comedies. When you write those jokes, we are rehearsing them from Monday to Wednesday. Obviously, once you hear a joke four times, it can be the funniest thing, so you’re not going to laugh at it anymore. If we have to tape on Thursday when there’s no audience, we have our crew members that are there laughing, but there’s a much livelier environment with this live audience. Because they’re hearing these jokes for the first time. And then you can also see if that joke you thought was hilarious, everyone else in the audience is like, no I didn’t think that was funny, so you can go in, run it, and change it, so that you can get that good joke, because you have basically all of these critics slash audience members that are telling you if the joke is good or if it’s not, or if that part of the storyline makes sense, or it doesn’t. And the energy is so much better. Feeding off of their energy, all of the people that are super excited to see the show; everyone is so alive and energized and you can feed off of them.

KEVIN CAN WAIT returns with the Season 2 premiere at 9/8c tonight on CBS.