Fox aims to outfox disease
New show highlights the humour in actor Michael J Fox’s daily fight with Parkinson’s, writes Lisa Richwine
ACTOR Michael J Fox said he aimed to bring laughs and a dose of reality about day-to-day living with Parkinson’s disease to his new comedy loosely based on his life, his first lead role in a television show in 13 years.
In The Michael J Fox Show, the actor plays Mike Henry, a father with Parkinson’s who returns to work as a local newscaster on an NBC TV station in New York.
Mike used to be one of New York’s favourite anchors, but he gave up the spotlight after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Now, years later, Mike is ready to get back in the game. To his surprise, his fictional family reacts with relief that he will be getting out of the house.
The show draws on Fox’s own experience to generate laughs and give viewers a sense of everyday life with Parkinson’s, a nerve disorder that causes tremors. In one scene, gun-toting police show up at his character’s home after his shaky hands accidentally dial 911.
“The reality of Parkinson’s is that sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s funny,” Fox, 52, said.
The show will not veer into dark humour, he said, because he didn’t see his disease that way.
“There’s nothing horrible on the surface about someone with shaky hands,” he said. “There’s nothing horrible about someone in their life saying, ‘God, I’m really tired of this shaky hand thing’ and me saying, ‘Me, too’. That’s our reality.”
The Canadian-born Fox won over audiences in the 1980s for his role as conservative Alex P Keaton on NBC sitcom Family Ties, and as teen adventurer Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movies.
He later starred in the ABC political comedy Spin City, but semi-retired from acting in 2000 as his Parkinson’s symptoms worsened and he focused his efforts on research for a cure.
Fox said guest roles on shows like The Good Wife made him want to do more. He said medications had helped control his symptoms and he felt that he was now ready to commit to a lead role. NBC has already ordered 22 episodes of the new show. “It’s what I’ve loved to do,” he said. “I thought: ‘Why can’t I? There’s no reason not to do it.’ ”
Parkinson’s will figure less prominently in later episodes, Fox said.
His real-life wife and Family Ties co-star Tracy Pollan will make an appearance. His wife on the show is played by Breaking Bad actress Betsy Brandt.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will also guest star, playing himself in one episode.
And British singer-songwriter Sting will make a cameo appear- ance in an episode.
Fox will be going back to the future on another episode when Christopher Lloyd, who played Dr Emmett Brown opposite Fox’s character in Back to the Future and its two sequels, will guest star in an episode next spring.
This time, Lloyd will appear as the principal of the high school where Annie Henry is employed.
Fox said his real-life family supported his return to a regular series role.
“There is a kind of scrutiny of their stuff that won’t exist if I’m occupied doing something else,” he joked. – Reuters
● Catch The Michael J Fox Show which premieres on M-Net , Wednesday at 6pm.
KEEPING IT REAL: The cast of
pictured left, Conor Romero as Ian Henry, Juliette Goglia as Eve Henry, Betsy Brandt as Annie Henry, Michael J Fox as Mike Henry, Jack Gore as Graham Henry, Katie Finneran as Leigh Henry.