Arkin, Douglas come together on Netflix’s ‘Kominsky Method’
LOS ANGELES — It would be a logical assumption that with two Oscars and credits that stretch back more than a half-century, there’s very little Michael Douglas doesn’t know about acting. He found out while working on Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method” that he still has plenty to learn from his co-star, Alan Arkin.
In “The Kominsky Method,” Douglas plays Sandy Kominsky, an actor who has turned a short run of success into being a top Hollywood acting coach. Along with his longtime friend and agent, Norman (Arkin), the pair tackle life’s challenges while trying to survive in Los Angeles, a city that values youth and beauty. Nancy Travis plays Lisa, a 50-something recent divorcee who joins Sandy’s acting class and not only discovers her hidden talent but starts a connection that takes them both by surprise.
Both Douglas and Arkin have been working in TV and film for decades but had not had the opportunity to work together until the Netflix production. Douglas has been a fan of Arkin’s work since seeing the 1966 comedy “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!”
“I’d forgotten about his Second City background in comedy and how good he was,” Douglas added. “I learned a lot from him in the time we were together, just about comedic timing and sense and he’s got certain philosophies that were really, really helpful. We talked a fair amount about politics and he’s just a joy. He’s really good and I think we both enjoyed the opportunity doing eight episodes and the ensemble feel of getting together.”
The rule for Douglas over the years has been to pick projects that resonate with him. He could relate deeply with what Sandy Kominsky is going through. The first script reminded Douglas of Wynn Handman, a teacher Douglas worked with years ago. Kominsky reflects how Handman was a nurturer who gave actors confidence.
The man who brought Douglas and Arkin together is Chuck Lorre, whose producing and writing credits include “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mike & Molly,” ‘Mom,” “Dharma & Greg” and “Roseanne.” The inspiration for Lorre to create “The Kominsky Method” came out of what he was feeling as he grows older in Hollywood.
The way Lorre looks at it is when it comes to the loss of friends and loved ones plus a distancing by a youth culture that comes with aging, the two options are to cry or laugh. He opted to find the funny.
Douglas has not done a lot of comedy, but he felt comfortable with “The Kominsky Method” because like so many other productions from Lorre, the stories fluctuate between comedy and tragedy. At the same time, Lorre got to work with two actors he considers to be legends in the business. That was good and a little bad.
“It’s a little intimidating. It’s humbling, and it’s an opportunity to learn. I got to watch two masters at their craft up-close every day and watch and learn,” Lorre said. “What a gift that is to be able to go to work in the morning and learn stuff you didn’t know. At this point in my life, seeing things from different perspectives, seeing how things could be done differently, that’s great. I love that.”
Douglas, 74, continues to land acting roles, including the comic book-inspired “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” But he has experienced the kind of changes that come with getting older that inspired Lorre to create the series. Douglas had become frustrated with how little attention the smaller movies he made got (“Solitary Man,” “King of California”), so he liked the idea of returning to television, where he got his first big career boost starring in “The Streets of San Francisco.”
“Here’s a chance to play some comedy, which I don’t normally get a chance to do that often in a format like with Netflix, streaming, where there are no commercials and it’s like a 25 to 35-minute movie. No time limits, language and all of that,” Douglas said.
“So it was a great opportunity and sort of been my year between doing green screen movies, which I’d never done in my life before, and now having a chance to do a series like this with Chuck and Alan has been really a treat.”
Danny Devito, left, and Kominsky Method.” Michael Douglas star in the new Netflix’s series “The