Fox says Parkinson's won't be focus of comedy
Michael J. Fox says Parkinson's disease will not be a major storyline of his upcoming NBC comedy.
On The Michael J. Fox Show, the actor plays Mike Henry, a former local NBC newscaster with Parkinson's, who left the business to spend more time with his family. The series begins when he decides to return to work now that his kids are older.
At Saturday's Television Critics Association summer press tour, Fox said he didn't think about how others with Parkinson's would react to the show because he doesn't "vet creative instinct."
"I just go with it," he said. "I feel that this is the reflection of my experience and certainly in the pilot it was more prevalent than it is in subsequent scripts. The way I look at life and the reality of Parkinson's, sometimes it's frustrating and sometimes it's funny. I need to look at it that way and other people need to look at it that way. Beyond that we all got our own bag of hammers...I think people will look at that and say, 'Yeah, I need to laugh at my own stuff, too.'"
The premise of the show does have similarities to Fox's real-life story. The actor left Spin City in 2000 as he tried different treatments and medications to treat Parkinson's. He also used the opportunity to spend quality time with his four kids during their formative years.
"There's kind of a scrutiny of their stuff that won't exist if I'm being occupied by something else," joked Fox of the distraction of a full-time job.
Fox believes the viewers, however, will not be distracted by his character having Parkinson's on his new series.
"Parkinson's itself there's nothing horrifying to me. It's not horrible. I don't think it's gothic nastiness. There's nothing on the surface horrible about someone with shaking hands."
Since leaving Spin City, Fox has had recurring roles on shows like Rescue Me and The Good Wife. Those guest spots gave him the itch to do more.
"It really brought me to a place of, 'This is what I do,'" he said. "This is what I was built and programmed to do, and so I wanted to do it. It's what I've loved to do...I thought, 'Why can't I? There's no reason not to do it.'"
Because Fox plays a local NBC newscaster, the show will tap real people to do guest appearances that make the story more believable. Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie are in the pilot. New Jersey governor Chris Christie appears in an upcoming episode as himself.
"A fictional television network didn't give us 22 episodes," joked Executive Producer Will Gluck on why they decided to make Fox's Mike Henry work for NBC.