Q&A: ‘Guy with Kids’ Anthony Anderson on His Return to Comedy and Working with 14 Babies
Anthony Anderson stars in the new NBC comedy, Guys with Kids, a show about three 30-something dads who try to hold on to their youth as they face the responsibilities of having kids.
Executive produced by Jimmy Fallon, the show also stars Jesse Bradford (The West Wing), Zach Cregger (Friends with Benefits), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show), Erinn Hayes (Children’s Hospital) as the friends (and wives) who have each other to help navigate the parenthood while still trying to remain cool.
Anthony has had a varied career in everything from comedies (Me, Myself, and Irene, Scary Movie 3, Barbershop) and drama (Law & Order, The Departed) and after a long stint on Law & Order, he’s said he was happy to be back to comedy.
I joined Anthony and Producer Charlie Grandy on a conference call where they talked about the show, Anthony’s return to comedy and working with all those kids – 14 of them!
Guys with Kids premieres on NBC on Wednesday, September 26th
Can you kind of talk about what it’s like working with so many kids running around the set? Is it kind of hectic there?
Anthony Anderson: It really is. Yes, during the pilot, Charlie, correct me if I’m wrong, we had 19 kids or…
Charlie Grandy: Yes, maybe we had - I think we had something like 14 kids with all the twins and triplets we had to hire, you know, just to make sure we had enough time with each kid and to make sure if a kid was fussing, we could take them away and not force them to be in the scene. And it ended up being, I believe it was 14 infants under the age of 1 for the pilot.
Anthony Anderson: Yes, so if you can imagine — that’s what our days were like, but, you know, I’ve told every reporter who asked that question, you know the kids are the real stars to this show. That’s where the magic happens with them, and, you know, we’re kind of handcuffed and forced to go where they lead us. And that’s where we have a lot of the fun during these episodes.
Charlie Grandy: Yes, there are at least three moments in the pilot that were not scripted that were just the cast reacting to what the babies were doing in those, and you know, they’re so spontaneous and so real, which is what we’re really go for with the show, that it was really just fun to be able to have them and to put them in.
Anthony, does comedy come easy to you?
Anthony Anderson: It has, it has. You know, my comedy, or comedy itself, is just something that’s innate within me. You know, I never really thought I was funny growing up in the household that I grew up in with my mother, you know, who was a — and I say this with love — with my mother who was a failed actress, but a hysterical woman.
And the same with my father and my siblings, so we never thought we were funny. I never thought I was funny. It was just the way that I was raised and how I grew up living my life. And then, you know, I’ve always wanted to be an actor since the age of 9. And then once I got out and saw the response from people, you know, being entertained and just thinking what I was doing was humorous, when I just was being me, that’s when I was like, “Oh wow! Maybe I am funny. Maybe there is something to this.”
Was it hard, after so many years on Law & Order, to come into a show like this?
Anthony Anderson: It was it a bit difficult, outside of it being difficult, all those things above. I mean, you know, I started my career in comedy with some of the best in — the Farrelly brothers, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac, you know, I got to work with them at an early age and cut my comedy chops.
And then, you know, I had something that I wanted to prove as an actor on the dramatic side. And so that’s why I made the turn. And, you know, a lot of people, a lot of my fans over the last, you know, five or six years that I’ve been, you know, in this dramatic turn, and have been asking me, when am I coming back to comedy.
Would they miss me in the comedic world? And I was like, it’s coming soon, it’s coming soon. I just have something that I need to prove to myself and to show to Hollywood that I’m more than just, you know, the comic relief in something.
And I think I did that. And with the cancellation of “Law and Order,” that allowed me to be available sooner than I anticipated to step back into the half hour comedy world. And “Guys with Kids” just fell into my lap and so here I am.
What was it about it that you liked, besides the fact that it was comedy? What was it that really drew you to it? I’m sure you had a choice of a couple of things.
Anthony Anderson: One, it came from Jimmy Fallon, who I’ve been friends with, you know, for a long time now. Two, it was mostly (cam), which is what I want to get back into. You know, I actually had a – I was developing something – I had a development deal, rather, with the FX Network to do a half-hour comedy.
The “Guys with Kids” script fell into my lap. I read it. It came from Jimmy. The offered it to me. It was great. I could see where this show could go. Everything jumped off the page at me. And I just felt it was a no-brainer.
So I contacted FX, and was like, thank you for the opportunity, but I have this opportunity here. They were gracious enough to say, if that opportunity didn’t work out, we would love to have you back, because I’d love to have a half hour on network.
And fortunately, for me, “Guys with Kids” worked out, and here we are talking about it now.
Charlie, did you always have him in mind when you were thinking about doing the show, or…
Charlie Grandy: You know, it’s funny that the Gary and Marny characters are the closest to my wife and I, and just sort of those – you know have, we have three young kids and just being overwhelmed, and so I was just looking for someone who could be sort of overwhelmed but strong at the same time.
And when Anthony’s is named, you know, no, I didn’t Anthony, because I – you don’t think you can get someone like Anthony Anderson, quite honestly, when you’re writing a pilot, and I’m not, you know, I’m not (Chuck Lorry), I don’t have a bunch of things on the air.
This is my first show and even if it was Jimmy Fallon, you just don’t think you can get that caliber of talent. And then when, you know, there’s interest, and, you know, then you actually, you get him, it’s amazing. It’s brought so much more, not to just the character, but the show.
I mean, it’s far exceeded any expectations I actually had for the role. So, you know, I feel like we definitely won the lottery with Anthony.
How was it was for you playing the role of stay-at-home parent? Was it something that you naturally fell into?
Anthony Anderson: You know what, working as hard as I have been for – in this industry, for the last 16 years, I would welcome falling into the role of the stay-at-home dad. You know, I get the comforts of home. You know, I get to raise my kids, I get to have fun with them. I get to watch them grow.
So, yes, that was a natural thing. And just to piggy-back on what Charlie was saying earlier about, you know, staying away from the cliché things, I mean, you know, we – I called the writers and them for not giving us the lowest common denominator to work with in these situations as actors on our television show.
I mean, you know, you can go for the quick and easy laugh all the time, but that’s short-lived. And like I said, I applaud them for allowing us to find the humor in the situations of just parenthood. And not, you know, just, not, you know, just fart jokes and pee jokes, and diaper jokes, and all of that.
You know, it goes to show that, you know, we’re all invested in this for the long run, and I applaud them for it. And it makes coming to work and bringing life to the words that are on page that much more fun and that much more easier.
Anthony, you are married to your college sweetheart. What are some of the things she does to help support you with a demanding career?
Anthony Anderson: Oh, wow, everything, from – I’ll go back to the beginning — for letting me use her car to go to my first audition.
And me coming home from that first audition and running into the back of the school bus and totaling the car on the 91 Freeway. So, that’s how it all begins. She’s always been a constant pillar for me, you know.
And, you know, I put this on my wife for my character of Gary. My wife is a homemaker who decided to give up her career working in the electronic publicity department at NBC for ten years and to sit at home and raise the children and to support me because I’m constantly on the go.
And that’s what she does. You know, what she does as a stay-at-home mom, just like all the other stay-at-home mom and dads across the country is invaluable and unquantifiable. And, you know, I applaud her for putting her career and her life on hold to help out with our life.
It’s an ultimate – sometimes it’s an ultimate sacrifice, you know, that these stay-at-home mothers and fathers do.
Because you are so successful, you’re very positive and you’re seen in a very positive light, and I really appreciate that, as a father, and, you know, as a wonderful actor. Do you have any advice that you’d like to share that you share with your children about the industry?
Anthony Anderson: You know what, about the industry, I guess, and life in general, I tell them that we – the Andersons aren’t quitters. We finish what we start. And no matter what it is. Like, you know, my daughter wanted to give up on volleyball early on when she first started.
And I was like, sweetheart, this is what you chose to do, it’s the middle of the season, we are not about to quit. Now, if you want to stop at the end of the season, then that’s your choice, but we’re going to ride this out.
The same with my son in everything that we do. It’s just like, no, we put in the work because you get out of it what you put into it. And that’s the philosophy that, you know, I live my life by and that I try to lead by example with my children.
Do you have any plans to recruit Jimmy Fallon for a cameo on the show?
Charlie Grandy: I’d love to. I mean, that’s all up to Jimmy. You know, his schedule, honestly is so tough because he’s in New York doing his show and it’s been so hard to, you know, he was able to come to the pilot taping, but has not been able to come to another taping since, though he be at next week’s.
So, yes, but that’s, you know, I’d love him to be a regular on the show, because he’s just so good and so much fun and has, you know, honestly, a ton of good ideas for what to do with the show. But it will be a scheduling question, and you know, what – if he wants to do it.
Anthony, the old adage is never work with kids and animals. So what was it that intrigued you to be a part of the show?
Anthony Anderson: Wow, truer words have never been spoken. I’ll say that. But, you know, just going back to what Charlie said, and how Jimmy had come up with the concept of the show, you know, there hasn’t been, or up until now, a show about that, a show about, you know fathers and, you know, taking their kids wherever they go, you know, to the bar, to the ballgames, the strip clubs — no, maybe not the strip clubs.
So that’s what attracted me to it. You know, we’re not reinventing the wheel. You know, it was fresh, yet familiar, and that’s what really attracted me to it. You know, and, you know when the kids and the babies are on their best behavior, it’s magic.
And it’s wonderful and it’s beautiful. And even when they’re on their worst behavior, it’s still magic, you know, we can still pull magic from that. And I love infants, I love babies because I believe that’s what keeps us youthful and keeps us striving for greatness and whatnot.
And to work with them every day on our set, you know, on the pilot we had 14 babies that we worked with. You know, now that we’re on series, we don’t have as many, but we have more babies on set than adults. And I think that’s a great atmosphere to be a part of.
What do you find most challenging overall, with the whole project?
Anthony Anderson: Keeping the babies from having a meltdown on the set. That’s the most challenging for us, you know, on the sound stage. Outside of that, everything is great. I mean, you know, you have babies who have their own temperament, you know.
They don’t know where they are. They don’t know what they’re doing. And they’re in a room full of strangers, so they’re definitely completely out of their element. Some take kindly to that and some don’t.
And it takes a while for the ones who don’t to warm up, if they warm up to it at all. So that is the most challenging, and it’s not in a negative way and it’s not a bad thing. It’s just that, you know, we’re dealing with infants, who, you know, who want to suckle on their mother’s nipple for their milk.
And, you know, but yet, they’re in my lap trying to suckle on my nipple for my milk. And I’m like, hey, it don’t go down like that. But, that’s it for us, that’s it for us on the sound stage. And, you know, I can never say this enough, once the babies are calm and ready and doing their thing, it’s magic. And you see it on the show. You see it.
These babies are prima donnas. They’re prima donnas. They want what they want when they want it. And when they don’t get their way, they let you know. You thought Lindsay Lohan was a prima donna, you thought J. Lo was a prima donna. Work with Baby 2 and Baby 3. That’s all I have to say.