PASADENA, Calif. — Actor Peter Krause spent part of last fall plowing the fields in Northern California. “I walked behind them and tilled the Earth like my grandfather did,” he says in a dimly lit lounge of a hotel here.
“It was a nice moment for me. Our life changed, but it’s important to do that, to know where you come from and where you’ve been.”
Krause, the reluctant funeral director from “Six Feet Under,” the newscaster from “Sports Night,” the lawyer from “Dirty Sexy Money” and now the earnest dad in NBC’s new “Parenthood,” may seem like a sophisticated troubadour, but he hasn’t traveled far from his Minnesota roots.
“What you grow up with — in terms of your parents and siblings — can sometimes feel like Kryptonite to the Superman or Superwoman inside of you,” he says.
“For me I was able to recreate myself by moving away from my family. I love them dearly and I love going back, but it was a time – going to NYU – to get back in school where I got to stretch myself. I was 21, fresh out of college. I thought I was really grown up at the time. When I look back on it now, I was not.”
When he left home for New York, he’d never been on a plane before, never seen the ocean. “I took the train, the Long Island Railroad to Long Beach, just got off the train, walked off, took my shoes off and walked out to the ocean. So I appreciated all those things. I came to acting late ...”
He admits he was a trial to his parents when he was a teen. And there was a rough patch when his father left the family. About that Krause is guarded. “He came back later. He was taking some time for himself. He was having a hard time with life. But he’s straight now, he’s an awesome guy.”
Krause himself has a son, 8. He shares custody with the boy’s mother, to whom he was never married. Becoming a father changed his perspective, he thinks.
“Certainly having my own child and recognizing this movable place on the human continuum by becoming not only a son but also a father, linking those things up and understanding better the challenges that my mother and father made when they were having children at a time when they weren’t making nearly the living that I am now; coming through the places that they did. They were struggling but were also very happy. We didn’t have to have clothes that fit perfectly or the best food to be happy,” he says.
“This might sound canned but what we needed most was to be together and in some ways that’s what the series, ‘Parenthood’ is about. No matter what happens we have each other, we’re together and we’re a family. That’s been incredibly powerful in my life whether it’s my own natural family or the family of actors at NYU, the 16 of us who went through those three years together, or the family of actors that I shared ‘Six Feet Under’ with. I still look at those people as family.”
He left pre-med when he discovered acting in his junior year at college. That had a profound effect on him. “When I started looking around at what was going into building characters, I started to become leery of religion and other civilizing forces that I felt were diminishing the individuality of people globally. You tend to become a part of some tribe and stay there. So I became somewhat removed from myself. I was sort of floating above people and watching what was going on and thinking about their behavior and their life rules and why they do certain things; what impulses would they let live and what impulses would they squelch based upon ideologies from religion or family.”
The idea of acting for a living was foreign to his parents, who were both teachers. His mom backed him. But his dad did not. “But he grew up during the Depression and they didn’t have electricity or running water in his home till he was 16 years old so he was coming from a very different place in the world. And it just wasn’t something he could ever imagine for his son.”
But Krause was vindicated when he landed a comedic spot on “Carol & Company” with Carol Burnett. “For my parents I don’t think there could’ve been a better stamp of approval than working for Carol Burnett. They got to come out to Disney Studios and meet her and it was a real affirmation for them that is was OK that I was doing this and I wasn’t asking for money anymore.”
“Parenthood” premieres March 2.
Cable has been a godsend to people who like serious drama. It was TNT to the rescue when “Southland” got its pink slip from NBC. A cop show that seems as authentic as a drive-by shooting, “Southland” will be offering six new episodes on TNT starting March 2. Ben McKenzie, who plays the rookie cop, says the show is exciting to make. “Being on location in real L.A. that’s absolutely a significant part of the series,” says the former star of “The OC.”
“We’re spending five or six days of every seven- or eight-day episode on location outside. We literally only shoot at the studio when we’re in the police department, which won’t be that much. My character will almost never be there because we’re patrol officers and we’re on the streets. It’s really fun. I live in the Hollywood hills and we shot in Hollywood for a week straight on Sunset Boulevard across from Mel’s Diner at 11 p.m. You’re not in Vancouver where you have your parka on, and throw off your parka when they’re filming and say, ‘It’s so warm in the summer in L.A.’”
Can’t get enough of Larry David? Now’s your chance to enjoy full episodes of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” as David originally planned. The TV Guide Network begins airing the show on March 10. Episodes won’t be pared down to neatly fit the 30-minute slot allotted by HBO, so David’s whining can go on interminably.
Cheryl Hines, who plays his much-younger wife, recalls she began her career by packing up her Toyota Tercel and heading for Hollywood. “That was when the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding story was breaking. People kept telling me I looked like Nancy Kerrigan. So I wrote a note on my head-shot, a post-it note so it looked like someone else wrote it saying, ‘You’ve got to see this girl for Nancy.’ I never signed it and a network called me in and I auditioned. I got called back and they said, ‘Can you ice skate?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ I couldn’t ice skate, but I said I’d figure it out if I had to stay up all night. They ended up not shooting it.”
Jerry Seinfeld and others are producing a new comedy-reality show for NBC called “The Marriage Ref,” which they will sneak-preview on Feb. 28. Real-life couples sustain an argument at home while the audience and a celebrity panel watch. Afterward the viewers and panelists take sides, deciding which gladiator goes on to fight another day. Seinfeld says he got the idea when he and his wife, Jessica, were having an altercation.
“I can’t even remember what it was, but it was one of those where you just know this is going to go on all night. And a friend of hers happened to be there, and the friend got a little uncomfortable and said, ‘You know what? Maybe I should go.’ And I said, ‘You know what? I’m glad you’re here. You stay here. And I’m going to — we’re each just going to tell you our side of this issue. You decide who’s right, who’s wrong, binding. We will accept it, whatever you say. And we’ll be done with this in five minutes.’ And that’s exactly what we did so I said my side, and she said her side. I believe I lost, but that’s not the point. The point is it was better because it was over. And that’s kind of the idea of the show, right? To shorten the fight.”