HOLLYWOOD — Andre Braugher is a better actor than he used to be. But it wasn’t drama school that made the difference. It was life.
“Our job is to reveal how much we know about being human,” he says, on his set at Paramount Studios.
“And the more that happens to us the more you realize it’s a complex story. Young men want to tell a young man’s story, which is typically a story of personal confidence and power and control. Young men are invulnerable. They believe they can do anything. But 10 or 20 years on, and it’s clear that some things are possible and some are not.”
Knowing Braugher’s laudatory history — first at Stanford, then in the theater (graduating from Juilliard, he was deemed outstanding drama grad) and his work in Shakespeare and on television’s “Gideon’s Crossing,” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” — it would seem that there’s not much he can’t do.
But he says, “The older you get the more realistic you become about what’s important in life, and what’s possible. Young men believe you can change people, control them — all these different things. But the older you get, you realize you can’t really change anybody.”
Like his character, Owen, in TNT’s “Men of a Certain Age” (due back next Monday), Braugher is struggling through a change. It’s not a mid-life crisis like that of the car salesman he plays, but it’s a wisdom that comes with maturity, he thinks.
“Even when you raise children, you have to know they are their own person. You don’t really make them. They just come through you. They’re their own people. And they demonstrate that from the time they’re 18 months old,” he says, sitting on the couch in the well-appointed living room of his make-believe home on the show.
“They’re just all different. The best we can do is give them a good upbringing and try to share our values with them, but it’s their journey really. It’s that old Khalil Gibran poem about being a parent. ‘We’re the bow, they’re the arrow.’ We’re instrumental to the flight, but we’re not the arrow.”
Married nearly 19 years to his actress-wife, Ami, and the father of three sons, 18, 13 and 8, Braugher, 48, admits that his dad worried about his decision to be an actor. “My parents insisted on an education for me and my father was very concerned. Like any father he wanted to know how I think it’s going to work out. I remember him saying, ‘Who is it who does what you want to do?’ I said, ‘James Earl Jones, Ben Vereen.’ He said, ‘No, REAL people, not movie stars. We’re not Sidney Poitier. Who’s doing what you’re doing?’ I couldn’t point to anybody .There was no Howard Rollins, no Denzel Washington. Opportunities were scarce in ‘81 when I made this decision. Opportunities for young black men were scarce, or if they did exist they were not roles you could be particularly proud of. I feel as though the industry has progressed.
“This role is an example how the industry has made a transformation. We’re telling a story about an adult, black man with an intact family in this stew of relationships that is not stereotypical in any way. And that’s not true of most television for the last 30 years. It’s only recently that that’s been true.”
It’s particularly true of him, because he’s so believable in the part. “It’s what I’ve been hoping for an entire career is finding roles like this,” he says. “You see grown-up men and women working on relationships for better or worse.”
As to his own marriage, he’s a grown-up there, too. “The secret? My mother gave me advice about always talking to each other; it’s not possible to mind read. But love is not enough. It takes hard work, commitment, shared sacrifice, shared values and more important than anything else, it takes realistic expectations of your partner, which is hard because to have realistic expectations of your partner you have to give up your fantasies — and not everybody wants to do that ...
“One has to acknowledge it for what it is as opposed to what you want it to be. But this is really, really hard advice to take and it takes a long time to get to it. But realistic expectations and shared values make marriages go forward, and unrealistic expectations and the idea that love and romance is going to solve it all, makes for a rocky journey.”
TV Land was so successful with its first original sitcom, “Hot in Cleveland,” that it’s going to fire off another one on Jan. 19. Called “Retired at 35” it stars newcomer Jonathan McClain as a young guy who retires early to move in with his parents (George Segal and Jessica Walter) in their Florida condo.
The show promises more past-their-prime guest stars than the Emmys, including Peter Bonerz (“Just Shoot Me”), Kym Douglas (“Good Day LA”), Christine Ebersole (“Grey Gardens”), Estelle Harris (“Seinfeld”) Mimi Kennedy (“Dharma and Greg”), Mark Christopher Lawrence (“Chuck”), Shelley Long (“Cheers”), Chris McDonald (“House Bunny”), John O’Hurley (“Seinfeld”), Christina Pickles (“Friends”), Jay Thomas (“Mr. Holland’s Opus”), Fred Willard (“A Mighty Wind,” “Best in Show”) and George Wyner (“The Mentalist,” “House”).
Drew Carey is awfully good at improvisation, and we’ve earned the right to see him do that in spades when his new show arrives this spring on GSN. The 40-episode piece (no title yet) will sport a platoon of actor-comedians as well as guest stars in an unpredictable improvised sketch comedy series. Carey strutted his improv stuff as host of “Whose Line is It, Anyway” and as interlocutor of “The Price is Right.” The show will be shot in January and February at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, in front of live audiences.
There aren’t that many macho men on TV, but Mike Holmes of TLC’s “Holmes on Homes” is one tough contractor dude. Holmes often breezes into homes that have been damaged when someone who didn’t know what he was doing tried to fix it up.
Sometimes they do it without the proper permits, and Holmes says that’s a big no-no. “If you do a job without a permit, you’re actually stopping the process of the secondary person, the inspectors, to come in and make sure that it’s done properly,” he says.
“Yes, there’s a tax grab on it. Yes, it’s just that way — there’s two things in life: death and taxes. But you have to do it because if they cut corners, you’ve spent the money wrong in the first place, and it’s going to cost you a fortune to get out of it, whether it’s an insurance fix, whether it’s a flood, whether it’s mold, whether it just falls apart, like you’ve seen on my show so many different times. You must get a permit. And it’s real simple. If you’re dealing with a contractor that says, ‘Oh, we can do this without a permit. We can do it with cash,’ get rid of them. Kick them the hell out of your house. You don’t want to be dealing with that.”