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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews P to T > Michael Rapaport

MICHAEL RAPAPORT

THE WAR ON TELEVISION

by JAY S. JACOBS

Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.   All rights reserved.  Posted: September 10, 2005.

Michael Rapaport is one of the best color guys in show business.  It's rare that he gets the lead role, but when a director needs a legitimate, colorful, smart working-class guy for the second or third role, they dial up Rapaport.  He has been the punch-drunk boxer who dates Mira Sorvino in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite, controversial teacher Danny Hanson on Boston Public, Will Smith's best friend in Hitch, a screwed up college recruit in Higher Learning, Schwarzenneger's sidekick in The 6th Day, a green rookie in Cop Land, and dozens of other roles. 

Now Rapaport is trading in his supporting status and stepping front and center on the new Fox sitcom The War at Home.  Rapaport plays Dave, a father in his late thirties who must try to deal with the new realities of family life in an amped-up modern world.  Handed the plum Sunday timeslot between The Simpsons and Family Guy, the show is fast-tracked by the net to be a new smash.  A few days before the series is set to debut, Rapaport spoke with us about his career and his new project. 

How did you first get involved in acting?

I was a stand-up comic.  I started out in stand-up comedy.  That got me more into acting.  Then I stopped doing stand-up comedy and continued acting.

Youíve worked with some of the great directors and writers in show business Ė Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Richard Price, Quentin Tarantino, David E. Kelley Ė does it ever amaze you that you are getting to work with such talented people?

Yeah, Iím always very impressed and humbled that Iíve been able to work with the kind of people that Iíve been able to work with.  But, when Iím working with them I leave the fan at home.  I come to work as a professional.  I think if you go into something looking at people as better than you, if you give people too much respect, I donít think it benefits you or them.  Itís like when youíre playing basketball; when youíre a rookie, you have to play the veterans as hard as you could, even though you may have grown up watching them.  When you play them, you have to as hard as you would anybody else.  

Your first movie, Zebrahead became a real cult film.  Were you surprised at the time by the reaction?

Yeah.  At the time I was surprised by anything.  It was all so new to me.  I didnít know anything about Sundance Film Festival or that kind of thing.  So the whole thing was just a big surprise, because I really didnít know what I was getting myself into. 

Two of my favorite movies that you were in both came out in 1995 -- Mighty Aphrodite and the criminally overlooked Kiss of Death.  What were those films like to work on? 

They were great experiences.  Obviously, working with Woody was a great experience.  I was fortunate to be able to work with him again on Small Time Crooks.  But at the time it was very exciting and a lot of fun.  It was a great opportunity.  I learned a lot from him.

After working in film for so many years, how did you get involved in Boston Public?

I just got approached by David Kelley about doing the part.  I read the scripts and liked it.  I took the opportunity.  I felt it was the best thing to do.  It was the best opportunity, to be on that kind of show and the character was really good.  The character had a lot of colors and I really enjoyed doing it.  That kind of kicked me off as far as maybe doing something else, which turned into The War at Home.

Even on Boston Public, like the films, you filmed on a closed set.  I believe The War at Home is the first time you have filmed in front of a live audience.  How is that different for you?

You get a lot of energy from the audience.  Also, the audience will dictate whatís funny and whatís not funny.  Sometimes things that you think are funny, they might not fly in front of the audience.  Sometimes things that you would have never even thought would be funny [get a huge reaction], which is obviously the more positive result.  Itís a great thing because all week youíre rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing, and when you get in front of that live audience to perform; the energy that you get when they receive you well is like nothing else.  Itís so much fun.  Itís very electric.   

What attracted you to The War at Home?

I just loved the writing.  I love the honesty of the writing.  I love the style of humor.  Itís really interesting to me.  I like that itís sort of offsetting; it keeps you off balance.  You never really know whatís going to come out of their mouths.  I really like that.  I like that the show has heart.  Itís not about a family that doesnít want to be together and a couple that doesnít want to be together.  Theyíve been together for a long time.  Theyíre in it for the long haul.  They love their kids.  Although, they make comments about it, I think that the character, Dave, would have it no other way.  Heíd be nothing without his wife and his kids. 

Why is it that people of our generation have so much harder a time with being parents? 

I think just the opportunities to go out and do things, the Internet and traveling and all that kind of thing.  I think that the family has taken a back seat to people living their lives and thinking theyíre young.  They say forty is the new thirty.  Thirty was kind of the time when you became an adult not so long ago.  Now theyíre saying forty is the new time when you become an adult.  Itís just a different time.  Itís evolution. 

In a lot of ways, the pilot sort of reminded me of Married: With Children, in that the parents really arenít sure what they are doing with the kids and there are no group hugs and lessons learned.  In fact you often wonder if this family really likes each other, but you know they do love each other.  Itís a hard juggling act for an actor to pull off.  How is the cast to work with?

The rest of the cast is good.  Anita Barone plays my wife. Sheís a lot of fun to work with.  I have a lot of respect for her.  Weíve both been very supportive of each other, so thatís a good environment.  The kids are great, Kyle (Sullivan), Dean (Collins) and Kaylee (DeFer); theyíre just a lot of fun.  Theyíre all very talented.  Theyíre young, but theyíre all very professional.  Theyíve been working for a long time.  Theyíre just interesting young people who I enjoy being around.

Speaking of interesting young people, there is Kyleís character.  I donít know about you, but when I was a kid Iíd have done anything to not have my parents think I was gay.  Why do you think your son in the show would prefer to be thought of as gay than to get grounded for borrowing the car without permission? 

I think itís just an interesting quirk in the character.  Itís just a different take on things.  Some of that may have come from (writer) Rob Lottersteinís personal life, personal experiences and all that sort of thing.  Itís just a different way to tell a story.  A different angle to approach things.  

Not that Iím complaining or anything, but have you noticed that they never do a sitcom where a father has an unattractive teenaged daughter?

RightÖ

Why do you think itís so interesting to have a father trying to keep his beautiful daughter pure?

True.  I donít know, I think itís a theme that everyÖ Itís kind of like a fantasy kind of thing.  Every parentsí worst nightmare is to have a sixteen year-old daughter who is beautiful and sort of discovering her sexuality.  I think it plays for good conflict. 

Are you afraid youíll become known as the guy who called Mary Tyler Moore a bitch on TV (in a joke in the pilot episode)?

Nah, I didnít even think about that.  That might happen, but I think thatÖ I really believe in the show, so whatever people take to.  I feel that the show is quotable, in the early stages.  There are so many interesting things being said by the characters.  The different points of view are so interesting.  I think that people are going to dig it.  Hopefully, theyíll take it with a little grain of salt and wonít look too far into it.

Well, Iíve only seen the pilot so far, what can we expect from the show in the future?

Thereís a whole thing about sex stuff on the internet.  My character gets caught playing around on the internet, doing some bad things.  Kyle, the would-be gay son, that whole thing kind of plays itself out.  There are definitely things dealing with race and Daveís discomfort with his daughter dating a black kid.  Meeting his family, thatís a very funny episode.  We did one that deals with a missing stash of marijuana in the house.  That was a lot of fun.   

You got a really good timeslot, after The Simpsons on Sunday nights, so Fox must believe in you.

Yeah.  I think they do. 

With so much tragedy going on in the world, like the Gulf Coast floods which happened recently, how do you think a comedy like yours can help people?

I think that the comedies are just for that.  They are to give people laughs.  For entertainment.  Sometimes they can spur dialogue.  The thing that I think The War at Home does is that I think it will make people talk.  Although itís not Sixty Minutes, weíre not trying to reinvent the wheel.  Itís not a very, very serious show, but I think the weighty issues are dealt with.  We can promote dialogue.  Other than that, itís just about entertaining and making people laugh. 

While doing Boston Public, you also continued to make films on the side.  Now that you are the lead character of a series, which is such hard, time-consuming work, do you plan to continue taking movie roles or are you going to concentrate on the series?

Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.  Iím looking forward to doing some stuff when Iím not working, and even maybe squeezing something in while Iím doing the show.  Movies will always be a part of my life.  Theyíll always be something Iíll do, as long as I continue to get the opportunities.  Iíve been doing this a long time.  Iíve made like 40-something movies and movies arenít going to go anywhere.  At this time, I need to try something different and try something new and refreshing, where I get to sort of stand in the front. 

Yeah, I noticed on your filmography that youíve done 55 movie and TV roles in less than 15 years.  Thatís pretty amazing.  Whatís it like working so much?

Itís been a real whirlwind, but Iíve been able to learn a tremendous amount of stuff from a lot of great people, a lot of great experiences.  Iím really fortunate to have done all that stuff.  Iím looking forward to continuing to do the show and other new stuff that will come my way.

Ideally, how would you like for people to look back on your career?

Look at somebody who gave his all when he was in front to the camera.  Someone who tried to depict people in an honest way.  Someone who had a little bit of versatility.  And someone who maintained his integrity throughout his career. 

Are there any misconceptions youíd like to clear up?

Yeah.  Sometimes people think Iím dumber than I am because of the characters that I play.  But it takes a genius to play a fool. 

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Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.   All rights reserved.  Posted: September 10, 2005.

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Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com.   All rights reserved.  Posted: September 10, 2005.