When Kevin Can Wait returns for its second season tonight, the story will look a heckuva lot different than last year. Erinn Hayes is no longer playing Kevin James’ wife, while Leah Remini is now a permanent player on the sitcom. So is this a King of Queens reboot, or what?
We asked James to give us a tease about the upcoming season, and whether his character Kevin and Remini’s Vanessa end up getting busy later in the season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Any chance that, even before you developed Kevin Can Wait, there was a dream of possibly rebooting King of Queens? Is this the new iteration of what was originally hoped for in the first place?
KEVIN JAMES: No, no. It’s totally different from King of Queens. This show was originally going to be about a single dad, but the way the story started going, we went with the great Erinn Hayes. But then it felt like a very familiar family sitcom again and it kind of went down the track where we felt like the show needed a little emotional weight to drive the character. So when we had Leah on last season, it was great to have her and we knew that connection. I’ve always wanted to work with Leah again, but it was never to do the King of Queens again. It’s just so great to have someone who literally can finish your sentences. It had nothing to Erinn’s acting ability or her comedic talent; she’s incredible. This is what they needed to do to give this show some weight, to take this show in a different direction.
When you first started working again with Leah, did it feel like magic all over again?
We’re friends off camera so it’s like — we just laugh at a lot of the same jokes.
How do you deal with the wife’s death and make it fit into a sitcom?
It’s a tricky situation but I felt we did it in a very classy way. This deepens my relationship with the children. It puts more weight on me [as a dad], which is great in a way.
What is the dynamic going forward between you and Leah’s character? What are you like around each other?
We have worked together in the past. We were partners for years on the force so we have that familiar bond between us and we get on each other’s nerves, we go back and forth and you know, that’s basically it right now. We’re work partners and occasionally I freelance with her and do stuff with that. And that’s where we’re at, at this point.
It seems inevitable that you’re gonna get busy at some point.
I don’t know about that. That’s the beauty of the show, we can see where things go and decide. Honestly, I like having the relationship of being a work partner with her and showing that. If we were to jump into a relationship, I feel like that would limit us again and then we’d be going back to what we’ve done before in some ways. There’s so many other avenues and places to go right now that it’s really wide open, which it’s kind of like this freshly fallen snow where you go, you could run anywhere and we can make our tracks anywhere and do different things and try different things.
Is it such a bad thing if inevitably you are compared to King of Queens?
I’m flattered that people loved the show and I’m glad they think of it like that, but it’s not the King of Queens. It’s not that type of show and that’s what excites me. But to do the King of Queens again, it would be nice, it’s fun, but, you know, it doesn’t excite me in the way this does. I get all the elements of being able to work with Leah again but tread on different ground. I’ve never played a single father. I’ve never been a father, by the way, either. So to have kids and be on my own … that’s exciting to me.
The second season of Kevin Can Wait debuts tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.