9JKL co-creator and star Mark Feuerstein on his life becoming a sitcom
Ever think your day-to-day life warrants its own sitcom? When Mark Feuerstein told a producer how he survived living sandwiched between the apartments of his parents and his brother when shooting Royal Pains in New York City, that was exactly what happened.
“Every morning, my father would barge into my apartment in his tighty-whities,” says Feuerstein, who stars as Josh in CBS’ new comedy 9JKL (premiering Monday, Oct. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET), which he co-created with Dana Klein. “Then I would come home to my mother waiting by her door, listening for the elevator, so she could invite me in for a salad.”
After briefing his family on the project, Feuerstein cast Elliott Gould and Linda Lavin as his parents. “Elliot is hilarious,” says Feuerstein. “He is one of a kind and is on another level in terms of humor, consciousness, and wit.” When it came to casting someone in his mother’s likeness, he opted for the familiar. “Linda has played my mother on TV before,” explains Feuerstein. “We did a failed sitcom called Conrad Bloom together years ago, so it feels meant to be for us now — it’s funny how the cycles of Hollywood work.”
Nonetheless, bringing a character based on your mother to the screen can be risky — not just in the potential to offend, but also in trying to avoid alienating members of the audience if the character becomes too caricatured. “We do have to be careful to tow that line between all the fun of an overbearing, overly controlling mother and then having too many shrill moments,” says Feuerstein. “But in the hands of Linda Lavin, we want to do so much of that because she’s so funny. That’s why we’re so lucky we have such a deep bench on this show because if we need to take a break from the overbearing mother character, we have the brilliant Elliott Gould to go to.”
Then there’s David Walton, who plays Josh’s brother, Andrew. “My brother and I have a very close relationship in real life, but once in a while there’s an element of sibling rivalry — even though I completely root for him — and there’s an upcoming episode where we get to explore that,” says Feuerstein, who wrote Andrew as a true narcissist that makes any and every situation about himself. “It’s a great color that’s not really true to my real brother, but David’s so beautiful and funny that it’s just perfect for him!”
So how did the extended Feuerstein clan feel about their impending skewering? Feurestein likened their reaction to The Giving Tree: “Life could be worse than having your children having a TV show in which you sort of honor them, but it feels a little bit like, ‘Thank you for letting me cut your trunk down and use it to support myself.’ I like to think I would be equally supportive if my children chose to do that, and since they’re being raised in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance that they will at some point. I’m sure I’m going to get my comeuppance in about 15 years.”
9JKL airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.