How art (sort of) imitated life in the making of the NBC drama about a man who lives out three different versions of his existence.
Courtesy of NBC
Ordinary Joe

Ordinary Joe (TV series)

NBC's Ordinary Joe seems like such a fresh approach to a heavily serialized TV show: A young, optimistic college graduate played by James Wolk lives out three different versions of his life. In one, he's a rock star. In another, he's a health care worker. And in yet another, he's a cop.

In reality, the story of Joe Kimbreau is actually 15 years old and was first developed into a script for ABC by Matt Reeves, the creator of the WB's Felicity who went on to enjoy a successful career as a film director (Cloverfield, two Planet of the Apes movies, and the much-anticipated reboot The Batman, featuring Robert Pattinson). After wrapping Felicity in 2002, Reeves was at a "crossroads" in his career when he learned of a U.K. drama format that inspired him to sit down and pen a tale about the road not taken.

Ordinary Joe
Natalie Martinez and James Wolk on 'Ordinary Joe'
| Credit: Parrish Lewis/NBC

"This idea hit me personally, wondering about the choices that you could have made," Reeves tells EW. "I was looking to do a story that was in the world of the kind of drama that Felicity was in. I love those kinds of serialized stories about the intimate moments in characters' lives. Everybody has that moment where they look back and they think about certain crossroads. They think, 'God, I could have done this. I could've done that. And what would my life be like?' I really wanted to do a show that sort of embraced the idea of how we're not in control of our lives. You're in control of your choices, but you're not in control of the timing of things."

It was a concept he would ultimately experience firsthand. While developing the script for ABC, the opportunity arose for Reeves to make Cloverfield with J.J. Abrams. "I was at this crazy moment in my life where I was like, 'Okay, I love this script. And it means so much to me and I can redevelop it.' So I had that choice and I chose Cloverfield. So I held on to that script. Then Cloverfield led to the Planet of the Apes movies, which led to The Batman."

He never forgot about his beloved script, but it would be a decade before he dusted it off and sold it to NBC while bringing on Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner (House, Roswell) to run and write. The drama went to pilot for the 2020-21 season but wasn't picked up to series until March 2021 (thanks, pandemic!). The series, which Reeves still executive-produces, debuted last week.

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Matt Reeves
| Credit: Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

"I told Russel and Garrett that it was very important they make the show personal to them, and that's exactly what they did," says Reeves, who specifically points to the duo's decision to create the role of Christopher Kimbeau, Joe's effervescent son who uses a wheelchair. The actor who plays the part is John Gluck, who was born with a rare disease called collagen VI muscular dystrophy.

"It's been an amazing journey," Reeves adds. "It was a very strange thing to see something that I was about to make not get made. And then I thought, 'Will I ever get to make it?' In the meantime, I've been off on this other path and making all of these movies, which are also the things that I wanted to do. I mean, there's not always room for everything you want to do. Lots of things in life are always in conflict with each other. So you do have to make choices. What is engaging about the show is that you look at it and say, 'That's what I've always wondered about for myself or the person who I thought I'd become.' That's what is really exciting about what the guys have done with the show. I'm really proud of it."

Ordinary Joe airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

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Ordinary Joe
Ordinary Joe (TV series)

An optimistic college grad played by James Wolk lives out three different versions of his life: In one, he's a rock star. In another, he's a health care worker. And in yet another, he's a cop.

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