Growing Up Fisher (NBC): 8 Fun Facts

NBCUniversal Events - Season 2014

In NBC’s new comedy, Growing Up Fisher, 11-year-old Henry (Eli Baker) has to not only deal with his parents divorce but with his dad, Mel (J.K. Simmons) getting a guide dog when he had been his eyes and wingman his whole life. And while he will have to come to terms with it, his entire family will have to learn to be a happy divorced family.

During the Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter press tour, NBC presented the series and brought out its stars including J.K. Simmons (Mel), Jenna Elfman (Joyce), Eli Baker (Henry), Ava Deluca-Verley (Katie), and Lance Lim (Runyen) and executive producers DJ Nash, Jason Bateman, Jim Garavente, and Tucker Cawley to answer a few questions.

Below you will find 8 fun facts revealed during the panel.

Inspiration

Growing up Fisher is based on Nash’s childhood. He explained, “My dad went blind when he was 11 and hid blindness from pretty much everyone outside the family for a long, long time. And then when my parents were getting divorced, he got a guide dog so he could be the dad he wanted to be even though he didn’t have the help he had before. And so we went from sort of helping him hide this secret to him becoming a poster child for the blind like he’s never been till right now.” He added, “the story in the pilot is pretty much exactly what happened.”

Getting blindness right

Nash wanted to make sure they portrayed blindness realistically in the show. He explained “we spent a lot of time getting that right in the show. We have a blind consultant. We have a visually impaired consultant who has a guide dog. We have a sighted consultant who has worked with blind people helping them assimilate to their world. We spent so much time, the two of us, getting that right, and the biggest test was showing my siblings the pilot, and they were like, “Oh, my God, it’s like looking at Dad.””

The Parents

Mel and Joyce divorce in the first episode of the show, Nash shared, “this couple was in a bad place, and now that they’re getting divorced, they realize that they can exist on a better level. And what is true of my parents — and what is true of these parents — is that they never let the fact that they’re getting divorced keep them from being amazing parents. So there are challenges, and in terms of the tension and the conflict in the show, Mel being blind and coming out as being blind and Joyce having her own journey of trying to discover who she really is, those are the places where we’ll add the conflict. But I want to tell a real version of what divorce is like.”

Growing Up Fisher - Season Pilot

How J.K. Simmons got involved

When asked about how he signed on to do the show, Simmons shared, “I honestly had a little trouble. Well, I had trouble opening the script in the first place because it was a list of things that I was not particularly looking to do: working this many hours, you know, being in a half hour show; playing a blind guy. And then when my agent convinced me to read it, I read it and fell in love. And then my next question was, “Really?” But I talked to DJ. I talked to DJ’s dad, and, yeah, this, as implausible as it seems…”

Nash added, “it’s amazing because you guys see the first thing about Mel is that he’s blind. My dad being blind is like the 17th thing that’s wrong with him. Like he’s stubborn. He hugs too much. He’s a lawyer. There’s just a lot of craziness going on over there.” He then joked, “do you have any idea how hard it is having a father who’s a blind lawyer? I couldn’t complain about anything. You know, like, “Dad, I’m having trouble with my book report.” “I went to law school blind.” [Laughter.] “OK. Sorry to have troubled you.” [Laughter.] I don’t want this to be every visually impaired person’s story, I’m not trying to own that, and I’m not even trying to own all of my siblings’ story. I’m trying to tell Henry’s perspective of what that was like and how it informed who he is as a father today.”

Portraying a blind person

When asked about the challenges of portraying a blind person, Simmons shared “it’s hard to not see what you’re looking at, and certainly, that’s the biggest challenge, your eyes — your whole life — are naturally fixed on movement, picked up movement. So it’s just a simple case of throwing your eyes out of focus, which is a challenge in many ways. But then the main thing I’ve learned from DJ and from the other consultants is all the other bits of behavior, how you handle things, what you do with your hands, how you interact physically with other people — really, the eyes themselves may be the most obvious challenge, but they’re number 17 on the list of challenges.”

Growing Up Fisher - Season 1

Jenna Elfman’s Joyce

When asked about her character Joyce, Elfman explained, “She wants to be able to actually shine because she was very young. She was someone’s daughter and then someone’s wife, she got pregnant on the second date and then someone’s mother. And then, you know, not just someone’s wife, but a wife to this man, who is very, very, very dominant in his character, extremely, and blind, and charming, but dominant. And she couldn’t ever grow, you know, especially now, being a parent. So, now she’s becoming a mother, you sacrifice a lot. So becoming a mother and married to this man, she kind of felt like she had become a zero. And so, now, she’s on her quest to actually — she never got to go on that journey of adulthood and [ask] who am I? And what are my viewpoints? And what are my opinions? And who am I in the world? She was always serving and serving, you know. And so I think this is her turn to do that.”

Getting Jason Bateman involved

When asked what attracted him to the show, Bateman revealed “as far as being attracted to the show, Jim and I have a company that, we are looking to be involved in television, and it is a medium that I love, that I grew up on and with right here at NBC. And I just love it. And I want to be in business with the people who are writing and creating the best television that’s going right now, and DJ was one of the people we were lucky enough to sit and talk to and kick around ideas with. He talked to us about this, obviously, very personal show, concept, premise. And my sensibility is not super soft, for lack of a better term, and talking with DJ about the way in which he wanted to address these issues that perhaps on paper might read as soft led me to believe that there is a light sensibility and a light sense of humor that can address some of the issues that are pleasantly heartwarming, but done in a way that is current, modern, sophisticated, and palatable to the more cynical people in the audience like myself.”

Time Period

Even thought the original story took place in 1982, the creators decided to have the show take place nowadays in order to be more relatable to watch for its young audience.

When asked about the challenges in changing the time period, Nash shared, “I think the biggest adjustment to switching it to take place today has to do with Joyce’s character. I think the plight of a woman going through a divorce in 1982 is very different than the one today and the struggles that she has balancing family and career. For me, going to series, that has been the biggest adjustment we’ve made. I think that some of the stories I would have told, had it taken place in ’82, about the blindness, would have dealt more with society’s lack of awareness of guide dogs and the rules and things that happen that way. But in terms of the electronics and, like, scanners and ways in which your phones in your pocket right now are actually ready to help a blind person, but you just don’t know those features. We are incorporating some of them, but the biggest change, I think, has to do with Joyce’s character. ”

Growing Up Fisher will have a special preview this Sunday, February 23rd, at 10:30pm on NBC and will move to its regular timeslot on Tuesday, February 25th at 9:30pm.