After years of playing bachelors on television, Friends star Matt LeBlanc returns to the comedy scene on Monday night in a bit of a different role. In Man With a Plan, premiering at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Global, LeBlanc plays Adam, a married father of three who starts spending more time with his kids when his wife Andi (Liza Snyder) goes back to work. Eventually Adam realizes just how tough it is to wrangle three messy kids, but with Andi’s encouragement, he takes charge of his brood and lays down the law.
LeBlanc, who won a Golden Globe Award for his work on Episodes, says that he “missed that multi-cam, live audience format that Friends was. So I wanted to come back and do something like that.” The TV Junkies recently chatted with LeBlanc, who is also the first-ever American to co-host Top Gear, to learn more about what we can expect from Man With a Plan and what it’s been like playing a family man.
The TV Junkies: We’ve always seen you playing bachelors on TV, but here you’re playing a married dad with 3 kids. Why were you ready for that change and what has it been like for you?
Matt LeBlanc: I listened to a lot of pitches from writers and a lot of the ideas were single guy/single parent, back out on the dating scene and something about that seemed icky to me. I wanted to portray that family unit, the classic family television show. So I met with [creators] Jeff and Jackie Filgo and they have two kids and are both writers with a really funny take on parenting. Some really funny stuff has happened to me as a parent–I have a 12 year old and my two stepkids are 25 and 22 now, but they came into my life at 3 and 7. I feel like I have a good take on what it is to be a dad.
The idea of a guy who is committed enough to his relationship with his wife, who wants to go back to work, and loves his family enough that he can bend the rules at his job to do that appealed to me. He realizes how difficult it is, since he took for granted all the work she did raising the kids and how tough that is. He’s seeing it first hand and develops a lot of respect for his wife in the process.
TTVJ: So what is the marriage between Adam and Andi is like?
ML: We wanted to portray a couple that it’s clear they love each other. So many times the couple at the forefront of the show is at each other’s throats or it’s “the old ball and chain,” and that’s not really what I wanted. There’s room on the TV landscape these days for a show about a good, positive marriage where they still love each other, still are attracted to each other and in this together. Yea there’s friction here and there, but they are misunderstandings and at the end of the day these two characters really care about each other. I feel like that’s missing on the TV landscape these days.
The TV Junkies: Kevin Nealon is playing your older brother, so can you tell us a little about Adam’s relationship with Don?
ML: We run a construction company together and Don is that older brother that always gives me bad advice. He’s married and his relationship with his wife is very different from my relationship with my wife. He’s very afraid of her, she rules the roost and he’s always sneaking around. He constantly gives me bad advice which I sometimes foolishly take, but at the end of the day he is my brother and we really care about each other. The nice thing about having a brother rather than a friend on the show is that you don’t have to explain why he’s at the house all the time. Your brother can come by the house whenever and you can’t kick him out. You’re stuck with your family.
TTVJ: They always say working with kids is difficult, but it sounds like you’re having a pretty great experience.
ML: They’ve been great and the fun thing about the kids is they are just playing. It’s a constant reminder to not take any of it too serious. There’s so many problems in the world today and my job is hopefully to just make people forget their problems and laugh for a half hour. Having kids around is a constant reminder of that. They are super talented and are doing a great job. I’m really proud of them.
TTVJ: You’re going from playing a guy who drives a minivan in Man With a Plan to hosting Top Gear. What’s that transition like for you?
ML: The car is just a little faster. [laughs] It’s a completely different animal and schedule-wise it’s been tricky. I’m a little tired but it’s doable. A sitcom schedule is 3 weeks on, 1 week off so in that week off I take off and go to places like Morocco, South Africa, Ireland, Cuba, Kazakhstan and Montenegro. For me it’s really fun because I get to go see the world and places that aren’t necessarily on my bucket list, until I get there it’s like ‘wow! This place is great!’ I’ve had a really good time and I love cars so it’s been fun.
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Man With a Plan airs Mondays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS and Global.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.