Getting a TV show made into a pilot is hard enough, but getting that pilot ordered by a network for a first season is near-impossible if you look at the odds. So it’s pretty exciting that screenwriter Dana Fox landed a show, FOX’s new comedy “Ben and Kate,” on her first try.
“When you do a pilot, you don’t know if you’ve accidentally caught lightning in a bottle,” she tells Zap2it ahead of her show’s premiere. It makes sense that the sitcom gelled so well together, considering the titular Ben (Nat Faxon), a young-at-heart screwup who moves home to help his single mom sister raise her kid, is loosely based on her own brother.
Because the show is so close to her heart, it also makes sense that Fox is so invested in the actors who are bringing her characters to life. “I’m in love with the cast,” she confesses.
That love is translating to the way Fox and the writers pen the characters. “They’re all great actors but we wanted to bring parts of who they were into those characters,” she says.
“This is a ship of fools and the captain is Dakota Johnson, who is this gorgeous woman who is so talented,” Fox says. But everyone on the show is a mess, including Kate, and it was important to be able to believe that despite Johnson’s beauty, Kate was pretty screwed up too.
It helps that although Johnson has famous parents (actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), she’s relatively unknown to audiences. When you have lesser-known stars, it’s easier for the audience to feel like they’re a part of the show. “People like discovering their TV stars,” Fox says. “They like feeling, ‘Oh, that’s my friend.'”
You’ll want to get in on the ground floor with Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who plays Kate’s impossibly adorable daughter, Maddie. If all goes well, she’ll turn into a Dakota Fanning-style kid actress success story.
“She, as a person, is actually very lovely,” Fox says of her show’s child star. “She’s very much a kid still and it’s super important to us that she stays a kid. She plays with all of us and we treat her like [the little kid she is].”
“Ben and Kate” airs Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on FOX.