Five Things to Know About Fox’s Quirky New Comedy ‘Ben and Kate’

by | August 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM | Ben and Kate, Fall TV Preview 2012

Odd couple siblings Kate (Dakota Johnson, second from R) and Ben (Nat Faxon, second from L) – one, an overly responsible single mom; the other, an exuberant kid-at-heart – push each other out of their comfort zones and into real life in the new heartwarming comedy "Ben and Kate." Also pictured: L-R: Echo Kellum, Maggie Jones and Lucy Punch. (Cr: Patrick Ecclesine/FOX)

FOX is providing a whole night of laughs on Tuesday nights this fall and one of the new comedies it is adding to its lineup is “Ben and Kate.” The single-camera series follows the lives of a brother and sister, who were raised in a family so dysfunctional, they only had each other to rely on growing up — at least that is how it looks from the flashbacks in the pilot episode.

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Ben grew up to be a high-spirited dreamer, while Kate, who has only ever made “one mistake” in her life, turned out to be an overly responsible single mom. Of course, her one mistake is the best thing that ever happened to her, the result being her now 5-year-old, cute-as-a-button daughter Maddie.

When the series begins, Ben has come back to town, hoping to reunite with his one-true-love, and Kate is planning to have sex for the first time in a very long time.

“This character is based on my real brother Ben Fox, whose name is Ben Fox,” says show creator and Executive Producer Dana Fox. “He was this Ferris Bueller-type guy. Growing up he got into so much trouble. He’s a really, really smart guy who intentionally does incredibly dumb things all the time and would get us into so much trouble. When he got older, he met this amazing woman and they had two children together. And the thing that I noticed was that he was the world’s greatest father, and I thought, if you had met my brother when he was younger, you would never have thought that he could have kept two children alive, much less actually kept them happy and well adjusted.”

While we weren’t able to speak to the real-life Ben Fox to get his take on the series, XfinityTV.com talked exclusively with Nat Faxon, who plays Ben, to get the inside scoop on Season 1.

Read on for five things you should know about “Ben and Kate,” but you can also watch the series right here as XfinityTV has an early sneak peek of the season premiere!

The Cast: Kate is played by Dakota Johnson, who may not be a household name — yet — but she certainly swam in the right gene pool to become a Hollywood success. Johnson’s mother is “Working Girl” star Melanie Griffith, making her grandmother “The Birds” star Tippi Hedren, while her dad is “Miami Vice” and “Nash Bridges” star Don Johnson. “I wasn’t aware of her lineage before we started working together,” Faxon tells XfinityTV.com. “I was impressed with her before I even knew that. She is extremely talented and easy to work with, really fun, really willing to put herself out there without worrying about how she looks. It is really fun to be acting with somebody like that.” Daughter Maddie is played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones. This may be her first series, but the young tyke is not without credits. She previously appeared in the films “We Bought a Zoo” and “Footloose,” and according to Faxon, she is a joy to work with. “She is adorable,” he says, “She is high energy in the best sense. Many times when it is late and you are tired, she will bust in and make you dance and learn new handshakes, or a song that is Top 40, but means nothing to you. So there is a lot of energy that is provided by her presence. She is not only adorable, but full of life, so that is helpful.” Of course, Faxon is no slouch himself. Just one day before landing the role of Ben Fox, he won an Academy Award for co-writing the script for “The Descendants.” Even so, he feels that winning the prestigious writing award doesn’t guarantee him any acting jobs. His previous series credits include “The Cleveland Show,” “Allen Gregory,” “Happy Hour” and “Joey.”

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Format: The first few episodes will play the dynamic between Ben and Kate to get audiences comfortable with their characters. There will be more flashbacks, like those in the pilot episode, to explain why these characters are the way they are. “It will show what they are struggling with now as a result of growing up under that roof,” Faxon tells XfinityTV.com. “I think, for example, I will try to convince Kate that I am a good parent, or a good babysitter, or guardian to her daughter and struggle with that. It will play along those lines in the sense of our history together and both trying to help each other and trying to shed a light on some things that maybe are problematic.”

Their Parents: In the flashbacks to their childhood in the pilot, we never see the parents. We just see scenes with a young Ben and a younger Kate as they learn to rely on each other. So, will we ever meet the parents? “That is something I don’t know,” Faxon says. “In the few episodes we have shot so far, we have not. I assume the writers are trying to show us how Ben and Kate grew up and why they are the way they are and how they deal with life as adults. They are making it insular in the sense of they have each other and they really don’t have anybody else. So, I think they will establish that dynamic for a while before introducing the parents, if at all.”

Is Ben Totally Irresponsible?: In the pilot, we see Kate at the restaurant where she works as a waitress. We learn that Ben has an apartment in another city, but since he flits in and out of Kate’s life, it isn’t clear if he has a fulltime job to support himself. One of the aspects of Ben that the producers are concerned about is balancing his quirky charm with making him relatable. They don’t want him to cross the line into “idiot,” which they feel would lose the audience. Faxon’s take on Ben is: “I think he is a really smart, ambitious guy who is entrepreneurial and has a lot of great ideas, but just can’t get any one of them to stick. I think there will be points where Kate makes him aware of that. I think he is a bit of a dreamer and a guy who is waiting for something to hit that just hasn’t yet.”

Romance: Both Ben and Kate are romantically challenged. Kate, obviously, hasn’t had a lot of time to date in the past five years because of her unplanned pregnancy and the fact of raising a daughter as a single mom. Ben, however, seems to have idealized one special woman, and it remains to be seen if he can get past that. “In the first few episodes, no,” Faxon says when asked if Ben will be dating. “But I think we are about to. There is an ex-girlfriend that comes back into his life. I think the roles are reversed from the pilot in that she is a crazy, sort of stalker and Ben has to deal with that. I think there is probably part of him that likes it. And part of him, as Kate realizes and reminds him, she is crazy and it is not a good idea.”

“Ben and Kate” premieres Tues., Sept. 28 at 8:30/7:30c on FOX.