By Jill Jacobs
(Reuters) – When actor Jerry O’Connell moves into 1313 Mockingbird Lane, he will leave behind the green make-up and neck bolts from the classic 1960s TV comedy, “The Munsters.”
O’Connell, 38, who stars as Herman Munster in a new version of the TV series, is taking a more subtle approach to the tale of the family of monsters and ghouls living in the crumbling mansion.
“Mockingbird Lane“, due to air on Friday as a one-hour NBC special, features Portia de Rossi as Lily and Eddie Izzard as Grandpa.
Reuters spoke with O’Connell about stepping into the shoes of late actor Fred Gwynne.
Q: Doing a reboot of a popular television series can often be a risky venture. Do you worry about fan reaction?
A: “I actually prefer the term ‘re-imagining.’ That being said, it’s really scary doing it. I had to stay away from Twitter for a few days after it was announced that I was playing Herman Munster because people were upset. People have very specific ideas about this show. I drop my kids off at school, and this teacher said to me, ‘So you’re going to be the new Herman Munster, right? My husband and I really love that show, so please don’t mess it up’.”
Q: How do you think fans will receive executive producer Bryan Fuller’s darker, edgier version?
A: “I have a feeling that Munster fans will be pleasantly surprised and that new fans will come around as well. Bryan Fuller is a crazy Munster fan. I believe a large chunk of his salary goes toward buying Munsters collectibles, and he has a huge shrine of Munsters memorabilia in his home.”
Q: “Mockingbird Lane” is airing as a Halloween special. Will it be scary?
A: “There are very scary elements. It’s a pretty graphic show. There are two scenes where Grandpa performs open heart surgery, and you see pretty much every detail of that. Grandpa is a vampire, and he does eat some of our neighbors. My kids, who are both three, did see the show. And I know you’re probably calling child services now, but it was a little too much for them.”
Q: So what genre does “Mockingbird Lane” fall under?
A: “That’s what so tricky. It’s a horror movie, a family show with comic elements, and at the same time, a heartfelt sort of drama. It’s really like no other show out there. My storyline is all about my relationship with my son. But Grandpa (Izzard) is always interjecting, ‘We’re Munsters and we should feel pride.’ And I’m trying to offer my son guidance, telling him, ‘You’re just going through puberty where you’re turning into a werewolf. You have to try to control this power and try to be as normal as possible.’ And Grandpa’s storyline is ‘No! We shouldn’t have to try to control it. He’s a monster, and he’s a Munster, let him be free and wild!’ There’s a really touching sort of storyline about the old school versus the new school of parenting. And at the same time, Eddie Izzard is eating mountain lions. It’s just crazy! Nothing like this has been done on TV before.”
Q: The show coincides with recent jokes about the likeness between Republican vice presidential contender Paul Ryan and young werewolf Eddie Munster. What’s your take on this?
A: “I think it’s just the widow’s peak. When we were shooting, Mitt Romney hadn’t picked Paul Ryan as his running mate yet. But I thought it would have been a really great cross promotion. Maybe we could do an episode when Eddie is older – like a flash forward – with Paul Ryan doing a guest spot.”
Q: At the age of 11, you landed the role of Vern in Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me.” Was this your first acting role?
A: “No, one of my first jobs was a Duncan Hines chocolate chip cookie commercial. The other kids had this spit bucket, so they didn’t get sick. But I never used the spit bucket, and I remember thinking, ‘I can totally do this.’ ‘Stand By Me’ was my first big acting role and just a wonderful experience … I was a kid with a lot of energy and a bit hyperactive, who was often told to be quiet and calm down in class. I remember doing ‘Stand By Me,’ where my hyperactivity was actually encouraged on the movie set. I have very fond memories of it.”
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