John Stamos was thrilled when he learned he could possibly star in a new series from producer David E. Kelley.
“Am I playing a lawyer?” he remembers asking his manager. Since “The Practice”, “LA Law” and “Ally McBeal” were part of Kelley’s credits, it seemed like a good guess.
No, the manager said, it’s a basketball show.
“And my heart sank,” Stamos says, “because I’m so bad at sports.”
Called “Big Shot”, it features Stamos as a college basketball coach who bounced back after throwing a chair at a referee. Instead of changing jobs in college, he is hired as a coach at a private girls’ school. Like Stamos, he is forced to step out of his comfort zone and learn something about himself.
To prepare, Stamos went to a practice (or, as Stamos calls it, a “rehearsal”) with basketball executive Jerry West. “I really took that as a challenge because it was such a character that I had never played,” he said during a Zoom conference. “He was the first character I was offered that everyone (says) is unlikable. So I dug into that because I felt like I could probably go a little further than the other actors.
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At school, players challenge him at every turn. Because they come from privilege, they were able to call many of their own shots.
Stamos’ character, Marvyn Korn, “gives everything he gets,” says Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays the school’s dean. “It’s not like we’re all over him and he’s just sitting there, sweet and kind. It gives us a reason to be a little unhappy from time to time. It’s a mess sometimes.
Because Stamos has never played a role like this before, this is an opportunity to see something new, said executive producer Dean Lorey. “He’s terrific in the show.”
Stamos, meanwhile, returns the compliments to his young co-stars. They attended basketball training camp and, like the star, didn’t know much about the game.
“There were different levels,” says executive producer Bill D’Elia. “Some of them could play a bit. Some of them weren’t good. The basketball coordinator rehearsed the plays to make them look smooth on screen.
“At the end of the day, we chose the best actresses,” Lorey says.
“They’re fantastic,” Stamos says. “I always said this show wouldn’t work unless these girls worked. And every episode they really find their characters…and they’re getting better at basketball, too.
Stamos, meanwhile, has honed his coaching skills. “I was looking for a way to play an adult character that had layers and wasn’t just light and fluffy,” he says. “He listens and he grows throughout the first season. It’s one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had.
“Big Shot” premieres April 16 on Disney+.