After more than a decade in semi-retirement from acting, beloved actor Michael J. Fox is coming back strong this fall, starring on an NBC comedy loosely based on his life. "The Michael J. Fox Show" centers on a local Manhattan television anchor who has spent five years at home with his family after he's diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
The pilot focuses on Mike Henry's family dynamics, and pulls no punches when it comes to dealing with the disease and its symptoms. When asked by reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Saturday if the subject may be too uncomfortable to provoke laughter, Fox said subsequent episodes are more focused on the family's general life.
"This is a reflection of my experience," Fox said. "The way I look at life, the way I look at the reality of Parkinson's, is that sometimes it's frustrating and sometimes it's funny. I need to look at it that way and I think other people need to look at it that way. But beyond that, I think we all get our own Parkinson's, we all get our own thing. And I think that we'll look at it from the filter of that experience: I need to laugh at my stuff too."
Fox, 52, disclosed in 1999 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease eight years earlier. Although he's had short guest acting stints on television shows, like "The Good Wife" and "Rescue Me," Fox has not held a full-time job since he semi-retired in 2000 when his symptoms worsened.
"A lot of times when you have a disability, one of the things you deal with is other people's projections of what your experience is and people projecting what they think it is, and their fear about it, and not seeing the experience you're having," Fox said. "Parkinson's itself, there's nothing horrifying about it to me. It is what I deal with. It is my reality and it is my life. But it's not horrifying. It's not gothic nastiness."
Now that six episodes of the single-camera comedy have been shot, Fox said he feels like he's "rebuilding muscle" and is more comfortable with the long hours of a television production schedule. Betsy Brandt of "Breaking Bad" plays Annie, his wife, and the Henrys are raising three children.
"I'm really happy with how it feels to be back at work," he said. Asked if he might also star in a movie now that he's working again, Fox replied: "I can't imagine doing 22 episodes of this thing and then spend my summer doing a movie...That's crazy, that's how I got in this mess!"
Fox said his guest-star work helped him reach the conclusion that he needed to return to the job he was born to do. During his semi-hiatus from performing, he spent time with his children during their formative years and experimented with medications and treatments, he said.
"This is what I do," he said. "This is what I was built and programmed to do. "This is what I enjoy…why can't I? There's no reason not to do it."
"The Michael J. Fox Show" premieres on Sept. 26 at 9:30 p.m.