PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Eric Petersen, Co-Starring With Kirstie Alley in TV Land's "Kirstie"

By Carey Purcell
23 Dec 2013

Petersen in Shrek.

It sounds like it's setting up a good sort of lovingly dysfunctional family between the four of you on the show. There was some fun slapstick in the pilot, with the donut attack.

EP: When we filmed that, I was standing next to Michael when they were shooting the smearing of the donuts. At that point, it was just the pilot, and he said, "If we ever make it to air, this is going to be a classic sitcom scene that people will talk about for years." Because it's so good. You don't expect that she's actually going to smear it all over [her]. [We] could only do it in one take because they both got so messed up from it, they were like, "This is the one!"

Stage acting and the theatre has been the fodder for such great comedy and drama "All About Eve," "Waiting for Guffman." Have you contributed anything from your own stage experience to the show?

EP: Definitely. I don't know of any storylines yet. Hopefully our show will run for years and years, and I'll have a chance to give story ideas. There have been a few moments where there was something I remember about show schedules. They had a line where she said, "Let's hang out on Sunday" or something like that, and I said, "No, you would have a matinee on Sunday." Just kind of reminding them of some of the realities of a working stage actor and how busy your schedule is and little things like that. I'm trying to keep the nuances real. I know all my friends in New York will be like, "Hey, that's not real!" if there's something that's a little fake.

Are you going to do any singing on the show?

EP: I am, actually. There's an episode called "Arlo's Birthday," where Kirstie wants to hang out with me and I'm going to a karaoke bar with some of my friends, so she comes with and hears me sing karaoke. I get to sing an 80s hair metal classic at a karoake bar, and she starts to be like, "Oh, wow, he's got talent. I didn't think he had anything special about him, and now I'm going to make him a star." But my character really has no desire to be a star. He doesn't want to be in show business. That's not something that he wants to do. So comedy ensues from that. It's a very funny, very sweet, charming episode.

What were some of the sitcoms you used to watch or still do?

EP: I loved "Seinfeld," and I loved "Cheers." Those were a little bit before my day, so I was watching reruns of that. Growing up, I loved "Home Improvement," I loved "Fresh Prince." That's what I was watching when I was in high school.

I come from the Midwest. I'm a family man. I love... the story of family and how families learn to love each other and learn to deal with each other through good times and bad — shows like "Family Matters" and stuff like that. I've always loved that dynamic of a family and seeing what happens in the living room. I love that sitcoms have a formula and they're fun and safe to watch, and you know it's going to be funny and at the end everyone's going to hug and everything will be OK. I love that. Some people might think it's old-fashioned, but I think enough people still think that it's relevant.

It seems like "Kirstie" has a modern take on the sitcom formula of a family. It's a mother who's working and chose ambition rather than being a mother earlier in life.

EP: It's definitely like that. It's not the buffoonish husband with the doting wife who's like, "Oh, honey," with wild kids. This is more like working mom, older son, the fact that I'm playing in my late 20s on the show — a lot of times they'll have a mom dealing with toddlers and maybe teenagers. It's very rare that you see more of the adult parent relationship, which I think is really fun. But we're also dealing with knowing each other for the first time, so we get to have those scenes you might have with a toddler, but with a grown man and a mom. Then you have these two wacky characters of Rhea and Michael. Rhea plays almost like an older sister to me. She sort of helps me along and really believes in me. And then Michael is almost like an older brother or father figure. Those were some of my favorite episodes of the season, where he and I were getting into trouble together.