CBS sitcom Man With A Plan did not start out with Joe — Stacy Keach’s role as the father of Matt LeBlanc’s Adam.
Keach’s addition to the cast in the second season as a guest star elevated the pleasant family comedy into one that has slightly more teeth. Now a cast regular, Keach turns in memorable moments thanks to his clever comedic timing, turning a simple line into a scene-stealer.
The episode this Thursday night is a special one, centering on lies —the innocuous one’s families tell each other to protect and to keep a family member from worry.
And in Keach’s character Joe’s case, all he wants to do is not upset anyone he loves over his secret.
For the sake of preserving this twist, we won’t spoil it, but we did get a chance to speak with Keach over the phone at length about his career, this series, working with Matt LeBlanc, and how he is coping with COVID-19.
Many Man With A Plan fans only know Keach from his TV dad roles, including the critically acclaimed FOX 2000 series Titus (Ken Titus aka Papa Titus), where Keach worked with his son Christopher Titus.
Now he is joined at the hip with LeBlanc, also cast as a father in a kinder, gentler comedy where the daily idiosyncrasies of family life bounce between talents LeBlanc, Kevin Nealon, Swoosie Kurtz, Liza Snyder, Matt Cook, and Kali Rocha.
What Man with a Plan episode is Thursday on CBS?
The new episode is titled “Adam’s Big Little Lie” and after a bust over a candy bar that disappeared, Adam (Matt LeBlanc), promises not to lie to his wife Andi (Liza Snyder) again.
Unfortunately, he finds himself in a tough spot when he has to cover for dad Joe (Keach), who has a secret, as Marci’s (Kali Rocha) alliance with Joe raises eyebrows and Andi’s lasagna is a dead man walking in Bev’s (Swoosie Kurtz) eyes.
Stacy Keach interview
Monsters & Critics: You have leading-man looks but many find you a great character actor too. You always find strong roles to play. Talk about that.
Stacy Keach: Well, I put myself in that latter category. I’ve always thought of myself as a character actor. I was never comfortable with the leading-man image. For me, it was just another part. Mike Hammer was a leading part, but I never thought of myself as a romantic leading man. I always thought of myself as an actor.
My heroes growing up were Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. It was for me, the two greatest actors of my young life. And I was inspired by their versatility, is I think the sort of the watchword.
M&C: Many younger fans are unaware of your academic background and your accomplishments. People that know you solely from television or from the 1970’s Cheech and Chong movie, maybe they don’t realize how deep your resume is, but they love you. You’ve got fans from every walk, people who are theater nuts, people who love Hemingway or classic literature. And then you’ve got this whole fandom from this CBS show, Man With a Plan, and previously, Titus. Talk about that.
Stacy Keach: Yes. Well, and I like that very much. I mean, it doesn’t bother me, I like to be thought of as somebody who can make people laugh. I mean, to me, and particularly in the times we’re in right at the moment, we need some levity, and it’s hard to find sometimes.
I think the irony of Man with a Plan, we were very disappointed when we were picked up a year ago that we weren’t going to be on the schedule in the fall.
Who knew that this was the blessing in disguise that we’re on now. We had completed all 13 episodes prior to Christmas. They were in the can, and we were disappointed that we thought, ‘Oh, gosh, we’re not going to get on the air until April.’
But who knew that everybody was going to be staying at home watching television in April. You know? Which is very good for the future of our show. I hope we get a season five.
M&C: Then your film roles bounce from light to very dark, specifically the Tony Kaye film, American History X you played Cameron… white supremacists and people that don’t like the government, how did that role affect you?
Stacy Keach: Oh, Cameron Alexander. Oh, my goodness, yeah. When we made that movie, I was very apprehensive. I was scared for my family. I mean, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ And we had to sequester our sets every time we were shooting, and wherever we were shooting and we had to make sure nobody knew where we were.
We had police around, because they were aware of the fact that we were making this movie, and they didn’t quite know how it was going to be created. Well, after the movie came out, I’m in an airport going someplace, and I’m coming off an airplane. I’m walking down, and I see this skinhead in the distance walking towards to me. And he starts walking to me, rattling his chains. I was terrified. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this guy’s … he’s going to do me in.’
Well, he came over to me and dropped to his knees. I couldn’t believe it, because Cameron was somebody he worshiped. Oh, my God, was it scary.
M&C: Your role as Ken Titus with comedian and actor Christopher Titus was one for the ages on TV. Talk about Christopher Titus, and then Matt LeBlanc. Entirely different energies as performers.
Stacy Keach: Matt? He’s a cool dude. Exactly. Very funny. Christopher Titus… he’s great. But you know what? They’re both brilliant comedians. Brilliant. Absolutely. And I love working with both of them.
I wish in a way that some of Ken Titus’ elements, that just devastating cruelty, meanness, that I wish we had a little bit more of that with Joe, a little bit more down the middle.
Authoritarian fathers are something that I’ve made a habit of playing for the last couple of years. But I loved Ken Titus. I mean, he was just so outrageous. That’s the difference, so much more outrageous than Joe.
Man with a Plan is a wonderful old fashioned family sitcom, and it doesn’t have really any edge to it, which is good. I think it’s CBS, and they’re playing to the masses in a very positive way.
M&C: You were brought on as a guest star, and Valerie Harper initially was cast as Bev. And then she was ill, and we lost her. But they subbed in Swoosie Kurtz to play Bev, and your character just stuck, the missing puzzle piece to give a richness to this ensemble. Did you click with Matt as a guest star right away?
Stacy Keach: Right. Yes, absolutely, instantly with Matt, yeah. But Swoosie Kurtz… Swoosie and I went to drama school together at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 1964.
And we never worked together in all these years until now. Isn’t that crazy? And we’ve known each other for 50 years.
M&C: Isn’t it wonderful to have people around you professionally who knew you when you were that young? You know what I mean?
Stacy Keach: Yes. There are very few of them left, but it is wonderful, yeah. We have fun, and that radiates from Matt. He’s so great with everybody. Well, and he’s been doing this for a while and he really … he knows his way around comedy, and he knows his way around people. He’s so good to the crew, to everybody, whether it’s the caterer or the guest star.
I mean, he is just so good to everybody. And he makes everybody feel good. And yes, we’re just praying to God that we’ll be able to get back before too long. I have a feeling … It’s hard to know when groups of people are going to be able to come together again, whether in sporting events, or theater, or movies, or churches. It is tough. It’s tough, but we’ll get through it. We will get through it.
M&C: What have you been watching, or reading, or playing, or listening to as kind of a reprieve from doing all this stay at home business?
Stacy Keach: When Homeland first came out, everyone was raving about it, and I didn’t go near it. I didn’t watch it. Thank God, I’m watching it now. I’m totally hooked. My wife and I are just… that’s our nightly meal, Homeland. Yeah.
I’m a keyboard guy, and I play a lot of music, and I reach out to my pals, my friends. I work out on my stationary bike in my bedroom, and try and stay in shape, and take a walk around the block. Yeah.
M&C: For you and your wife, what’s on the top of your to-do list once this COVID-19 business is… we got the green light to go out?
Stacy Keach: Well, my wife just became a certified yoga teacher. She’s been doing yoga for 35… 40 years. But she finally got a Yoga Works teaching certificate just before this all happened. And I, just before this all happened, did an L.A. Theater Works production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a radio adaptation, playing the Creature. And that’ll be on the air, coming up pretty soon.
And I’m so lucky. I just literally stepped off the plane, having finished a guest spot with Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods, where I played the Archbishop and all s**t hits the fan. So that’s coming on. It’ll be on the air soon.
And I’ve been very excited about the possibility of a whole new form. Zoom theater. Zoom theater. Yes, we’re going to do a production of King Lear, as a matter of fact, on Shakespeare’s birthday, on April 23rd, for a charity, a church in the east organized by a wonderful actor, Jerry Sloan. It’s a non-profit and we will raise money for food for the homeless.
But I’m excited about it. I mean, I think we’re breaking some new ground here. I can envision a Zoom repertory theater, where you can do plays. It depends on how long we stay home. Actors need to work.
M&C: This Thursday on Man With A Plan there is a very important episode for your character. What is Joe facing on Man With A Plan?
Stacy Keach: Joe has a secret, and he’s keeping this secret from everybody, including Adam. And he finally lets the cat out of the bag, because he wants Adam to cover for him where he was last night. Well, it turns out… I can’t give it away, but he’s hiding something. And he ends up in the hospital.
And so, it’s a very important episode for Joe, and that’s on this Thursday night. It’s not heavy, but there’s an emotional tug. There’s a reason why he’s been keeping the secret, and it turned out to be a very positive reason. A good reason. He didn’t want to worry his wife.
Man With A Plan airs Thursday at 8:31/7:31c on CBS.