John Stamos on Stepping Outside of His Comfort Zone for Disney+’s ‘Big Shot’
Over his four-decade TV career, John Stamos has played everything from a troubled teen (General Hospital) and a musician rocking a mullet (Full House) to doctors of all specialties (ER, Scream Queens, You). But the role of a demanding basketball coach on the new Disney+ dramedy Big Shot gave the seasoned actor a pang of fear. “My heart stopped because I’m quite inept when it comes to sports,” he tells TV Guide Magazine. “It’s just never been my thing.”
But challenges are his thing, and so was the chance to work with the show’s cocreator, David E. Kelley, the man behind watercooler hits past and present such as Ally McBeal, Big Little Lies, and The Undoing. So Stamos brushed aside the butterflies to become cantankerous Marvyn Korn, a once-prominent college basketball coach for a Wisconsin university.
After an embarrassing midgame outburst lands his career in foul territory (he throws a chair and hits a referee), the only job he can get is coaching the team at the Westbrook School for Girls, an elite private institution run by no-nonsense headmaster Sherilyn Thomas (Yvette Nicole Brown). Turns out, hotheaded middle-aged men don’t mix well with ambitious teens or stern school administrators.
And yet the more time divorced dad Marvyn spends at the school demanding excellence from his players, the more they all find common ground. “It’s a redemption story about a guy who needs growth,” explains Stamos. “Marvyn learns as much from the girls as they learn from him.” The actor tells us how he made the role a slam dunk.
You’re admittedly not a sports guy, but did you ever play?
John Stamos: I liked theater, magic, and puppets when I was a kid because there were no winners or losers. But my dad was a complete athlete and I wanted to spend time with him, so I took golf lessons. We went out to a course, I pulled back, hit the ball and I sliced it. It missed a woman’s head by a quarter of an inch. My dad was like, “Put those clubs away!” And that was it. I just was so bad.
What was the appeal for you in playing Marvyn?
When [my representatives] called me, they said, “Oh, you got an offer for the new David Kelley show.” I was like, “Here’s my shot.” David Kelley is somebody I’ve always wanted to work with and I’ve auditioned for every one of his shows, which he remembered! And the character was something I’ve never played.
Marvyn has a rough start at Westbrook.
The girls embody strength. They refuse a guy like Marvyn at first because he comes off as a bully. They want inspiration and guidance, and they don’t need to be bullied. They run right over him!
How did you prepare for the part?
I started watching a lot of games and studied [fiery former Indiana University basketball coach] Bobby Knight. Somebody hooked me up with Los Angeles Clippers executive Jerry West. He invited me to a practice. I called it a rehearsal, and then somebody corrected me. [Laughs]
We see Marvyn throw a chair in the show’s opening moments. Was that fun to shoot?
It was actually intense. I had to really stay focused that day because I didn’t want anybody to see any other characters I’ve played before [coming through my performance], and hopefully you don’t. Unlike with Knight [who infamously hurled a chair onto the floor in 1985], this chair hits the ref and it’s horrible. You see now Marvyn wants to learn and get better.
Compared with your other roles, you’re not as charming or smiley on Big Shot.
In Episode 9 or 10, I was doing a scene with Monique Green [who plays student athlete Olive], and I started laughing. After, she said, “You know, I’ve not seen you smile on this show before.” I go, “OK, good. Good.” It’s so easy after so many years to just tap into what you know works or is likable, and you fight against it.
Any chance we’ll see former Full House costars pop up in cameos?
No, I’ve done all that. When Full House ended, I thought that was it. I had this “Uncle Jesse” thing hanging over my head. But it never occurred to any of us that we’d still be talking about Full House today. And I’ve learned to love it. But I have to keep projects like this separate from that. Although, look, we’re not stupid. We’re cashing in on three generations of people who watched that show to watch this show!
Big Shot, Series Premiere, Friday, April 16, Disney+