Kurtwood Smith Sees the Best in Worst Week
If patience is a virtue, then Dick Clayton rates supreme. Worst Week's (Mondays 9:30 pm/ET, CBS) steely, gruff dad — a personality Kurtwood Smith has already honed to perfection on That '70s Show — has seen his patience tested week in and week out as witness to some of the most cringe-worthy blunders by his accident-prone, soon-to-be son-in-law Sam (Kyle Bornheimer). With a wedding a week away, things are just bound to get — well — worse, but also better in a way for hard-luck Sam as time goes on. Smith chatted with TVGuide.com about this week's episode, featuring Fred Willard and Connie Ray as Sam's parental unit, if he's an intimidating father himself and why you shouldn't watch 24 (at least not live).
TVGuide.com: We finally meet Sam's parents this week. What kind of parents are they?
Smith: They're pretty goofy parents. But it's also very clear that they're very sweet and loving. On the one hand, Dick and Angela (Nancy Lenehan) are kind of appalled because it's kind of a whole different atmosphere in terms of the life that we have. His mother just goes up and grabs everybody by both sides of the face and gives big, long kisses on the lips, including Angela, and that's just not something they're used to at all. And Fred's character is just full of corny jokes, kind of a slap-ya-on-the-back kinda guy.
TVGuide.com: So it's kind of like Meet the Fockers — one side's crazy and the other side's serious?
Smith: I suppose. I hadn't seen that one; I only saw the first. But I think there's certainly that kind of a difference. Our family is, of course, a lot different than the CIA and De Niro's family!
TVGuide.com: It's been two years since That '70s Show went off the air. Were you looking to get back into TV?
Smith: I wasn't in a panic to try to get a job, but I'd say I like working. I just love the way this show is done, the idea that it's edited much more like a film. It goes very quickly. It doesn't have a laugh track. When I read the script, it made me laugh out loud. That's pretty unusual. I have to say the scripts are still making me do that. That was basically it, that I loved the show.
TVGuide.com: It's based on a British series. Have you seen the original?
Smith: No, but I haven't sought it out either. I mean, if someone sent it to my house, I'd watch it. I think there are certain similarities, but I think in general it's gonna be different. Our show isn't sticking to that structure despite the title. It's become a character-driven show. There is all the silliness that happens, great physical comedy, especially because Kyle is so brilliant. All the characters kind of grow, the show gets richer and the comedy comes out of that.
TVGuide.com: Does Dick love Sam, or even like him?
Smith: Melanie (Erinn Hayes) loves him, so Dick is quite happy to accept him in that regard. What I like about it is now Dick is thinking of him much more as a son that screws up, instead of as some complete doofus or stranger. But he always turns around and it's like, "Dammit, Sam!" He's still a source of frustration, but now we don't want him out of the family.
TVGuide.com: The mishaps get progressively worse. Will it ever reach a breaking point for you guys?
Smith: I wouldn't begin to say "never" because I'm not the brains behind this. But at this point, I don't think there's any indication that that will happen. They have accepted him on so many levels. We were witnessed to him expressing to Melanie how he feels about her, how hard he's trying to be in this family, purely out of love for her, and that goes a long way for both of us. In my personal life, I've been fortunate enough to have a terrific son-in-law and I know how much he cares about my daughter, and in my case, my son-in-law is not a doofus! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Did any of your children's dates try really hard to impress you? Are you an intimidating dad?
Smith: I don't think so. I wasn't really around for a lot of dating. My wife and I were separated at that time. But my daughter has been down here certainly since she has left college and there have been a few boyfriends. [Laughs] But I don't think I'm intimidating.
TVGuide.com: You've played stern father types twice in a row. Do you mind playing similar characters back-to-back?
Smith: No, because the worlds of both the shows are so different. Red's real concern was Eric to become a man and to be able to deal with the world. Unfortunately, he was a little off in terms of what the world was actually like! In this regard, I don't think Dick is concerned about Sam making his way in the world as much as he is about him making his way across the room.
TVGuide.com: What's gonna happen post-wedding?
Smith: The one we're shooting this week, I can't even begin to tell you. It's that crazy and that open to misinterpretation without going into details, but it is very funny and not something that is normally dealt with. It has to do with Sam writing an article and it's what the article deals with. He didn't intend for the article to be published when he wrote it, and it deals with something that was very, very embarrassing for one of the characters, and it gets out. I really don't wanna give away any more! I think it's the funniest episode yet.
TVGuide.com: You're also on the new season of 24. Can you tell us about that?
Smith: I'm in the first episode. It's been over a year since we shot it. It opens at a Senate hearing that I'm conducting — I play a Senator — dealing with Jack Bauer. Let's say that I have a very negative attitude towards Jack! Then I don't come back for several episodes, and I come back for five more. It was enjoyable. I know Kiefer [Sutherland], so I really enjoyed working with him. And I worked with Cherry Jones, a Broadway actor, whose work I like so much. I also have a recurring role in Medium, so I'm gonna be back there too, but I'm not even sure when they're coming on the air.
TVGuide.com: Yeah, their schedule's all weird now. Hopefully it won't be on at the same time as Worst Week. You're already up against 24.
Smith: Huh, oh wait, is that right?
TVGuide.com: Yeah. It's coming back Mondays at 9.
Smith: Well, that's why God invented TiVo. We want people to watch Worst Week and TiVo 24. 24 doesn't need to build their audience. We need to build ours, so let's watch Worst Week and TiVo 24. Doesn't that sound good?