Fox's Simpson, Hill, Griffin and Smith families are getting a funny new neighbor: the Golds of The War at Home (premiering Sunday at 8:30 pm/ET). Playing pop to a trio of challenging teens (blossoming Hillary, sexually misunderstood Larry and videogamer Mike) is Michael Rapaport (Small Time Crooks, Hitch), whose previous TV run was as a firebrand teacher on Boston Public. TVGuide.com got a few minutes during the busy actor's lunch break to discuss fatherhood, films and his real-life friend in need.
TVGuide.com: What did your three-season stint as Boston Public's Danny teach you?
Michael Rapaport: It taught me that good work is good work, and having the opportunity to act every day is a really special thing. That's what I walked away [with].
TVGuide.com: Did it give you an appetite for further episodic series such as War at Home?
Rapaport: It definitely did. I liked the consistency of the work and, as I said, I enjoy acting a lot. So often in this business, you rarely get to act; you spend time trying to get jobs and that kind of thing. But what's great about doing a TV show, especially one that I like, is that you do get to act every day, as opposed to chasing work, which is a real pain in the ass.
TVGuide.com: Some liken War at Home to Married... with Children. Do you agree with that comparison?
Rapaport: I think it's more like a Roseanne or an All in the Family. Although Married... with Children was an extraordinarily funny show, this show is based in a stronger sense of reality.
TVGuide.com: Are you excited about Sunday's premiere?
Rapaport: I'm really, really, really excited. I'm so proud of this show and so proud of the cast. I can't wait for people to see it. I think once people see it they're going to enjoy it. I really believe in this show.
TVGuide.com: How do you like Anita Barone (The Jeff Foxworthy Show) as your TV wife?
Rapaport: I love her. She's great. Dave and Vicky have a good, healthy, fun and playful relationship — they're friends and still very attracted to and sexually into each other.
TVGuide.com: Where are you coming from to play a father of teens? Your own kids aren't nearly that old.
Rapaport: A big inspiration for me is always my father, and I also sort of take from [creator/executive producer] Rob Lotterstein's inspiration, which is his father. But the fact that I am a father of two boys — Julian, who's 5, and Maceo, my 3-year-old — is obviously the best firsthand experience I have.
TVGuide.com: What do you make of the pseudo-"controversy" of a show titled The War at Home's debuting on 9/11?
Rapaport: I didn't even think about it. It didn't cross my mind.
TVGuide.com: Not that you are averse to controversy, which you experienced much of as a cast member of Bamboozled.
Rapaport: I'm extremely proud of that movie. It dealt with a lot of stereotypes in the black community and the way they are exploited by Hollywood — the television industry, more specifically — and it didn't pull any punches. [Writer/director] Spike [Lee] took incredible risks making it, and because of the controversy and all that, it didn't get a chance. But it's a very, very important movie that people should be able to enjoy for a long time.
TVGuide.com: Are there any new films coming up that you're particularly proud of?
Rapaport: Special, which is going to premiere at the [January 2006] Sundance Film Festival, I'm really excited about. It's a little independent movie about a guy who is sort of depressed and sheltered and he winds up taking an antidepressant and starts to [experience] adverse reactions — he starts to think he has supernatural powers because the medication doesn't really work properly. It has a dark, comedic element to it, but it's really a dramatic portrayal of a guy who is suffering from depression and is desperate to try to fix it. I'm enormously proud of it, and I'm looking forward to people getting a chance to see it.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, I'd like to ask if you have heard any updates regarding Natasha Lyonne (American Pie). [Rapaport's longtime friend/Comic Book Villains cast mate was recently in a New York City hospital ICU with hepatitis C, a collapsed lung and a heart infection.]
Rapaport: I haven't spoken to her. I hope she's doing good. I've been thinking about her a lot lately and I care about her....
TVGuide.com: I saw somewhere that her father was threatening the hospital with a lawsuit for violating confidentiality and letting her admittance be leaked out.
Rapaport: The thing about her father that hasn't been put out there is... she doesn't speak to her father — she has a restraining order against him — so he's just trying to get his face into the papers for some reason. I don't know why a sixtysomething-year-old man would be so interested in getting in the press when his daughter is so sick. Natasha knows how I feel about her, aside from all the stuff that we went through [when her unruly behavior forced Rapaport to evict Lyonne from an apartment building he owns]. She's like family to me. She's a very, very good person, and I'm hoping that she's able to get better.
Exclusive Video: Come back to TVGuide.com on Sunday to watch the opening minutes of The War at Home's premiere before it even airs on Fox.