The producers of NBC's American Dreams — debuting Sunday at 8 pm/ET — hit a bullseye when they cast Tom Verica as patriarch Jack Pryor. After all, the actor's own upbringing in 1960s Philadelphia — where Dreams is set — closely parallels the Pryor family's story. Heck, Verica's mom even danced on American Bandstand — something his onscreen daughter Meg (Brittany Snow) gets a chance at, too.
"I don't think [my mother, Betty Ann,] had quite the excitement that the Meg character has on our show," Verica tells TV Guide Online. Even so, Betty Ann "had a photo taken with Dick Clark a couple years after she had been on Bandstand and was paid to do a car ad with him."
Clark, who hosted Bandstand from 1957 to 1987, also serves as exec producer of American Dreams. When Verica landed his role on the drama, he asked his mom to mail him her historic photo. "I brought it in and [Dick] was kind enough to re-sign it now, in 2002. It was a real trip for my mother, that's for sure!"
Emboldened by that tiny coup, Verica is on a mission to reunite Betty Ann with her teen idol, who seemingly hasn't aged a day since they first met. "I think when my mother comes out to L.A., we'll have to plan some sort of reunion and recreate the shot that was taken 40 some-odd years ago." Winking, he adds: "I'm already working on it."
Until then, Verica — who played Melina Kanakaredes's baseball-player beau for two years on Providence — is busy reliving his youth on Dreams. "I find myself walking around the set and finding certain toys and stuff," he says, "and it suddenly flashes me back to my childhood. It's like, 'Wow! I remember we had this and we had this lamp...'"