Here‚Äôs the thing about John Stamos: Everybody knows him.
Kindergartners getting their first look at kid-cuddling, mullet-rockin‚Äô musician Uncle Jesse Katsopolis on Full House reruns approach Stamos on the street to ask why his hair‚Äôs so short. Mom and Dad both recall Stamos as Uncle Jesse from their own youth and also as ER‚Äôs paramedic-turned-intern Dr. Tony Gates as they got older. And Mom and Grandma likely share feverish memories of Stamos‚Äô entr√©e to television as raven-haired rock roll runaway Blackie Parrish on General Hospital.
And then there are generations of Beach Boys fans who hope Stamos will appear with the band to drum up some ‚ÄúGood Vibrations‚ÄĚ at their local fairs and festivals, as he‚Äôs done semi-regularly for the past 26 years.
That‚Äôs an awful lot of entertainment ground to cover ‚ÄĒ and an awful lot of people who believe Stamos is the best friend they‚Äôve never met when they spot him at the gas station or grocery store.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve always had that middle kind of fame, where it‚Äôs not crazy and paparazzi are following me around,‚ÄĚ Stamos says. ‚ÄúBut everywhere I go, people just kind of smile. That‚Äôs the difference between television stars and movie stars: You‚Äôve been in their houses since they were kids, so people feel like you‚Äôre family.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúI grew up watching those shows,‚ÄĚ he says of such syndicated staples as Happy Days, The Brady Bunch and The Dick Van Dyke Show. ‚ÄúIn fact, Henry Winkler was one of the first stars I ever met, and he was so kind and so nice to me, asking questions about me and what I wanted to do. And Garry Marshall is like my godfather, actually. You know, I‚Äôve had so many of my dreams come true that I have to keep challenging that and keep coming up with new stuff because I have been so lucky.‚ÄĚ
The actor can cross one major challenge off his list when he stars as The Rev. Stephen Drew, a man of God with multiple secrets, in Chris Bohjalian‚Äôs Secrets of Eden, premiering Feb. 4 on Lifetime.
‚ÄúI hadn‚Äôt played a pastor before,‚ÄĚ Stamos says of what drew him to produce and star in the film adaptation of Bohjalian‚Äôs best-selling 2010 novel that affectingly merges the horrors of spousal abuse and the relief and redemption found in faith and love. ‚ÄúThey sent me the script and said, ‚ÄėOh, the last five pages you‚Äôre going to love. So I read it and said, ‚ÄėWell yeah, but what do I do with the first 85 pages?!‚Äô Because I didn‚Äôt really know how to play it. This is not your obvious bad guy ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôve done those. It was a lot harder to play Stephen than an obvious, broad-stroke villain.‚ÄĚ
According to Bohjalian, Stamos found exactly the right emotional colors. ‚ÄúJohn is so poignant and so powerful as Stephen Drew,‚ÄĚ says the author, who wrote the novel having learned that two-thirds of all homicides in Vermont (his adopted home state and the setting for both book and film) in the past 15 years have involved domestic violence. ‚ÄúIf Lifetime‚Äôs Secrets of Eden encourages even one woman to escape an abusive relationship, it will have earned its two hours on TV many times over.‚ÄĚ
To help bolster that outcome, Stamos brought aboard his former ER director Tawnia McKiernan, daughter of iconic television producer/writer Stephen J. Cannell and herself a TV veteran. ‚ÄúShe came in early on with a lot of great ideas to make the movie and the story a little more subtle,‚ÄĚ Stamos says. ‚ÄúShe had a good take on the domestic abuse issue and perhaps a little more personal take on that, so that helped. Unlike some of these kind of loud, ‚Äėbang the message over your head‚Äô TV movies, I think this one you have to get a little closer to your TV. You have to listen a little harder.‚ÄĚ
With more than a dozen television movies on his resum√©, Stamos credits the genre for allowing him to build a broad stable of characters that Hollywood ‚ÄĒ and, to an extent, his early television successes ‚ÄĒ denied him.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve never really had a place in feature films, so over the years TV movies have allowed me to stretch a bit and play characters that you‚Äôd maybe see in a [theatrical] movie,‚ÄĚ Stamos says. ‚ÄúEarly on, even before the Full House days, I stressed out about it ‚ÄĒ ‚ÄėI gotta be a movie star! I gotta make movies!‚Äô But for many years I‚Äôve been very happy in television. Thanks to Full House and ER, I‚Äôve been able to make a few dollars and sit back and just take things that I really want to do or go and do theater for a year. In the last two years, I haven‚Äôt found the right TV show, the right vehicle for me, but I think this year, I‚Äôm going to do at least a pilot. I‚Äôd like to be back on series television.‚ÄĚ
Last year‚Äôs rumor mill had Stamos returning to sitcoms much sooner than he thought, following the epic undoing of former Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen. ‚ÄúI was on a red carpet and people were like, ‚ÄėWe hear you‚Äôre going to take over for Charlie ‚Ä¶‚Äô and I was like, ‚ÄėWhat?!‚Äô [And then] he was on Piers Morgan and I was sitting with my mom and I said, ‚ÄėThis might be interesting ‚ÄĒ let‚Äôs watch it.‚Äô Charlie is a friend of mine ‚ÄĒ I‚Äôve known him over the years ‚ÄĒ so he was talking away and then Morgan says, ‚ÄėWhat about John Stamos replacing you?‚Äô And Charlie just starts blasting! ‚ÄėStamos will ruin the show!‚Äô My jaw was on the floor! I mean, I was sitting next to my mother!
‚ÄúYeah, there were discussions, but they never said, ‚Äėthis is your role,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Stamos says of the part that eventually went to Ashton Kutcher. ‚ÄúIt just didn‚Äôt seem right for me to do.‚ÄĚ Asked what kind of show will finally lure him back into fans‚Äô living rooms on a weekly basis, Stamos says that the off-camera environment will prove equally as important as what is produced on-set.
‚ÄúI did a single-camera comedy a few years ago called Jake in Progress and I liked that,‚ÄĚ Stamos says. ‚ÄúI like the little comic storytelling half-hour. But especially as I‚Äôve been getting older, I would like to get up, go to work, laugh and have fun and come home and have a life. I guess it was my ER experience, where I didn‚Äôt have any other responsibilities other than being an actor ‚ÄĒ I liked that the best.‚ÄĚ
While he searches for that perfect pilot, Stamos says he‚Äôs happy to bask in the wisdom of another ER vet and longtime fan favorite. ‚ÄúI saw a big movie star the other day, and I won‚Äôt drop any names ‚ÄĒ George Clooney ‚ÄĒ and he put his hand on my shoulder and we were kind of marveling that we‚Äôre still around after 30 years of doing this,‚ÄĚ Stamos laughs. ‚ÄúBelieve me, I‚Äôm not even in the same stratosphere as George Clooney, and it was so sweet of him to include me in this. But we‚Äôre still working ‚ÄĒ that‚Äôs the amazing thing. For me. For him, you understand why. But for me, I should have been gone a long time ago. And I‚Äôm grateful that I‚Äôm still around.‚ÄĚ
Secrets of Eden image¬†¬© 2011 A&E Television Networks LLC, All Rights Reserved. ¬†Photo Credit: George Kraychyk ¬† ¬†