Justin Berfield, best known for his role as older, slightly dumber brother Reese on Fox' hit sitcom Malcolm in the Middle is proving he is much more like Malcolm himself these days as an entrepreneur and businessman. Once just a child star, he has now stepped behind the camera to develop his own sitcom (also for Fox) called Sons of Tucson about three brothers (go figure!) who need to hire a father when theirs gets sent to white-collar prison.
"Being in front of the camera, you never got to see the whole process from the conception of the script all the way through to the filming process. And building the pilot...selling this little inkling of an idea has just been eye-opening for me," Berfield is animated when talking about his new role as executive producer.
"I [especially] love the whole casting process because I've been on the other side of the process in those rooms, and now I get to sit behind the camera and sort of--"
"...Judge!" Series star Tyler Labine pipes up, and they both laugh.
Labine, a fan favorite in the sci-fi world, plays that so-called paternal figure in sports goods salesman living out of his car, Ron Snuffkin. "He's not the most sage in words of wisdom," Labine describes his character. "He doesn't really have the sense of responsibility, but this whole father figure thing starts to come out of Ron that I don't think he even really knew he had."
Labine says that initially he was attracted to the show because of the writing, specifically that of Ron, who he calls "an amalgam of every sort of slacker dude I've ever wanted to play but haven't been able to sort of flesh out in a character." Ron has no limits and is motivated to help these kids and take on this unconventional assignment by "the money only." Labine admits Ron "thinks it's going to be temporary, but he is enticed by the idea of more money coming his way in the future. [As time goes on] this sort-of paternal fear kicks in. He starts to learn from the boys."
The boys in question here are three very talented child actors in their own right, Matthew Levy who plays the oldest, "go with the flow" brother Brandon, Benjamin Stockham who plays violent little Robby, and of course the middle man brains behind the operation, Gary, played by Frank Dolce. Gary, of course, is the one Ron will butt heads with the most in a power struggle. Early episodes have them negotiating Ron's use of the main house after the boys allow him to move into their tool shed, as well as Gary wearing a heart monitor to get his 'stress levels' under control.
Labine has often been compared to Jack Black, and here is another similar slacker style role. It is a typical Hollywood thing to put actors in such 'boxes,' and Labine says that it is a complimentary comparison but a bit unfortunate at the same time. "I was discovering my own sense of humor long before I knew who [he] was, you know? [He] just happened to hit first."
The show itself, though, is drawing obvious comparisons of it's own. Berfield admits that "visually and perhaps tonally" it does call back to Malcolm in the Middle, but he is quick to add that "the subject matter is completely unique and original."
The show also boasts an impressive list of guest stars for their first thirteen episodes, including character actor Kurt Fuller who stars as the principal of the boys' school, as well as Joe Lo Truglio (Reno 911!) who pops up as Ron's somewhat estranged best friend in a five-episode arc that involves the theft of chatchkes. Berfield was quick to say they "won't be jumping the shark too soon" in regards to showing the imprisoned father or any family members coming out of the woodwork. But who knows what can happen if the show goes for four or five seasons?
Sons of Tucson premieres on Fox on Sunday March 14. Be sure to check it out!