'We Were Really In This Family Sandwich': Mark Feuerstein Talks Inspiration For '9JKL'
As co-creator, executive producer and star, Mark Feuerstein may have a lot on his plate now that the first season of his new show 9JKL is underway. Thankfully, legal issues are not a concern. The show, about actor Josh Roberts who lives in an apartment adjacent to his parents on one side and his brother and sister-in-law on the other, is based on Feuerstein's personal experience. For a show that draws so heavily on his personal life, he's not worried about the legal ramifications of writing scenes based on real people and events. He recently reassured CBS Local that his brother and father --both lawyers -- are more scrupulous than any network legal department ever could be. He also talked about how his family is supportive -- or, at least, put up with it -- when episodes or characters are based on them, and raved about working with the legendary Elliot Gould and Linda Lavin, who play his parents on the show.
Can you set up 9JKL and tell us how this story that's inspired by your life came together?
For eight years, we shot Royal Pains in New York, and since my wife and my kids were in LA, to save money, I stayed in the apartment that my parents owned, next to the apartment that I grew up in. So I was living in 9K, and my parents were in 9J, and I was basically a freeloader. My father would come in every morning in his underwear and say, "Hey Mark, what do you want for breakfast? You want scrambled eggs? You want French toast?" And every night, after a 15 hour day of shooting on Long Island, I would come home and my mother would be waiting by the door like a gunslinger in a nightgown. As my fingers would graze the doorknob, she'd rip it open and go, "Hi Mark, would you like to come in for a black-and-white cookie?" Of course, being a dutiful, good son, I'd go in and listen to the list of women she met on Madison Avenue and count the number of blocks she walked. Which was always a fun activity at 11:30 at night.
There were two years where my brother and his wife and their baby lived on 9L on the other side. We were really in this Feuerstein family sandwich. We were 9J, 9K, and 9L. When I spoke to a producer about it, we said, "Hey, this might be a good idea for a TV show."
On the show you're working with the legendary Elliot Gould and Linda Lavin. Were your parents happy to be played by them on the show?
They were thrilled. We got our first choices with pretty much every part on the show. You can't do better than Elliot Gould or Linda Lavin. These are legends. There were other names on lists, but none of them invoked the same amount of joy in my father and my mother respectively. They're one-of-a-kind talents and human beings. They're different from my real parents. Elliot as Harry is a little less of a domineering or intense person, and in the hands of Linda Lavin, Judy is far more domineering than my actual mother is.
This show is heavily inspired by your life. When you're coming up with ideas for episodes and taking from your personal lives, are you worried about people close to you trying to find themselves too much in the show? Or do you run disclaimers by people? Or do you try not to think about that?
That's a great question. The truth is, I was smart enough to base those stories that are true on things that happened with my actual parents and my brother, who, because of the nature of family, and you can't live with them and can't live without them, would never have disowned me or excommunicated me. They kind of had to accept what I was telling them. They were very gracious about it, and very excited. They're incredibly supportive. When it comes to other things that might be loosely based in reality, like names or something: I do come from a family of lawyers. My father and my brother respectively. So when they hear that our friend Barry Stein's name is being used, my brother will give me a call and say, "Dude, you can't mention Barry Stein. Or you gotta check with Barry, because who knows if he's gonna be okay with that or if that's a legal issue." They're more paranoid than the CBS legal department. So we're not going to get in any trouble because we're duly protected.
We're glad you have great legal consultation! We're excited to see the rest of the season.
Thank you so much.
9JKL airs Mondays at 8:30/7:30c on CBS. For more info, check your local listings.
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