CBSN

James Brolin: I was unsuited to be an actor

"I was a person who was really unsuited to be an actor," James Brolin admits. "I was just very very shy. In junior high school and high school I couldn't get up in front of anybody to do any kind of speech, to do a book report -- even if it was written. I would be shaking and sit down."

Well, James, you could have fooled us.

The award-winning actor has had a successful film and television career, both behind and in front of the camera. So, where did that young, shy boy go?

Brolin can recall the moment in his life when things changed; his life took a turn when he was teenager growing up in Los Angeles.

brolin2.jpg
James Brolin of CBS' 'Life in Pieces' attends Behind The Scenes Of The Getty Images Portrait Studio at the 2015 Summer TCA's at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Aug. 10, 2015, in Beverly Hills, California.
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

"I got an invitation to cruise through a film lot when I was around 15. And I was a big film fan ... I didn't realize it was like a construction zone. My dad became a contractor by then. And I go, 'This is just like construction. I could do that!' And I bought my first movie camera when I was 15 and decided I wanted to be on the back side of the camera and make films. Over the next few years, people pushed me onto the front side. And I'm going, 'No, no, no!' But at 19, I was signed to Fox Studios under a multiple year contract."

Now 75, Brolin stars in "Life in Pieces," the new hit sitcom on CBS that features a series of vignettes about a "really kooky family," that's "full of good intentions and big mistakes," Brolin says.

Along with Brolin, "Life in Pieces" co-stars Dianne Wiest and Colin Hanks, as well as Dan Bakkedahl ("The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), Betsy Brandt ("Breaking Bad"), Zoe Lister Jones ("New Girl"), Angelique Cabral ("Enlisted") and Thomas Sadoski ("The Slap").

brolin1.jpg
From left, Heather (Betsy Brandt), John (James Brolin) and Greg (Colin Hanks) in "Life in Pieces."
Neil Jacobs/CBS

"It's done in a black-out form where you have 4-minute scenes of each part of the family, all unrelated in a way, yet related. Each one's problem could affect the others across the street or across town," he said. "In the end, it is somewhat resolved, but crazy!"

The show got picked up for a full 22-episode order this fall, and Brolin couldn't be happier. "I'm so excited," he said.

Looking back on his early acting days, Brolin remembers staying focused and working hard to get ahead. He attended plenty of classes to hone the acting craft.

"I would go to five different workshops a week, spending every nickel I had, trying to be just decent at this side of the camera," he said. "And over the years, you find out that you were't dead every time you survive a role or a situation. I've been embarrassed so many times. And on the other hand, that's just embarrassment, I found out."

Today, Brolin still enjoys being behind the camera, too, revealing to CBS News that he's toying with the idea of making a film with his iPhone.

"This is a fresh idea of mine and I want to find some material and try to do this," he said.

"Life in Pieces" airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.