Talk about a golden moment.
Nat Faxon, who stars in the new Fox comedy Ben and Kate (premiering tonight), found out he'd been cast in the show the day after winning an Oscar. "It was a thrilling couple of days," says the multitalented Boston native, who took home the Adapted Screenplay trophy for cowriting The Descendants. "Of course, then I was terrified that something horrible was gonna happen because too many good things [were] happening!"
Au contraire: We think his good fortune is only beginning. Thanks in no small part to the hyper-funny Faxon, Ben and Kate—about an unemployed charmer (Faxon) who drops in on younger-but-way-more-responsible sister, Kate (Dakota Johnson), and proceeds to majorly shake up both of their lives, is one of the more promising new shows of the season.
Here, five reasons we're all about Faxon—who honed his comedy chops as a member of L.A.'s renowned improv troupe the Groundlings, and why you will be, too:
1. He's No Divo—At Least Not Yet: Exhibit A: Faxon has yet to bring that Oscar into work with him. "Maybe if my role is ever threatened or something, I'll bring it in," he says. For now, though, "It stays at home." Where, admittedly, he never gets tired of looking at it. "It's still a very sort of surreal thing," he says of his February win. "I still have disbelief that all that actually happened. It feels like an alternate reality to me."
2. He's Got Mad Respect for the Real Ben Fox: Series creator Dana Fox based Ben the character on a younger version of her own brother Ben, and Faxon got to witness the guy's particular brand of irrepressible magic when the two hung out together during the upfronts in New York. "I'd go to these super-exclusive parties that were very hard for me to even get into, and there would be Ben Fox at the bar like, ‘Hey man, what took you so long?'" remembers Faxon with a laugh. "He's just got that intoxicating energy. He's sort of like a roller-coaster ride—you just wanna get on and see what happens."
3. …Maybe Because He's Not All That Unlike Him: It may be hard to believe that this overachieving multihyphenate—who, along with writing partner Jim Rash (Community), spent the summer directing his first feature, The Way, Way Back, starring Steve Carell, could have anything in common with a scattered schemer like Ben. But according to Faxon, the two aren't all that different beneath the surface. "We're similar in the sense of our energy and spontaneity and the willingness to take on whatever challenge or obstacle comes our way," he says. "[But] I have a little bit more direction, so I'm able to harness that energy a bit more."
4. He's Got George Clooney on Speed Dial: Which, naturally, led us to ask Faxon if he might try to persuade The Descendants' leading man to do a guest shot on his new show. "It feels like he should, you know," Faxon says. "After everything that I've done for him, it just feels like he should return the favor!" He's obviously joking, but we're not: Put in the call, Faxon. Make it happen.
5. He's Man With a Plan: The actor's well aware that his new comedy will be facing some stiff time-slot competition. So, to compete with Dancing With the Stars and The Voice, "I am going to try and do a different dance every episode," he deadpans. "Maybe a samba, maybe a waltz. And we're gonna sing as well."
But seriously, who needs all that when you've got a secret weapon? "We have the most adorable child that's ever hit TV [Maggie Elizabeth Jones, who plays Ben's 5-year-old niece/partner-in-crime, Maddie]. I think that's what'll put us over the edge."
It seems this is one actor who doesn't mind being upstaged by precocious kid. "She can steal every scene we're in together," says Faxon, "as long as the show does well."
Tell us: Will you be tuning into the premiere of Ben and Kate?