After appearing on the ABC laffer “Sports Night” and the HBO drama “Six Feet Under,” Peter Krause (“Parenthood“) has returned to the peacock net where he got his TV start two decades ago on “Carol & Company. ” At just 25, he was by far the youngest member of a repertory company that also included Richard Kind and Swoozie Kurtz who supported Emmy darling Carol Burnett in half-hour comedy teleplays.
Back then, NBC was also airing its first short-lived adapation of the hit 1989 Ron Howard film “Parenthood.” That single-camera half-hour show starred Ed Begley, Jr. in the same role as Krause, which had been played by Steve Martin on screen. The show also featured Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the children. This current incarnation from creator Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”) keeps the premise of an extended family but has expanded to a full hour and changed the names of the characters.
Krause plays Adam, “a character whose chief aim in life is to be the best father he can be and the best husband he can be, and I think that is really admirable,” He is married to Kristina (Monica Potter) and father to rebellious teen daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) and Max (Max Burkholder, a boy with Asperger’s. Living nearby are Adam’s parents Zeke (Craig T. Nelson) and Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) as well as his two sisters — Sarah (Lauren Graham) and Julia (Erika Christensen) — his brother Crosby (Dax Shepard), and their respective mates and children.
To capture the true dynamic of a family, the actors are encouraged to improvise. As Krause explains, “We pay a lot of attention to what Jason writes, obviously, but he allows us the freedom to improvise, so that is one of the reasons why we talk over each other so much. It’s also the reason why it feels like families because we actually don’t know what the other characters are going to say next … particularly Dax Shepard and Craig T. Nelson.”
Comparing his experience on “Parenthood” to those of “Sports Night” and “Six Feet Under,” he says, “With Aaron Sorkin, it’s getting the sense of that dialogue right and toss it back and forth with the other actors really quickly. With Alan Ball, certainly it’s plugging in emotionally all the time with everything you are doing. With Jason Katims, it’s really interesting … we’re encouraged to take up more creative space than I have been in the past, and I think this show is all the better for it.”
Krause contended for Best Drama Actor three times for “Six Feet Under,” losing in 2002 to Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”), in 2003 to James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”), and in 2006 to Kiefer Sutherland (“24”). If he is nominated in that race this year, he may well be up against his “Six Feet Under” co-star Michael C. Hall who has reaped three consecutive bids for “Dexter.” Krause says he will choose between three episodes to submit to the Emmys judging panel. In “If This Boat is a Rockin,” Adam punches a man who calls his son retarded and then gets fatherly advice from Zeke. In “Do Not Sleep with Your Autistic Nephew’s Therapist,” Adam confronts his brother Crosby about his affair with Max’s therapist. And in the season finale, “Hard Times Come Again No More,” Adam loses his job and discovers his wife is pregnant.