This Father’s Day, it’s important to remember that fatherhood is complicated — so much so that TV has shown us countless examples of the best and worst child-rearing this season alone. There are devoted dads who are determined to give their kids a sense of cultural identity (Anthony Anderson, “Black-ish”) or will advocate for a child with special needs (John Ross Bowie, “Speechless”). Some dads will carry you on their back — all three of you (Milo Ventimiglia, “This is Us”). And I’m sure most dads know what it’s like to have to rescue their children after they’ve been abducted to Cuba by their con artist grandfather (Jason Jones, “The Detour”).
Some dads do their best even though they didn’t meet their children until they were grown (Jaime Camil in “Jane the Virgin,” Jay Duplass in “Transparent”), and some keep fighting for their children even after they’re gone (Kevin Carroll in “The Leftovers,” Benito Martinez in “American Crime”).
So let’s appreciate all the best dads, and how better to do that than by comparison to some pretty objectively terrible ones. Some want to drown their kids — though only to save the world (Scott Glenn, “The Leftovers”). Others are so bitter and resentful they can barely acknowledge their kids (Timothy Hutton, “American Crime”). Some are abusers (Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”), and some are really just dark manifestations of your dangerous impulses (Christian Slater, “Mr. Robot”), while others are just straight-up Nazis (Rufus Sewell, “The Man in the High Castle”).
We’ve interviewed a number of TV’s most memorable dads this season, from the sterling examples to the cautionary tales. Watch them below.
Anthony Anderson (“Black-ish”): “I breathed life into those words from my own experience and passion, how I was feeling, how my family and friends were feeling, so not only was I speaking for the character, I was speaking for myself and for a lot of other people.” (Watch Now)
John Ross Bowie (“Speechless”): “Jimmy is so cool and unflappable. It’s fun to pretend for 23 weeks that I’m this guy that lets things slide and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.” (Watch Now)
Jaime Camil (“Jane the Virgin”): “It was a brilliant move to show hints of how it was losing Michael, but then let’s keep the energy and the soul of the show going. Eventually time heals you and then you go back into your normal life.” (Watch Now)
Kevin Carroll (“The Leftovers”): “I wasn’t ready for the show to end, and it’s difficult to come to terms with, but that’s the thing about all great shows — and all shows that are not so great — is that they all come to an end at some point, so as an actor you learn to live with that notion.” (Watch Now)
Thomas Haden Church (“Divorce”): “There’s a mutuality to friends and family and clergymen that have gone through divorce. Just being an adult, there’s an aggregate of information about those situations, and then of course, everybody’s gone through breakups.” (Watch Now)
Jay Duplass (“Transparent”): “That moment was so special because she walked in accidentally and we decided there on the moment to let Josh say that it was okay for her to be there. It was powerful to see someone as ego-driven as Josh can be to let his sister in and let her witness what will be a soul crushing moment and be there for him.” (Watch Now)
Scott Glenn (“The Leftovers”): “The value of the show is not so much answering questions, but getting the audience at the end to ask themselves those questions in a deeper personal way. At the end of the show, you are asking yourself what does it mean when you say the word ‘family.’ What does that really mean?” (Watch Now)
Timothy Hutton (“American Crime”): “There was nothing like the first season. We all came together and there was something new and raw about it.” (Watch Now)
Jason Jones (“The Detour”): “If the theme we were exploring in season one was, ‘Are we good parents?’ then the season-two theme is ‘Who the hell did I marry?'” (Watch Now)
Benito Martinez (“American Crime”): “This character doesn’t say anything unless he needs to. He’s all eyes, all research, all searching. He’s very curious, and heartbroken because he doesn’t know where his son is.” (Watch Now)
Tim Matheson (“Killing Reagan”): “When Nancy came in and he said ‘Nancy, I forgot to duck.’ That got very emotional for me. I was overcome with emotion. It was surprising: the gravity of it, the humour of it and the contrast between those.” (Watch Now)
Nick Nolte (“Graves”): “[My character is] going back and correcting his mistakes. How would an ex-President do that? He can’t do it politically, but he can do it by showing interest in the new thinking that he has.” (Watch Now)
Geoffrey Rush (“Genius”): “For someone who’s as treasured in the public’s imagination as Albert Einstein, you have to honor the gift you’ve been given that role to play.” (Watch Now)
Peter Scolari (“Girls”): “It felt like [Hannah, played by Lena Dunahm] was my daughter some weeks. With my wife I’d watch episodes I wasn’t in and go, ‘What the hell are you doing Hannah? Don’t steal that bicycle.’” (Watch Now)
Adam Scott (“Big Little Lies”): “I grew up in Santa Cruz, which is a 20-minute drive from Monterrey and so culturally, it’s very similar — little Bay Area towns up there, so I felt like the work-from-home dad, I felt like I knew that guy. I grew up around a lot of those guys.” (Watch Now)
Rufus Sewell (“The Man in the High Castle”): “I think that it’s a very interesting time for this show. It’s about how people normalize, and we can see it. It’s like yesterday’s horror, it doesn’t seem to be horrific in the same way.” (Watch Now)
Alexander Skarsgard (“Big Little Lies”): “It’s really weird to do those scenes for an entire day and then jump in your car and drive home. I was lucky because we shot the most violent stuff here in LA in a studio. I’m staying with close friends out here and they have amazing kids, so it was nice to have that family life and to come home to a home filled with love.” (Watch Now)
Christian Slater (“Mr. Robot”): “It was really a bizarre thing to be going long in a particular direction with the show and then spending those days living in that kind of surreal very different kind of world and the delivery of those lines — there’s something so static about it and there’s such a particular rhythm to sitcom communication that I found it extraordinarily challenging.” (Watch Now)
Matt Smith (“The Crown”): “For any man at the time, having to kneel before your wife. He lost his job. He lost his family name, and the kids took her name.” (Watch Now)
Billy Bob Thornton (“Goliath”): “This is a guy who’s had his ups and downs: so do actors. You go through a period where you’re really on top, and you hit the skids for a while, and you come back and that kind of thing. So it was kind of a natural part to play, really.” (Watch Now)
Milo Ventimiglia (“This is Us”): “[My character’s] entire existence is defined by his family, first by his marriage and second by his kids. The longer he spends with his wife and his kids, the more he falls enamored by them, so he’ll do anything.” (Watch Now)
Titus Welliver (“Bosch”): “This season, we really kind of took Harry Bosch down to the studs. He has sort of taken some steps on his own, and it’s somewhat compromised his moral compass a bit.” (Watch Now)
Fred Willard (“Modern Family”): “[Ty Burrell] obviously loves me as his dad. We have the same sense of humor. I can joke with him and he’ll say, ‘Oh, Dad, cut it out. He just plays right along with it.” (Watch Now)
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