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On the phone, John Corbett is exactly who you think he is—or rather, who you hope he is—based on whichever of his many characters you first fell in love with. Maybe it was Ian Hammond in 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Perhaps it was his first appearance in July 2000 as Aidan Shaw in Sex and the City. Or Chris Stevens on Northern Exposure. Or as the widowed Dr. Covey in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Or maybe it was one of the other 70-plus TV and movie credits to his name. The 59-year-old in conversation is as charming and sweet as any of the men he plays onscreen.
That's probably one of the reasons more than 27 million people have viewed the trailer for his newest project, ABC's Rebel, in which he plays Katey Sagal's third husband, Grady. The show, inspired by Erin Brockovich's life as a legal advocate for the underdog, also stars Andy Garcia and is executive-produced by Grey's Anatomy showrunner and executive producer Krista Vernoff. It's the kind of series that requires tuning in, if for no other reason than to see the powerhouse acting and producing team bring these characters and stories to life.
“I've had a few people approach me on the street already to tell me they love Rebel,” Corbett tells Glamour. “That's pretty cool, and we've only been on for one episode. By episode three, I think you'll be hooked. There's a bit of a shocker each week, which is really fun."
Speaking of shockers, Corbett's Grady seemed to be the kind of good guy fans have come to expect…but at the end of the first episode, he pulls a 180 and tells Rebel he wants a divorce. So what's the deal?
“He’s super complex and immature,” Corbett says of the character. “Rebel spends a lot of time helping strangers out with the smallest details of her life, and here he’s married to her and gets almost zero time with her. I think anyone in that situation after 10 years would start to feel a little lonely and negated. Maybe he says it to get her attention or maybe it’s to really get a divorce. We’ll find out why soon enough.”
Less easy to find out is just who John Corbett is offscreen. We know he lives a relatively quiet life outside Los Angeles with his partner of nearly two decades, actor and model Bo Derek, but without an official Instagram or Twitter account to his name, he's kind of a mystery. “I'm not an oversharer by nature, so there’s no place for me in social media,” he says with a laugh. “I like that. I like when people had to write a fan letter and it had to go somewhere, be received, and then you wait to hear back with maybe a signed photo or response. I don’t like the immediate stuff.”
So, during a 35-minute interview, we challenged Corbett to a round of Inappropriate Questions, Glamour’s column that asks all the cheeky, slightly off-kilter stuff that he was more than game to answer. Whether it was returning for more Sex and the City or making an appearance on Darren Star's other series, Emily in Paris, nothing was off-limits. If you loved Corbett before, get ready to fall even harder.
Glamour: I don’t know if you know this story, but Rebel creator Krista Vernoff recently tweeted that Grady was originally named Aidan because she pictured you when she was writing the script.
John Corbett: When I read the first script and was told they were interested in me for the show, the character was Aidan. So when we had our first conversation, I told her I still get called Aidan a lot, so we might want to change his name, and she came up with three names. I think it was Charlie, Tommy, and Grady. The Aidan thing would have been too weird for me to have that name in this also.
What do you do when people call you Aidan in real life? Do you respond?
Yeah! This is what I do for a living. I’ve done so many independent movies that I’ve worked hard on that were really good that nobody ever saw. You become an actor because you’re a bit of a “Hey, look at me” kind of a person so, yeah, you can call me whatever. Most people don’t know my name, by the way. They know me as, “Hey, Big Fat Greek Wedding guy!” or because of Northern Exposure. And that’s okay! I’m happy they don’t, actually, because a lot goes along with it when you’re a famous name. I like that they call me by my character names.
Have you watched Emily in Paris?
No, I haven’t heard of it.
It’s from Darren Star and stars Lily Collins as a fashion-obsessed social media editor who moves from Chicago to Paris. In many ways, it’s an homage to Carrie Bradshaw. I asked Lucas Bravo, who plays Emily’s love interest, which character he most related to from Sex and the City. He said Aidan, noting, “He was so nice and down-to-earth. The episode where he comes back and his hair is short and he’s smoking a cigar? I was like, ‘I think I have a man crush for this person.’”
Well, I’m going to have to see it now because I like this guy a whole bunch already.
Or just guest-star on the show. As a SATC alum, you could reunite with Darren as well as costume designer Patricia Field.
Oui oui! And let me tell you a Patricia Field story: She is probably my favorite costumer and personality. I love them all, but she, in particular, is just a fantastic personality. If anyone has ever met her, they know exactly what I’m talking about. She let me keep every item of clothing I ever wore on the show.
I have it! I have every item I’ve ever worn on the show, down to the Calvin Klein tighty whities whenever I was in a bathroom scene with Carrie. I have the white shirt from the episode where Aidan says, “You broke my heart!” I got everything, and this was expensive stuff! The shoes that I wore were Prada and $700 and I still wear those. She’s amazing and let me keep everything. I love her.
That’s amazing. So just think of the clothes you’d get to wear on Emily in Paris!
I’m kind of fancy when I go out to dinner. I would look good in some of those things they wear back then. Is the series from the 1700s, or is it current day?
No, it’s current day. [Laughs.] Speaking of Sex and the City, though, have you been approached about the revival, And Just Like That…?
They have not reached out to me, so I feel that ship has probably sailed. No one from their camp has reached out.
Would you do it?
Yeah, absolutely! I loved every bit of being involved in it.
What would Aidan be up to now?
I feel like Aidan is one of those guys that five years or 10 years from now, he’s probably going to be doing the same thing. He’s kind of vaporous in his life; he tries one thing, then does something else, and he’s always got another thing going. I think he would probably be wearing some of the same clothes, working on furniture, and driving an old truck. He’ll probably be doing that until he’s old and gray, and he’ll have a wood shop somewhere. He’s a real solid dude, and not much changes with a guy like that.
Do you hear from fans who are still upset that Carrie picked Big over Aidan?
When people see me, they always lie and say they’re Team Aidan even though I know they’re not. [Laughs.] Even I’m not Team Aidan. I think Bo [Derek] even said she was Team Big. There was no way for that story to end with Carrie and anybody else but Big. It was so glaringly obvious that Big was the match for her. There’s two lovers that Carrie has: New York City and Mr. Big. There was just no way for her to love Aidan and move to Cleveland. It wasn’t going to work out like that.
You deserved someone better, anyway.
Well, yeah, because she didn’t give back the love that she was given! He deserved better!
Fans also love you as Dr. Covey in To All the Boys, and now we’re hearing there might be a spin-off focusing on Kitty. Is that something you’ve been approached about, or you would like to do?
You know, I did extra work for two years on shows like ChiPs, Cagney & Lacey, etc. All you hope is that someone notices you and maybe you’ll get a line. That rarely happens, but if you decide to stay at it, work hard, go to acting class, and things go your way and you get lucky, then one day maybe you do get a line, and then that line leads to two, and then next thing you know, you’ve made a couple dollars doing it and you’re in your 20s, paying your rent and getting a job here and there. And then you get a guest-star on The Wonder Years, like I did, that pays you $8,000 and that’s more money than you’ve ever had in your hand at once in your life. That’s all your goal is—to be hired and paid as an actor and maybe not have to do anything else. So even today, at 40 years into this, that’s still my goal. I’m an actor for hire, and I’m always open to every opportunity that comes my way. Maybe I’ll do it, maybe I won’t, depending on a lot of other things, but I’m always available for employment.
Speaking of The Wonder Years, you were credited as Jack Corbett according to IMDb. Is that true?
It’s true. When I signed up for the Screen Actors Guild, there was already an actor named John Corbett. But actually, on my first SAG card, my name was Nate Corbett because my grandpa’s name was Nate and I couldn’t use John. I tried out Nate for a while and still have some old headshots with Nate Corbett on it, but no one ever called me Nate. My dad was also John, but his whole family called him Jack, so I tried out Jack. I didn’t want to be John J. Corbett because I didn’t like the sound of that. So I tried out Jack Corbett. It didn’t really fit even though I’m credited as Jack Corbett on The Wonder Years. When I got Northern Exposure two years later, they asked me what name I wanted to use on my credit. I just said John Corbett, and that was it! Nobody ever contested it. I wonder what happened to the other John Corbett, but I beat him to the punch. I think the time limit has run out on it.
I also read you have a big birthday coming up next month, right?
I can’t believe it. Yes, time goes by quick. I will be the number 60 next month.
Well, congrats! So what’s a great birthday for John Corbett?
I love pizza, like a margherita pizza or maybe even a pepperoni pizza, with a couple beers. I like an ice-cream fudge cake after, and that’s it. [Laughs.] My birthday falls on a Sunday this year, and I'll have the day off from work, so I think those delicious things are in store. The last time I had a birthday part was when I was turning 13, and I just didn’t like it. I’m an only child and kind of a loner by heart, and I still only have about three super-close friends. So even if I had a birthday party, I wouldn’t know most of the people there. [Laughs.] I’ll hang out with Bo, and she makes a fantastic pizza. Then she’ll give me a birthday kiss, and that’s going to be as exciting as that would be.
Speaking of, you guys have been together now for almost 20 years. If you could go back and tell yourself anything right before you met her, what would it be?
Try not to say the F-bomb so much. Oh my God! It’s just such a part of my vocabulary, and I’m really working hard not to use it in this interview. I even forget and use it around small children, and Bo gives me the look and goes, “Hey!” And I’ll say, “What?!” [Laughs.] So yeah, it probably would be to have better grammar and to read more because we play Jeopardy! every night. I have over 30 Jeopardy! episodes saved on our DVR, and quite a few of them are still Alex Trebek’s final Jeopardys. I’ve made my DVR keep them. We watch it every night if I’m not working. If there’s 20 questions, I get like two right, and Bo gets all the rest. I wish I read more and was smarter. She knows everything about everything.
What would she say is the most romantic thing you’ve ever done for her?
Probably make her dinner since she usually makes dinner. I’m a pretty good cook, but I get lazy. On her birthday I get her gifts, but I’m not the flowery guy with a dozen roses. I should do that more. For Valentine’s Day, we’ve been together so long that sometimes we think it’s a cheesy holiday. You can’t even get into a restaurant because they are so packed, so we’re not Valentine-y kind of people. It’s not that romantic, but it’s doing something nice like surprising her by making dinner.
You must be doing something right because 20 years is cause for celebration. It’s hard enough for me to get a damn date.
We’re trying to! I think we’ve done okay so far, so I say we keep doing it.
Finally, of all the amazing characters you’ve played, who is the closest to who you are?
I would probably say my character from Northern Exposure, if any Glamour readers still remember that. Chris Stevens was very philosophical and saw things in kind of an enlightened way. Not that I’m enlightened, but I am philosophical and do have a different perspective sometimes on things. But you can't even find the show now because it had so much music in it. They can’t rerun it because the royalties they’d have to pay would be so extravagant. Even when they made the DVDs, they had to swap out all the music and put in generic music they could get on the cheap. The music was another character of the show, it was so great. But yeah, it’s not on any streaming service. It’s obscure and probably gone forever.
You’re a musician, you should rerecord it.
[Laughs.] Rob Morrow and I tried to do a reboot of the show actually last year, but they just weren't even interested in it. I think that thing is like the Titanic. It’s at the bottom of the ocean.
Never say never. Maybe you do Southern Exposure and you guys go to Florida.
I like where your head’s at! They can’t say I’m ripping ’em off if I call it Southern Exposure. That’s not trademarked. I gotta get a pencil and paper and get to work.
I feel like you’re the type of guy who keeps a journal and writes things down.
I do keep a journal. It’s so funny you say that. I’ve got so many filled up, and they’re so fun to pull out. It might say something simple like, Tuesday, October 3, I had a sandwich and coffee at noon and I’m going to mow the lawn. And then sometimes it’s pages of stuff.
Do you mow the lawn?
I do! I do everything where we live. We don’t have any help at all. We have a lot of acreage, and I do it all. I mow the lawn. We have a pool, so I’m my own pool guy. Bo does it all too. We have horses and that’s her thing. That’s what she was doing this morning, out in the stalls with a rake.
This is why I wish you had an Instagram account, because you lead such an interesting life. But even more so, my wish is to get you on Emily in Paris. You’ll love Lucas, who plays Gabriel.
Maybe I could be Gabriel's best friend! Or maybe I could be his lover! You pitch it and tell Darren [Star]. I am in love with Paris. I’ve been there two or three times. I ate all the butter and bread, and oddly enough I was a pound less when I came back. I need to go to Paris and be on [Emily in Paris]. If you make it happen for me, there’s 10% in there for you.
Rebel airs Thursdays at 10/9c on ABC.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. You can follow her on Instagram @jessicaradloff14.
Originally Appeared on Glamour