Make no mistake, this isn't 'Uncle Jesse.' Full House star John Stamos is starring in the Disney+ show 'Big Shot' (releasing on Friday, April 16), which pitches him as a gruff, angry coach that is a contrast to the cool, sitcom-uncle generations of viewers have come to love.
In the 10-episode series, Stamos plays Marvyn Korn, a NCAA men’s basketball coach who is relegated to coaching at a girls private school after his aggressive antics get him kicked out of the league. Now, he works under the school’s dean, played by Yvette Nicole Brown, with assistant coach Holly Barrett (Jessalyn Gilsig).
This gruff, angry coach makes a terrible first impression with his new high school basketball team, including incredibly inappropriate comments like telling one of the players Destiny Winters (Tiana Le) she has to lose weight. But he gets a wake up call when she pushes right back and calls him a bully.
Stamos took a more drastic approach to getting into character for Big Shot, trying to shed his fun, goofy, happy demeanour for this role.
“I really love to talk to people, I love to goof around on the set,...I made a decision to not do any of that the first couple [of] episodes,” Stamos said in an interview earlier this week. “I didn't want to know the girls, I didn't want to connect with them off camera, I didn't want to connect with them on camera."
“I think it was very important to sort of stay in character, which I usually never do this, but I thought [it] would be helpful and it was… I barely knew their names after the first week or so. So as Korn loosened up to them, of course I did as well.”
Korn’s relationship with his team is all connected to his distant relationship with his daughter Emma (Sophia Mitri Schloss), who eventually ends up moving west to live with her father. Korn turns into a supportive, father-like figure for the team, while he’s figuring out how to be a more present father for his own daughter.
Stamos also said he tapped into his own father's demeanour for the role, who the actor described as “gruff” but “sweet on the inside.”
'I was picked on by the sports guys'
While many people may be more used to seeing Stamos in comedic, lighthearted roles, it was actually the basketball aspect of the show that threw the actor for a loop. He revealed it was even harder for him to understand the basketball world than to wrap his head around the medical jargon on ER. He even started listening to heavy metal music while he was working through the character of Korn.
“I don't like sports, I never played sports, I was a band geek in high school, a band geek now,” Stamos said. “I was picked on by the sports guys, I was a punk, and I was a geek.”
“The sports guys...I was afraid of them, there was always somebody that wanted to beat me up too, I hated it.”
Stamos actually got professional help from basketball executive and former player Jerry West to prepare for this role.
“He texted me the other day and said ‘John, I just finished watching the trailer and found you very much to be like coaches that I've had in my life. I'm certainly not an actor but you've done a great job capturing the image that many coaches try to convey to young people,’” Stamos shared.
Big Shot was also one of the shows that was impacted by COVID-19, closing down production three times during the process, with Stamos having to isolate from his wife and three-year-old son.
“My friend actually, Dan Fogelman, his show shut down, This Is Us, and then I called him, I go ‘what's going on,’ it was like a war or something,” Stamos said. “Right when it happened...it was like, wait a minute I’m losing control here, we're trying to control it and we couldn't.”
Does it hold up to the great teen dramas of the past?
This kind of emotionally-charged redemption story, at least throughout the first three episodes of the series, is definitely a callback to the teen-focused dramas any Millennial is very much familiar with. The show even includes familiar characters like Louise Gruzinsky (Nell Verlaque), a star player who has an overbearing father pushing her to the brink to succeed. There is definitely the same essence of shows like One Tree Hill, or Friday Night Lights and maybe even a little bit of The O.C. in the personal lives of the characters.
With Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelley at the helm of this project as well, you can particularly see the connection in the more dramatic moments, while you also sense other co-creators, Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett and Arrested Development producer Dean Lorey, in some of the lighter or more comedic moments.
Stamos revealed in the interview earlier this week that at one point in the process, he thought maybe the series makes Korn nice too soon.
“Almost sometimes I felt like they've made him too nice too soon but then he kind of takes a step back, two steps forward, one step back and, you know, I guess you don't want to watch a whole season of a jackass,” he said.
Korn does seem to almost entirely shed his tough exterior by the third episode. While his aggression still seems to be at the core of the story, Korn is basically fully into his Eric Taylor “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” energy early on.
One thing that will likely set the tone for the future of this series is how much attention it gives to the personal stories of the girls on this basketball team - hopefully they are more of a focus in later episodes.
It definitely has the potential to succeed if the balance between the stories of the high school girls and Korn’s personal journey as a father is right. It may be too early to tell but let’s see if Big Shot can provide the comfort of some of our favourite teen dramas, or if it crumbles under predictability.