These days, Jason Bateman has a busy movie career, with starring roles in recent hits like Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief and Juno. But the actor who got his start in the ’80s on Little House on the Prairie and Silver Spoons remains close to his TV roots, having been part of Netflix’s Arrested Development resurrection last year and, now as a producer of the NBC sitcom Growing Up Fisher, for which he also serves as narrator. We asked him about the series, which debuts Feb 23, future projects and past indiscretions.
What was it about Growing Up Fisher that made you want to get involved with it as a producer? Will you direct any episodes?
Jim Garavente and I have a production company and we’re always looking to be involved in television. It’s a medium that I love, that I grew up on, and I want to be in business with the people who are writing and creating the best television that’s going on right now. This is a very personal show, concept and premise that perhaps on paper might read as soft, but talking with [creator] DJ Nash led me to believe that there is a light sensibility and a light sense of humor that can address some of the issues that are pleasantly heartwarming, but done in a way that is current, modern, sophisticated and palatable to the more cynical people in the audience like myself. As far as the directing, maybe—we’ll see.
You started in show business at 12. What words of advice do you have for navigating and surviving in this business?
I guess my biggest advice is to manage your expectations and know that unfortunately, it’s not a meritocracy, and so if one is expecting employment based on your abilities as an actor, you might want to temper that because there are many, many more intangible aspects to getting a job, or uncontrollable aspects to getting a job, than exist in other fields. If you’re willing to play under those rules, then have at it, but I wouldn’t recommend it for those that are highly ambitious, that have a very strong work ethic and want to be able to have full control over their ability to stay employed. I mean, in any other profession, you go to a university, you get a degree, and you’re probably guaranteed a job. You can’t really get a degree in a lot of the things in this business, and so a lot of it’s predicated on things that are oftentimes out of your control. Sometimes it’s a little unfair and a little frustrating, and just be ready for that.
Did you offer the kids on the show any advice?
They don’t need much from me, but I welcome the chance to give them any tidbits they might need or teach them how to get the prop master to make them a fake I.D. That’s always important.
You nearly derailed your career in the ’90s with heavy partying. What did you learn?
I was spending a lot of time catching up on my playtime because I worked so much, starting so young. And after I got that kind of out of my system during my 20s, I wanted to get back at it and kind of had that reality check that a place wasn’t being held for me. You kind of have to start over, but thank God Arrested Development came along
What’s the status of Arrested now?
I have no idea, we’ll see. But I would do anything with those people. That was one of the best times of my life.
You have a few movies coming up, including Bad Words, which you directed.
Yeah, it comes out in March. It really came together well. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had. Horrible Bosses 2 comes out next fall. This is Where I Leave You, I’m really proud of that one. That’s September.