With two kids of his own, Evanston native Anders Holm is familiar with what it means to be a father. Still, playing the dad of a 15-year-old in the NBC comedy “Champions” is a “bit of a trip.”
“That’s really not something I’m in touch with because my oldest is a 4-year-old,” he said. “And I’m not a super responsible guy in real life, so to be put in charge of somebody at 15 — my character and I are in the same boat.”
His character, confirmed bachelor Vince, has to make room in that metaphorical boat for the son he never knew he had. The comedy, from Mindy Kaling and Charlie Grandy, opens when one of Vince’s high school flings, Priya (recurring guest star Kaling), surprises Vince with news that he is the father of her teen son, Michael (J.J. Totah).
She and Michael then announce that he will move in with Vince to attend a performing arts high school nearby.
Vince, a former high school baseball star who runs his family’s Brooklyn gym, and his Patti LuPone-quoting, fashion-loving gay son couldn’t be more different. He and Matthew immediately butt heads, while the kid finds more support from his uncle, Vince’s younger brother, Matthew (Andy Favreau).
Holm’s transition from Evanston Township High School student to comedy champion took a lot of hard work, but as one of the four people who created the comedy collective Mail Order Comedy, he pretty much charted his own course after awhile.
Holm is best known as one of the stars of “Workaholics,” which ran for seven seasons on Comedy Central after humble beginnings online. He created and wrote the series with co-stars Adam Devine and Blake Anderson, as well as director Kyle Newacheck — all his Mail Order Comedy buddies.
Holm appeared in several movies while doing “Workaholics,” including “The Intern” and “How to Be Single.” He also guest starred as Kaling’s character’s love interest, Casey, in her Fox series “The Mindy Project.”
When that series and “Workaholics” ended in 2017, Kaling showed him the “Champions” script, which he loved.
“When good people come to you with a good project, you’re crazy if you’re like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to take some time and whatever — nah.’ ” he told TV critics in January. “And it turned out to be a good call.”
Holm said shooting the series feels like home because many of the crew members are the same people he worked with on “The Mindy Project.” Holm, who also is a producer for the new series, said one difference between working on a broadcast network show compared to one on a cable network or streaming service is how careful the production is about message.
“‘Workaholics’ had no message. This show has a message,” he said.
“Champions” (premiering at 8:30 p.m. Thursday on WMAQ-Channel 5) will tackle a number of modern issues. Episodes will deal with how women are perceived in gym culture, Michael’s exploration of his Indian culture, and “a straight white man trying to give the sex talk to his openly gay, half-Indian son, and what does he need to learn in order to do that,” co-creator Grandy said.
Holm said he enjoys flexing a new, more subtle acting muscle compared to the broader acting of “Workaholics” and the upcoming film “Game Over, Man!” The film, written by Holm, will premiere March 23 on Netflix. He and his “Workaholics” co-stars play three waiters who go from underachieving slackers to warriors when terrorists take hostages at the fancy hotel where they work.
“[‘Champions’] is not as loose as we let ‘Workaholics’ be, so as an actor it’s more challenging to rein it in and be funny in a sharp way like ‘Mindy Project’ was and ‘Champions’ is,” Holm said.
Another adjustment Holm has had to make is being the first actor on the call sheet, which means he helps set the tone for the production.
“I tried to be No. 69 on the call sheet, and they were like, ‘Do you want to work here?’ ” he said, adding that when he told them he did, they responded, “‘OK, so you’re No. 1; don’t be a weirdo.’ ”
He said he’s not much of a rah-rah, quarterback type of leader. “I’m just doing my thing, having fun,” he said. “Hopefully that has a ripple effect where everyone else is like, ‘All right, cool. He’s not a jerk. Let’s have fun.’ ”
When it’s suggested his attitude gives away his Midwestern origins, he doesn’t disagree. He learned how to “keep it real” while growing up in Evanston, he said.
“I’m a pretty boring guy that happens to be from a place that’s off the hook. That’s it in a nutshell.” Said Holm, who has known his wife, Emma Nesper, since they were 12. “Evanston knows what’s up.”
Read more from Curt Wagner at tvshowpatrol.com.