NBC's Growing Up Fisher has charmed audiences on Tuesday nights. As the comedy nears the close of its first season, BFTV connected with star Eli Baker to ask him about stepping into the central role of eleven-year-old Henry Fisher and what it's like to have J.K. Simmons and Jenna Elfman as your TV parents.
"It was crazy!" he told us of landing the part. "I went from being just a regular kid in Connecticut - playing sports, dancing, singing, and going to middle school - to shooting a TV show in Los Angeles. Sometimes I think that it was better that it happened so quickly, because it didn’t give me time to think about it and get nervous."
"I love playing Henry Fisher, because he is just a regular kid. It’s cool because everyone, no matter what age, can relate to him on some level," Eli continued. "I was interested in this role because I knew that the show was based on a real family. It’s such an honor to have been asked to play DJ Nash, the executive producer and showrunner. He is truly one of the nicest guys in Hollywood."
He came to the series from a background in theatre, and while he's made a successful transition, he talked to us about the differences between mediums. "Working on a TV show differs from stage in that it is more real. You do not have to project your voice or act large for the audience. With that said, it is also easier in that you can have many takes should you not be happy with what you just shot. You only have one opportunity to hit it out of the park in a stage production," he said.
"The similarities are that in both TV/film and stage, the crew works incredibly long hours in an effort to make actors look good. I had no idea what went into either prior to doing it. It’s unbelievable."
Growing Up Fisher seems like a plum series for a young actor to work on, especially when you look at its cast. Henry's parents, Mel and Joyce Fisher, are played by TV veterans J.K. Simmons (Law & Order, the face of the Farmers Insurance commercials) and Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg, 1600 Penn). What's it like for Eli to have these two well-known actors as his faux family?
"J.K. Simmons is incredible at his craft. He is so multi-dimensional. Every day working with him is like taking a masterclass in acting. The way he plays a blind guy is just amazing," Eli enthused. "And Jenna is a comedic genius. She takes lines that are meant to just play for the script and makes them hilarious. She is also a great role model, as she treats everyone around her with such warmth and respect."
Beyond the inspired casting, there's a lot to love about this new comedy. "I have to say that I have had so much fun shooting all of the episodes," he continued. "I recently spent some time with DJ’s parents, and I can tell you that this family is awesome and there is no lack of hysterical stories to tell. The 'Hellnado' episode was particularly great to film because they set up a real carnival with rides, games, and endless amounts of cotton candy between takes. My sisters flew in and were extras in that episode."
"Every episode ends with a life lesson, so I hope that viewers take that away each week," Eli reflected. "I also hope that it helps people to recognize that whether you eat gourmet food off china plates or pizza around a kitchen sink, or have a disabled family member, or a quirky mom, all families have something that makes them special."
So what about Eli's real family? Have they influenced how he interacts with his fictional one? "I am so lucky and grateful to have such a wonderful family. Both my parents and my sisters are incredibly supportive of me and what I am doing," he told us. "I definitely think of my real family when I am shooting sentimental scenes with my parents and with my sister, [played by] Ava Deluca-Verley. It’s nice to be able to bring my real life experiences into my acting.
"With that said, now that we have shot 13 episodes of Growing Up Fisher, all of the cast has developed strong chemistry with each other," he added. "We are all very close. I love working with them."
And when he's off the clock, "I am a huge sports fan. I play competitive soccer and lacrosse, and I love watching just about every type of game. I also love cars and music. I am a dancer and singer, too, so music has always been a huge part of my life," Eli told us. "As far as TV shows are concerned, my number one show is obviously Growing Up Fisher, but The Walking Dead is a close second."
Growing Up Fisher airs Tuesdays at 9:30 PM ET/PT on NBC.