John Stamos likes to keep people guessing about what he’s going to do next. Although he is known primarily as a TV actor, he has also done movies and Broadway. And he’s been a sometime drummer for the Beach Boys for several years. Stamos is a guest star on NBC’s “The New Normal” in an episode titled “Gaydar” that premieres on January 22, 2013. In the episode, he plays a realtor named Brice who catches the eye of single, conservative grandmother Jane (played by Ellen Barkin), who can’t figure out Brice’s true sexuality. Jane is already uncomfortable with her granddaughter Goldie (played by Georgia King) being a surrogate for gay couple Bryan (played by Andrew Rannells) and David (played by Justin Bartha), who have hired Goldie to carry their baby. Bryan decides to throw a dinner party to try to find if Brice and another attractive acquaintance named Chris (played by Mark Consuelos) are gay, straight or bisexual.
In real life, Stamos (who used to be married to model-turned-actress Rebecca Romijn) has had questions and rumors about his sexuality because he has starred in musicals and he because he is a vocal supporter of gay rights. Stamos says that even though he isn’t gay, he isn’t offended if people think he’s gay, but he is offended by stereotypes that can lead to wrong assumptions. Stamos says he was advised against doing “The New Normal,” but he ignored the advice because he wanted to work with “The New Normal” co-creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy, whom Stamos describes as a “genius” visionary. Stamos talked all of that and more in a telephone conference call with journalists.
What was it like working with Ellen Barkin?
Oh, so good. I think it was our first show where we had to kiss. But we did the read through of the first episode and I felt like we're kind of cat and mousing each other and sort of circling each other. And I said to Ryan, I said, "What if I just grab in back of her hair and just make out, you know."
And then everybody looked at Ryan [Murphy, co-creator/executive producer of “The New Normal”] and then he said, "Oh my God. That's a great idea." He looked at me. And then so I think it was the first night or so we did it, and I know Ryan likes kind of surprises and he's very especially when he's directing. He's very spontaneous and he loves to kind of throw out jokes and ideas and stuff.
So it's sort of I kind of know what he likes. I've known him for so many years. And it's a great relationship with him. So I thought I'm going to stick my tongue down Ellen's throat because I want to elicit some sort of natural weird surprise or fear or whatever she was going to show because it would have worked for the character.
And the woman didn't flinch. It wasn't like there was nothing happening. It was just like OK. Looks like a normal kiss. Cut. And then we go to lunch. I was hoping for something with Ellen. I think like what's the farthest thing you can touch in the back of a throat; the uvula or whatever it was. I know I hit it and she didn't even move.
So would that be most memorable part of filming “The New Normal”?
Well, no. That was the early stuff … First of all, it was presented like, "Hey John, you're doing this." You know, from Ryan. I said, "Oh, OK. Great. What am I doing?”
Ryan is sort of the modern-day Sinatra. Remember when Sinatra used to call Sammy Davis? I'm not comparing myself to them or Dean Martin or these guys. “Oh by the way, you're doing a show on this night.” And they go “OK. What time do we get there?”
It's sort of what Ryan is. And he's always been so good to me. And he also he's also protected me in the stuff that I've done. Like he'll say, "I'm going go over and write you this. I'm going to write you that." And he always comes through for me. Always has. I've known him from right after “Full House.” We talked about doing a show together.
But when Ellen and I started working together, it was just this great chemistry and I think it was sort of set up where I would come on and do one, see if they like me, and see if I like work there. And then all of a sudden we did this great first episode and they were like, “How about tomorrow?” And I'm like, "I'm free. Let's do it."
It's the most interesting relationship. She's not that much older than me but I wanted to play that sort of relationship where … she's a tiny bit older than me but we don't talk about it. We don't do it. We just play it. And there's something fantastic when I look in her eyes, you know. We just get great stuff.
So what was it like kissing Ellen Barkin?
Well, here's the truth. When you kiss on camera — this is the absolutely truth and I'm a gentleman — you can make it look as salacious as you want without being salacious I guess is what I'm trying to say. Like you can fake a French kiss thing.
And most of the time, you do and then you sort of just leave it up to the actress however she feels because … it's just courtesy as a gentleman actor. I guess you open the door and if they want to walk into it, they walk and if they don't.
So with Ellen she was ready to play, and we did and it was a really great. Like I said it wasn't written into the script so I think I just went for it. Just grabbed the back of her hair, and in the episode I give her a makeover.
And I think you guys have been hip to what the show's about where I come on and they don't know if I'm gay or straight. And the truth is nowadays, who the hell knows. Maybe it was more defined 10, 15, 20 years ago if you were a florist or whatever, hair stylist stereotypical crap.
But in this case you just sort of can't tell, and I think she's attractive, and they have this game where they try to find out if I'm gay or not. And I'm hip to it so at the end I said, “This game of yours if it's not entertaining or whatever and I leave.”
And on the way out of the office I give her this great kiss. I said, “Why don't you just do that if you want to find out if I'm gay or not? Os that OK?” And then just kind of walk away from her. And she's laughing.
And she's we've done three episodes now. She plays this great scene that I've never seen her play and I asked her the other day. I said, “Have you ever played this?” And she's like this kind of coquettish teenager when she's around Bryce, you know. And it's a bit sweet to see Ellen do that.
But man, what an actress! We look at each other's eyes and then we just go and it's been one of the kind of the easiest and seriously the fastest chemistry I've had with someone in a long time on television.
Have you been trying to talk to Ryan Murphy to also get on his other TV show, “American Horror Story”?
I haven't, but I'm going to call him right after this.
Was there anything about your role on “The New Normal” that wasn't originally scripted for you that you felt added to the character?
There was the kiss that we put in and stuff, but the character I was thinking about it because we had to postpone, because of my schedule, the opening two gigantic scenes that are airing on January 22, 2013].
So it was interesting. So I already played through the character and sort of his result and where he ends up being. I'm not gay. You know, this is a modern world and just because a guy wears a bracelet or is into hair processing and culture and fashion doesn't make him gay, you know.
And just as I say that my gay hair stylist walks by and goes, "Here, here" you know. But I sort of played through all that. And then I had to go back to the beginning yesterday and play the guy from the start. I've never played that guy.
I've never played a guy who was you couldn't tell where he was at … I think that's the point of the episode, which is gaydar, which is that doesn't work anymore. Not that there's anything wrong with it. Sometimes I go, “Oh, great. They think I'm gay. That's cool.”
But the rules don't apply anymore. And I think that's what we were trying to get at. So I had to come on and play this guy that you didn't know what he was. And I've never done that. It was a very difficult line to walk because as it turns out he's not gay.
I had to sort of give the impression that I was but I didn't want to play into any of the stereotypes of whatever stereotypical things there are that people think of gay men and women. I asked the director too. I said, "I need some time to find this guy today because this is very important, you know.” Because that's the point of the episode and maybe some of the overall themes of the show that you can't just point to people and go, “You're this, you're that, you're you know.”
And I wanted to get it right. And thankfully they gave me the right amount of time. And I really gave it a lot of thought because I care about it and I don't want to be flip. I don't want to be simple about it because it's not.
There's such great chemistry between all of ‘The New Normal” cast members. Was it instant for you when you began working with them?
Yeah. They're really good. I have to be honest. I didn't watch the show a lot before. But I knew it was good and I knew the acting was good and I didn't realize how good it was until I got down there and the writing. And it's a very well-run show.
And it's sort of exciting because I know it's not like “Glee” that was getting ready to blast over the whole world and stuff. But I still feel a little bit of what I felt when I jumped onto “Glee,” which was they have something here. They have something important and they have something important to say, you know. And Ryan once again put the right people together to get the right message out.
You’re surrounded by so many funny people on “The New Normal” set. Who cracks you up the most and made you laugh while you were there?
NeNe [Leakes] is very funny. I wasn't familiar with that show, the “Housewives” show and then … there was another very pretty girl on the show and our show runner Ali [Adler], who I've fallen in love with. I don't care. I'm going to say it loud and proud right now. I am in love with Ali.
We email each other like all night. All night last night. I was walking by, and she had Nene and this other really pretty girl. I can't remember her name. And she said, "Come in here and get a picture." So we were taking pictures and stuff. But Nene, we share a trailer. I've seen naturally funny people in the past, unlike Bob Saget, but this girl is funny.
Now other than the kiss, what was your kind of your favorite scene or the one that you're most excited to share?
We had a little bit in the first episode. She’s sort of her Cyrano. So she's telling Ellen's character Jane how to get me. She sort of talks her through on the phone and in the first couple of episodes. And at one point, she says, "Just ask him out," and so she comes up and she asks me out and she has the phone in her pocket.
And I said, "Oh yeah, I'd like to go out with you again." And you can hear NeNe's voice going, "Yeah girl. Get him." You know, and in her pocket and so she's kind of a Cyrano character.
But I think it was my first day and we were all working together. The whole cast was at a table, we were eating. And all of them are really, really funny.
And it was interesting. I made a joke about “Full House” the other day and I don't know if you read it but I'll say it again, which was sort of true but not. I am shocked and proud of what we can do on TV nowadays. It's come a long way. And whatever that 25 years ago of seeing Full House, I was sort of kind of relating.
They asked me they said, "What's the difference between this show and sitcoms and the show you did 25 years ago?" And I said, "Well, three men, you know in San Francisco raising kids, no difference." You know. But the truth is and I thought that was funny. I loved it, but it's dramatically different.
And that's why I wanted to do this show because you can go on and say things and do things that you couldn't [back on 1980s television]. I remember sort of emailing with Ryan the first week saying, “Let me be the straight advocate. Let me be it because that's how I am in real life. Let me just talk the way that I talk. And let me say that I love people for who they are, not what they are.”
I don't say that exactly but let me be that guy that's not sort of pushing the agenda down anyone's throat. Not that they do. But let me just be easy with it, you know. And I think it's a well-written character in the sense that I can be that guy. And I think especially with Jane's character who still has phobias and that Archie Bunker thing that she has.
I think it got slowed down a little bit or quelled and then when I came on, she starts it up again and I'm now the one to kind of tell her that that's not cool. But the way that they're writing me is just the way that I would say to somebody.
And it's not “Hey, now don't you make fun of homosexuals,” with my finger in their face. It's just a guy who treats everybody the same way if they're a good person. It doesn't matter what they are. And if they're a bad person I would treat them that way.
Why do you never seem to age?
I live in a box with oxygen like Michael [Jackson]. When he passed away and they had that auction of all his stuff, you didn't see it on there, but he had this oxygen tank that he lived, like a coffin thing. And he would sleep in this thing and they would pump oxygen in. And that's what I sleep in.
I don't know. You know, truthfully I'm very flattered when people say that. And you have to be careful to not like play into it because then you get this Peter Pan syndrome going on. Right. I'm 30. I can do anything. You know, I'm not.
So I think good genes and truthfully I do take care of myself in a sense. You know what I do probably the most, if there's any secret: I sleep a lot. I get a lot of sleep and rejuvenation. So I try to go to bed early.
I always felt that the hours before midnight, 1 o'clock were the most important sleeping hours for me. So I go to bed at 9 [p.m.] or 10 [p.m.] and I get up at 5 [a.m.] or 5:30, 6 [a.m.].
Do you work out a lot?
I've done just about everything. I'm not a super weightlifting guy. I've been doing Pilates lately, which I think is just a big ploy to get me in those straps with my legs up because I'm the only guy in the class. And I've got my legs in place. I felt like I'm giving birth or they're going to do a pap smear or something.
They literally I put my ankles in these things and I said, "You're making this exercise up, aren't you?" They said, "No, no. It's the platypus, it's the platypus. Seriously. Lay down, put your legs in the air. Ignore those 30 women looking. Right. This is what we do here." You know. But I know they're trying to make me look silly. I just know it. The platypus. Whoever heard of that?
Would you ever consider doing a TV show full-time again?
Of course. Television is become it's a whole new landscape there. And that's why I did this show because to be honest with you, I hope I don't get any calls.
But I had some of my people say, “Well maybe this isn't the show for you, because of the subject matter because the ratings aren't so good and would hold you off for a bigger guest [role] or an arc on the show.”
I said, "No, no, no. I get this show. I like this show. And I have not played this character before." So I think what I'm getting at is that when you find a good character and you’ve got to go for it.
Ryan and I have had a great relationship for years. And when he asks me to do stuff, I do it because I'm proud of being on his shows. I'm proud of him. I knew him before all these big shows happened. You know, he came to me originally right after “Full House” with a show about three hookers that would fix marriages, like “Charlie's Angels,” but they were hookers.
And it was a little too much for me at the time. But looking back, I'm like, “Wow, I should have done that.” And then I know I'm probably one of five guys that say this but he offered me “Nip/Tuck,” and I didn't to that.
And so after that when I was, “When Ryan calls me, I'm going to do what he wants me to do because he's ahead of me. He knows what people want. And he knows how to push the envelope. He knows how to make people think. He knows how to make people think about themselves.”
And I should be working with this guy because if they should God forbid if he ever passed away. And I'm saying this in all sincerity. This guy runs three shows, two pilots. He's got three movies over here. And when you're in a room with him, it's just astonishing.
They should donate his brain to science at some point. I'm not making a joke about this. My mouth is open when I see him, you know. Like I'm just amazed at what this man can do. People should study this guy because he is a genius.
Can you talk a little bit more about why you wanted to do “The New Normal,” even though some people may have advised you against it?
When I was 18 or 17, my first publicist was gay. His name was Greg Iliopoulos. Rest in peace. I loved that man so much and he taught me so much. And he was gay. And I came from a very conservative Orange County where I knew I did but I didn't understand it. You know, certainly growing up.
I was at Disney World a couple weeks ago, and I saw a kid that I grew up with. And I guess he turned out to be gay, but he had sort of a feminine thing about him and kids would beat him up and make fun of him.
He told me this at Disney World the other day. He said, "Boy you protected me, and you said I'm just like everybody else." And I don't know where I got that but I know it was solidified later when I was with this publicist, Greg Iliopoulos, and he said something very simple to me that I'll never forget.
He said, "You see that girl over there." I said, "Yes." "You see that feeling you get when you think about kissing her and you get excited about talking to her or asking her on a date?" I said, "Yeah." He goes, "That's what I feel when I see a guy." I said, "Oh."
He said, "You know when you see a guy and you just want to be buddies and you don't really want to go on a date with them or touch them or whatever but you want to be, you know." I say, "Yeah." He goes, "That's what I feel when I see a girl." I said, "Oh. OK. I get it." And that was that.
Have you been mistaken for being gay before you were famous?
I'm sure Ryan would have called another guy and got him in a few seconds. I hope I have the first call for this. But I just seemed right for this because it's exactly that. It's like there are no stereotypes anymore. And I'm the perfect example.
I grew up with musical theater. I grew up playing with puppets. I liked magic but I liked all the arts. I love makeup. I loved doing makeup. Halloween was my favorite time of the year. I was a good makeup artist. A lot of the musicals that I tried out for, I'm such a sh*tty singer. Later in life, I guess I got a little better but not much.
But because I wanted to be in musicals so bad, I studied singing and it's not my favorite thing to do. But I can sort of get through a song if it's in a musical theater setting, you know. I can play the character. I even think my father at some point thought well, “OK, he's gay, you know. Who cares?” So yes, I have been I guess mistaken.
For more info: "The New Normal" website