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'Man with a Plan' fulfills Stacy Keach's acting school dreams

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'Man with a Plan' fulfills Stacy Keach's acting school dreams
Stacy Keach plays Joe on "Man with a Plan." Photo courtesy of CBS

LOS ANGELES, April 23 (UPI) -- Stacy Keach has been on television since an episode of Channing in 1964, but he's still achieving new milestones on CBS's comedy Man with a Plan. Keach plays Joe, father to family man Adam Burns (Matt LeBlanc).

Joe's love interest, Beverly, is played by Swoosie Kurtz. Keach said he's wanted to co-star with her since they trained together in the '60s.

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"Swoosie and I went to drama school together at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts in 1964," Keach told UPI in a phone interview. "We never worked together all these many years, until now."

As a theater trained actor, Keach appreciates how Man with a Plan scripts must be performed letter perfect. He can't even change an "a" to a "the."

"Things are written a specific way and that's the way writers want you to say them," Keach said. "I think that's the actor's responsibility."

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Playing grandfather to Adam's kids also allows Keach to work with teenagers. He described an upcoming episode where Joe trains Adam's son Teddy (Matthew McCann) to be a man. Keach said he attempted a comedic version of R. Lee Ermy's Full Metal Jacket drill sergeant character, and his costar rose to the challenge.

"He really responded well," Keach said. "He's very funny. It's really about him -- what he goes through, what I put him through."

When Season 4 premiered on April 2, Man with a Plan provided new content to audiences under stay-at-home orders in various states due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Keach expects to return for Season 5 based on the reception so far.

"Our chances of getting a Season 5 are certainly enhanced and much more possible as a result of this because our ratings are very good," Keach told UPI in a phone interview. "I know that more people are watching. I think the ratings are slightly better than they were."

TVLine reported 7.1 million viewers watched the Season 4 premiere, up by 1.8 million. According to TVseriesfinale.com, Season 3 ratings declined from 6.2 million viewers to 4.9 over the season, so Season 4 could be up by more than 2 million viewers.

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Man with the Plan filmed the 13 episodes of Season 4 from August to December, intending to air in January. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, CBS delayed the show until April. Keach and his co-stars originally worried this reflected a lack of confidence

"CBS informed us around Thanksgiving that we were not going to be going on the air in January as we were told originally," Keach said. "We were so disappointed. We thought this is the end of our series."

Had Man with a Plan returned in January, its ratings might not have improved. Keach suggested that people being stuck at home may have given them a larger audience.

"Who knew it was a blessing in disguise?" Keach said rhetorically. "We couldn't have asked for a better time to have a captive audience, literally."

From Hammer to 'Plan'

Keach has been a staple of film and television in comedies and dramas throughout his career. He played warden Henry Pope on the Fox drama Prison Break and Archbishop Kevin Kearns on CBS's Boston drama Blue Bloods.

His longest running role was as Mickey Spillane's detective Mike Hammer. Keach played the sleuth in a series of TV movies and two TV series -- The New Mike Hammer and Mike Hammer, Private Eye.

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"I used to read Mike Hammer novels when I was a teenager much to the chagrin of my parents," Keach said. "They said, 'Are you reading that soft porn again?' It was pretty racy and risque in the early '50s. When they asked me to play the part, I was very excited about it because I felt like I'd done my research."

In the theater, he has performed Cyrano de Bergerac, Camelot, Deathtrap, The Crucible, The King and I and more, including many Shakespeare plays. He's played King Lear twice, in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

He also has done Hamlet, Richard III, Macbeth, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Winter's Tale, Coriolanus and played Falstaff in Henry IV Parts I and II. He still believes in the old theater superstitions about "The Scottish Play" Macbeth.

"Macbeth -- can't say that without spitting three times and turning around unless you'll get a visitation from the witches," Keach said. "I'm still superstitious about that play."

Keach will play Lear for the third time in a Zoom production on Thursday to benefit St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Parishioner Gary Sloan is putting on the production and asked Keach to participate. They have been friends in the acting community.

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The performance will stream on the church's website or YouTube channel at 7:30 p.m. EDT. Keach expects such Zoom performances could become a booming industry.

"I have a feeling if this [quarantine] goes on for a long time, we're going to see a lot more Zoom theatrical theater productions," Keach said. "It's a new form based on necessity."

Keach and his wife are practicing social distancing themselves. They just moved into a new house in Ojai, Calif., where they are riding out the state's stay-at-home orders.

"We were getting a little claustrophobic in Beverly Hills," Keach said. "My daughter's coming to visit us once this dust settles and we didn't have enough room. We rented a house so we have room for three people and two dogs."

Staying productive

In addition to streaming theater, Keach plans to finish several other artistic projects. He encourages his fans to find ways to be productive at home too.

"I look at it as an opportunity to take care of some unfinished business," Keach said. "Read that book, write that play. I play a lot of keyboard. I'm a piano player, and I've been writing some new songs. I think it's a time we should think of it as an opportunity to do things you wouldn't necessarily get to do having to go to work."

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Keach is also looking ahead to when stay-at-home orders are lifted and business resumes. Yet, Keach is cautious about the post-coronavirus world.

"I don't think we're ever going to be the same again," Keach said. "It's a new world and I'm hoping that the big social gatherings, in the sports arena, going to the theater or concerts, I hope somehow that we can go back to that."

When it comes time to resume Man with a Plan, if his predictions for a fifth season are correct, Keach expects practical changes to occur. He hopes the studio will institute some protective measures moving forward.

"How are we all going to get back together to do Man with a Plan for example?" Keach said. "Well, everybody, including the crew, they're not going to let you on the lot unless you test negative."

Man with a Plan airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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