Jason Ritter: 'Slumberkins' is 'beautiful' connection to late dad John Ritter

New episodes of "Slumberkins" air on Friday nights. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+
1 of 5 | New episodes of "Slumberkins" air on Friday nights. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

NEW YORK, Nov. 11 (UPI) -- A Million Little Things and Parenthood actor Jason Ritter says his new preschool puppet program, Slumberkins, reflects his family values and makes him feel connected to his late father, comedy icon John Ritter.

"As an actor, you're a bit of a hired gun, so it's really lovely to work on something that is in line with what you want to put out in the world and want to say," Ritter, 42, told UPI in a recent phone interview.


"Slumberkins was that exact perfect storm. It's such a beautiful series of books and we've been a fan of that from before I was involved in the show," added the actor, who shares a 3-year-old with his actress wife Melanie Lynskey.

"It's also exciting to do something that my daughter can watch. She's only seen the trailer so far, but she was very excited about it."


Airing on Apple TV+ Fridays, the Jim Henson Company show is based on the emotional learning book series by the same name and features various anthropomorphic woodland and fantasy creatures.

The vocal ensemble also includes Pamela Adlon, Adelynn Spoon, Yvette Nicole Brown and Josh Banday.

Ritter plays the bespectacled father of Fox (voiced by Yonas Kibreab) in the show, which arrives after the social and emotional development of many little ones have been impacted by the distancing restrictions and mask mandates enacted during the coronavirus pandemic.

"So many children of so many ages went through this pandemic at such a formative time and, I imagine, have a lot of big feelings about it," Ritter said.

"This show acknowledges that children have very rich, emotional lives and have complicated, deep emotions. It's amazing to have children's stories deal with things like loss and change and all of these things we try to protect our children from, if we can, but sometimes things in life are unavoidable and it's nice to have a map to navigate some of those moments."

He described his character as a hard worker who loves his family and tries to keep them happy even though he can't spend as much time at home as he wants to.


"They are moving into a smaller home and he's not able to play with his children as much as he would like because he has to work. It's real. It's life. Sometimes, you see these shows and you think, 'Wow! These parents have nothing to do except entertain their children,' which is great," he said with a laugh.

"But it's nice for children to maybe be able to see themselves in these characters and think, 'Oh, you know, I never have thought about how it feels when I'm shut out of a room because Mama or Dada has to work,' especially, like it was during the pandemic, when work for a lot of people was at home."

One episode also shows Fox Mom and Fox Dad arguing.

"It's worrying to the children. I just thought:,'Wow! I never saw anything like that [on TV] growing up' -- and how that can feel to a child and how scary that can be when two people that you love seem like they are angry at each other," Ritter said.

"I'm so proud to be a part of a show that will, hopefully, start lovely discussions among family members."

Working with the Jim Henson Company was a personal dream come true for Ritter.


"I was bowled over by the level of skill these puppeteers have to bring these characters to life," he said. "They feel like they are feeling emotions and thinking about things. It's just incredible what they are able to convey physically."

Best known for his work on the TV shows Three's Company, 8 Simple Rules and Clifford the Big Red Dog, John Ritter made appearances with Henson's Muppets characters numerous times before his life was cut short in 2003 by an aortic dissection. He was 54.

"I love finding those little connections and it does feel full circle in certain ways," Jason Ritter said.

"I got to meet Jim Henson's son a while ago, and I knew that my dad had met his dad. It's these little beautiful, serendipitous moments that make me feel happy."

The actor said he also likes doing voice projects because they allow him to work without being too far from his wife and daughter.

"My wife, Melanie, is such an incredible actor, and she's been having an incredible moment in her career that is very exciting and well-deserved," he said of the Yellowjackets and Don't Look Up star.

"What is lovely is for me to be able to travel with her when she does these jobs, so the family can be together. Anywhere there's a voice recording studio, I can just hop in, whether it's in Vancouver or Atlanta or Los Angeles," he said. "It's been really conducive to quality time I get to spend with the family."


Ritter and his extended family were honored last month for their efforts to raise money and awareness for the Huntington's disease research and treatment.

The actor said they all got involved knowing they couldn't cure the degenerative brain disorder, but they could still do something to help.

"I'm very passionate about it. There is a cruelty to Huntington's disease," he said of the genetic disorder.

"I feel so deeply for families who are going through it, who are dealing with it themselves or watching their family member go through it. I want there to be as much help and relief and hope for a cure, as possible," he added.

"I really feel like we are on the cusp of curing this thing. I know it will happen in my lifetime, and I am just excited for that moment to arrive."

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