The actor talks about the message and humor in his new show, "Kevin (Probably) Saves The World."
- Posted on Nov 20, 2017
Jason Ritter is no stranger to shows that ask big questions.
The actor and son of the late John Ritter once starred in Joan of Arcadia, a CBS drama that followed a young girl who spoke to God and who was tasked with helping others. Now it’s Ritter’s turn to save the world … literally. The actor plays Kevin Finn in ABC’s new fall comedy, Kevin (Probably) Saves The World. The show focuses on Kevin, a desperate man reeling from a recent suicide attempt who’s chosen by God to help save humanity by performing good deeds. On top of all of this, he’s also busy trying to reconnect with his estranged family and get along with his celestial protector, his guardian angel of sorts.
There’s plenty of humor to be found in the show, but, according to Ritter, there’s also a lot of heart.
Guideposts chatted with the star about his character’s struggle with faith, the deeper message of the show, and carrying on his father’s legacy.
GUIDEPOSTS: What drew you to this story and this character?
Jason Ritter: One of the things that drew me to this character is that he's not a guy who thinks very much of himself. In fact, he's spent most of his life trying to fill the hole that he feels inside of him with money and with success, and these things that he's been sort of taught will make him happy. And all of that's been taken away and he has no infrastructure. I like the fact that he's been tasked with this huge job of saving all of humanity when he's barely been able to function in his own life. I always think characters are more interesting when they're flawed and Kevin certainly has no shortage of flaws, but that always strikes me as real. I think we also can enjoy superhero movies and things like that where the characters are incredible and invincible but I always feel like we connect more with people who make mistakes and are imperfect.
GUIDEPOSTS: Obviously the show has some spiritual elements to it. Does spirituality play a role in your own life, and do you have to be spiritual to enjoy and get something out of this show?
JR: I don't think you have to be spiritual to get something out of it, but I think that that word covers a lot of ground. I think maybe if people are like, ‘I'm not spiritual,’ but then look for coincidences in their life or ask themselves big existential questions about being here, to me that counts. Spirituality to me basically just means being curious about the world around us and how our actions affect others.
I think that's one of the beautiful things about humanity in general is that we have the ability to stop just surviving and go, ‘Why is this all happening? Why are we here?’ I definitely have my own beliefs and I like looking right into these questions and I like sort of being asked to think about these kinds of things. So it's no coincidence that I've gravitated to these projects over the course of my career.
GUIDEPOSTS: Kevin is a flawed character, but are there any ways in which you're like Kevin? I'm assuming all of his good traits.
JR: No, some of his bad stuff too. I think Kevin and I have a lot of similarities. There are definitely times where I've been focused on myself or I've been so focused on trying to make my life the way that I want it to be that I've neglected friendships and relationships. I've excused myself by saying, ‘Oh, I'm so busy,’ and stuff like that and I've hoped that if friends of mine were needing me that they would call me, but I think definitely there were some elements of this character who's, not by meaning to, but he's let people down. And I certainly hate that feeling but unfortunately I'm familiar with it.
GUIDEPOSTS: Did your dad teach you any lessons that you're using now that you have your own series?
JR: He had such an incredible work ethic. He really took it seriously. I think that is the main thing that I feel like I've finally kind of locked into on this show for some reason. It may be because it sort of clicked into me at a certain point of my life. I don't know what it is but he was always looking for little extra things that he could do or he could put in. He was never just trying to do the bare minimum.
GUIDEPOSTS: This is a funny show but it also deals with some serious issues. How do you balance the humor with those heavier moments?
JR: It was one of the biggest challenges of the series and of the character but also it felt freeing in a way because that's how I experience life and how a lot of people experience life I. I really do think that the hardest times that I've laughed have been in the darkest and most painful moments of my life. And I feel like those laughing moments are incredibly healing. Humor is a huge tool in helping us lift ourselves out of those dark moments.
GUIDEPOSTS: What's the big journey that Kevin will go on this season, other than the small thing of trying to save all of humankind?
JR: I think one of the most interesting struggles for Kevin is this struggle with faith. Faith is the belief in something without having proof. That's what makes it faith. You believe in something because you believe it, not because you've seen hard evidence.
There are lots of moments where it's not going well or he doesn't see the goal at the end of the plan. He's just sort of following the signs of the universe and he starts to get lost in the weeds and goes, ‘I must be off track. Something must be wrong,’ which I think is such a natural way to feel after tragedy, especially. It's been interesting to see him kind of have doubts and then the struggle to rejoin with his own sort of beliefs in the larger goal, in the larger picture.
GUIDEPOSTS: We don't want to spoil too much of this season, but is Kevin going to save the world?
JR: I would say he's got a fairly good shot. I think it's slightly more than a coin flip at this point
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader