Freddie Prinze Jr. Brings His Family Values to 'Freddie'
2/6/2006 8:49 PM PT
By BRIDGET BYRNE, FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Freddie Prinze, Jr., is surrounded by a group of giggling pubescent girls. But a fan attack it's not; merely a scene for his sitcom, "Freddie," shooting on a Warner Bros. soundstage.
Prinze, 29, still looks as cute as a teen idol should be, but in this episode, his character, Freddie Moreno, is trying to fulfill surrogate dad duties, chiding niece Zoey and her friends for behaving inappropriately.
Moreno, a successful chef planning to enjoy the bachelor high-life with rich pal Chris, has been drawn back into family responsibilities. For various reasons, his sister and her young daughter, his grandma, and his widowed sister-in-law have all moved in with him, re-enveloping him in the women's world in which he grew up after his father abandoned the family.
Besides being the title star, Prinze also is co-creator, co-writer, and co-executive producer of the ABC sitcom, which airs Wednesday at 8:30 p.m., and he takes his multitasking duties very seriously.
"It's a lot of responsibility, but I wouldn't have it any other way ... this is what I need," he says. "There are things that I've done that people are so quick to take credit for and there's really not a lot I can do about that because of the perception of actors. So in order to protect myself, I needed everyone to understand that this is something that I love and this is something that I watch over and I protect on a daily basis."
Nevertheless, he immediately dishes out thanks to his cast, crew, andco-creators, Bruce Helford and Bruce Rasmussen, because, "I don't delude myselfthat I care any more than they do."
Famous for horror and comedy movies popular with young audiences ("I Know WhatYou Did Last Summer," "Scooby Doo"), Prinze knew the TV industry would expecthis sitcom character to be "that perfect guy that everyone wants to take theirdaughter to the prom ... but that's not exciting," he says.
So he gave Moreno many flaws. "He's a touch too arrogant. He's sort of beenraised a little prince, to be perfect, and he believes a bit of that, and thatgets him into trouble. That's the flaw we play up the most," says Prinze, whoalso describes his character as "not as book smart as your average bear."
While the sitcom's obvious goal is to "make people laugh," it's theme isstructured around truths from Prinze's own life.
He was a baby when his father, comedian Freddie Prinze, committed suicide in1977, leaving him to grow up in a household of women, which included hisSpanish-speaking Puerto Rican grandmother.
Grandma in the series only speaks Spanish, with English subtitles. She's playedby Jenny Gago (the matriarch in the movie "Mi Familia"), whose family came fromPeru.
The actress grew up in the Bronx, with a mother who "refused to speak Englishat home," so she is thrilled with how the show deals with the complexities ofassimilating into American society while retaining cultural traditions andvalues.
Jacqueline Obradors (Detective Rita Ortiz on "NYPD Blue"), who plays Freddie'ssister, Sofia, is equally as pleased with the way the series depicts immigranthome life.
"This show feels like a true depiction of a Latin American family," she says,"because I grew up here, but my parents are from Argentina and always spokeSpanish in the home ... so this reflects my life in a big way and rings true."
The series also reflects Prinze's religious faith.
"This family was raised Catholic and I think there are still some members ofthe family who are practicing Catholics, while others are recovering Catholics!That, to me, is a real part of America and we wanted to represent that," saysPrinze.
He stresses Moreno's "family values are one hundred percent my family values... everything takes a back seat to family. He lives in a house full of women.That's not every guy's dream -- well it is, but not if they are family! That'sa big sacrifice and he makes it without even blinking, because family takescare of family."
Writer-producer Conrad Jackson, who helped create the show and who is partlythe inspiration for Freddie's best buddy, Chris, met Prinze when they were kidsin Albuquerque, N.M.
He says the show is "very much Freddie's life," although Freddie, married since2002 to actress Sarah Michelle Gellar, has never been "the player Freddie is --so that aspect is more a fantasy, but as far as the way he deals with kids andhas women constantly influencing his life, I think that's pretty much how it isin real life."
Before meeting Prinze, Gago says she "imagined a very young Hollywoodplayer-playboy. What I found was a very deep -- well, a very charismatic --young man who has a very big heart and wonderful huge dreams that he's makinghappen."