Some friends promise to be there for you and yours when times get tough. And then, there’s the “Council of Dads.”
Premiering Tuesday (and then resuming April 30), the NBC drama unites several close friends of a cancer patient (Tom Everett Scott) to support the man’s family. Played by Clive Standen (“Vikings”), J. August Richards (“Angel”) and Michael O’Neill (“The West Wing”), the “council” checks in regularly — while also trying to keep their own lives in check — on those including the matriarch (Sarah Wayne Callies, “The Walking Dead”) who’s expecting another child.
Inspired by Bruce Feiler’s same-named book, “Council of Dads” is a departure for executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, traditionally a crime-show specialist (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Without a Trace”).
“It’s an immediate idea that I think that we’ve all dealt with,” said Tony Phelan, also an executive producer of the new series along with his wife and creative partner, Joan Rater. “We have very similar conversations where she will say to me, ‘If I die, these are the approved women that you can have come anywhere near our children.”‘
Co-star O’Neill allows that in some ways, “Council of Dads” echoes “This Is Us,” the fourth-season finale of which it debuts immediately after. “I think there was an appetite there for that drama,” he said, “and I think they just pulled the covers back and said, ‘Here you are.’ I love that they were the prow of the ship, and I’m very happy to go into harbor behind them — but that appetite has been there for us as well, I think, so we’ll just try to honor it.”
Callies notes that her father-in-law succumbed to cancer “between shooting the pilot and the series, which was an interesting kind of thing to navigate. I think we’ve all had the experience of recognizing that your family and your blood … are not the same thing, by any means. They’re the people who stand up for you, right? They’re the people who say, ‘I’m going to make you feel safe in the world. And I’m going to make myself a better person because you deserve that from me.’ That’s family, I think.”
Indeed, Richards says the message that “Council of Dads” conveys “really hits me in a place where I live, which is that family is not limited to race, sexual orientation, not even genetics. Your capacity to love is what makes your family. I was so moved by that, I just was like, ‘If I could be a part of this show that is part of something that I would really love to say to the world, then I would be blessed.’ And I am.”