Name a movie or television show from the last 20 years and William Fichtner has probably been in it. The Hollywood veteran is one of the most versatile actors in the business. He has been in films such as “The Dark Knight” and “Independence Day: Resurgence” and shows such as “Empire,” “Entourage” and “Prison Break.” Fichtner plays Adam on the CBS sitcom “Mom.” His character dates Bonnie, who is played by Allison Janney. The show also features stars Anna Farris and Jaime Pressly and returns for its fifth season tonight at 9pm EST.
Fichtner talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about his experience on “Mom,” working closely with Janney and producer Chuck Lorre and his beloved Buffalo Bills.
DJ Sixsmith: How did you get your start as an actor?
William Fichtner: We’re going way back here! I was a criminal justice major in college. I didn’t really participate in theater and really didn’t know anything about it growing up in Buffalo, NY. I was a junior in college and I got a call at the beginning of the year from an admissions counselor who said that I was short one fine arts course. I took an improvisation class because I needed to take one class. I had a really influential and awesome teacher. I still remember her name, her name was Sally Rubin. She was really encouraging. By the time I graduated a couple of years later, I really liked acting. It was enough for me to switch gears, sell my pickup truck and take a bus to New York and wait tables. That was the beginning. I felt like I started from scratch at 21 years old and wanted to figure out if I could do this.
DS: You’ve been in so many different movies and T.V. shows. What makes “Mom” work?
WF: Working as the character Adam is awesome. The show works because first of all it’s a Chuck Lorre show. I’ve worked on two sitcoms in my life and one was 25 years ago called “Grace Under Fire” with Chuck. I’m not sure about all sitcoms because I’ve only had one guy in this business ever hire me to do one and he just happens to be whom I consider the king of sitcoms. I love doing the show. The show works because of the talent that is on it. Allison and Anna are great. And it’s the writing also. Sitcom is a writer’s median. The writers are real specific and they want you to get their words right. It all starts from the top. I love being around all the folks on the show. It’s a real joy to work on a Chuck Lorre show, there’s a difference.
DS: You mentioned all of the talent on the show. What’s it been like working with Emmy award winner Allison Janney on a daily basis?
WF: I moved to New York in the summer in 1978 after college. You get to know people when you are in New York at a young age. None of you are working. You are running around serving tables or bartending. Allison is someone I’ve known for a long, long time. The first time I worked with her was in the late 1990’s. We played husband and wife in this cool little Indie film. I knew her because she was in plays with other people I knew. I knew her because I had seen the things that she has done over the years. When I came on “Mom”, it was great to see her. I am such a fun of hers. Working with Allison is the true highlight of being on “Mom.”
DS: “Mom” is going into its fifth season. What can people expect to see this season?
WF: “Mom” is going to give you what it always gives you. It’s going to be unbelievably funny, but it also takes some left and right turns that are sometimes serious. Sometimes they will hit you in the heart. The writing group led by Chuck Lorre is so unbelievably funny and witty. Every piece of humor is based on the real human experience. That’s what sets this show apart and that’s why it’s in season five.
DS: When you think about your career, you’ve been in so many different types of projects. What’s been the key to your longevity and versatility in Hollywood?
WF: I feel like I’m still a student of acting. I don’t think I’ve grown up yet as an actor. I still search and I do things because I want to do them. I don’t work for works sake. I work on things that really move me or make me want to go in that direction. At this point in my life, I hope I work for the rest of my life.
DS: Finally, you are a long suffering Buffalo Bills fan. What will it take for the Bills to snap the NFL’s longest current postseason streak and get into the playoffs?
WF: Oh boy, they certainly could make the playoffs this year. Their remaining schedule is not easy. In the last five weeks, they have two Miami games and two New England games. I think they will beat New England in one of those games this season. Do I think they’re going to beat Miami in one of those games, sure. I’m a little nervous about tonight’s game against the Jets. They play each other tough. The Jets won’t be easy. I think the Bills will finish at 10-6 and I don’t know if that’s enough to make the playoffs, but I think it might be. You got to have talent and great coaching and I think we have a great coach right now in Sean McDermott. We’ll see where he takes them.
Due to the fact that Fichtner’s Bills play the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football on CBS, “Mom” can been seen in New York on CBS’s sister station WLNY. That is channel 10 or channel 55 depending on your cable carrier. It can be seen everywhere else on CBS. Check your local listings.