When Paul Reiser received a phone call from the Duffer brothers, he had no idea they created a character inspired by him for their hit show, Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
The actor and comedian told Fox News he first learned about the streaming series from his teenage son, who saw it a few days after Season 1 premiered.
“Literally next week, I got a call from the Duffer brothers who wanted to meet me because they had a role that they thought of for me after it had premiered,” said the 60-year-old. “They said as they kept writing it, they kept calling the character ‘Dr. Reiser.’ And then they said, ‘Why don’t we just get Reiser?’ I knew it would be great. I didn’t hesitate at all to say 'yes.'”
Despite his eagerness to appear in the hit show, Reiser admitted the storyline for his character, Dr. Sam Owens, was kept top secret.
“I was going to be the new guy that the government sent in to clean up the mess that happened in the first season,” said Reiser. “I asked, ‘Is he a bad guy?’ ‘Is he a good guy?’ They said, ‘We’re going to see.’ I don’t know if they knew already, but they didn’t tell me. We would get the scripts as the story went along… And the friendlier my character became, the more you got suspicious…. I was like, ‘Oh man, he sounds like your family doctor.'”
“Stranger Things” tells the story of a young boy who suddenly disappears, prompting his mother, a police chief, as well as his group of friends to face terrifying forces in an attempt to get him back. It premiered in 2016 to rave reviews. Reiser made his debut in 2017 in the second season and was immediately welcomed by the close-knit cast.
“It’s a very, very friendly group,” he explained. “And I was the new kid on the block. But they were oh so friendly. And even the kids – it’s a very huggy group. Even on the first day, they hug you… And it’s not showbiz huggy. It’s more like, ‘Hey, welcome.’ The kids have their own tight group. Winona [Ryder] was very, very welcoming. She’s delightful. I fell for her, her character… They’re all very welcoming and great fun to work with.”
A release date for Season 3 hasn’t been announced by Netflix yet, which has prompted viewers to wonder if Reiser will get busy working revisiting his other popular show, “Mad About You.”
The sitcom, which explored the comical everyday adventures of a recently married couple in New York City, aired from 1992 until 1999. It starred Reiser and Helen Hunt as his on-screen wife.
Reiser said he’s aware of rumors concerning a “Mad About You” remake for new audiences, but he also admitted it’s unclear whether it would actually happen.
“You can expect it, I just don’t know if it will come to fruition,” he explained. “Helen and I have remained very close over the last thousand years that the show’s been off the air… [And the idea] started to pick up speed… For years, I had no desire and then now we started to talk about it.
"And it could be an interesting story because you certainly don’t want to go back. They’re not newlyweds. And I was always proud of how we ended it, so I didn’t want to mess with that. I didn’t want to contaminate what we did. We were chatting about it and if we can come up with a good story and someone who’s interested, we just might do it. But we very well might just say, ‘Let the legacy exist and not touch it.’”
Reiser explained he’s hesitant to bring back “Mad About You” because the cast ended the show exactly how they wanted to. And a reboot could upset longtime fans of the comedy, who have been perfectly content with the show ending after seven years.
Reiser insisted he didn’t realize the show’s lasting impact until he recently started doing standup again and meeting fans.
“They’ll share stories about a particular episode that meant a lot to them or a particular moment in the show,” he described. “And it’s very heartwarming because I never knew that. People weren’t tweeting or emailing or anything like that 20 years ago.
"So it’s nice to get out there and be reminded that what we did actually meant something to people. And it’s funny, when talks of a reboot came up, a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, I love that show!’ But others were like, ‘Don’t please. We love it so much, so don’t mess it up. Because if you come back and do it badly we’ll hate you.’”
Reiser added, “Who knows. Maybe. Possibly.”
But the Emmy-nominated star is already staying busy. In 2017, he launched a new show on Hulu titled “There’s… Johnny!” about how a young Andy (Ian Nelson) becomes a gofer at “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1972.
And after years of being persistent, Reiser managed to convince the Johnny Carson Estate to participate in the series. He was granted permission to use actual footage from “The Tonight Show” from its entire duration, giving viewers who didn’t up with Carson the chance to experience for themselves his charm and charisma.
“I think that’s part of what makes this show so special and unique,” Reiser told Fox News back in February. “Nobody else has it. To be able to use actual footage of Johnny as the show these characters are creating and making every night, it really gives it authenticity… And for me, it was just an extra bonus of joy to go through these clips and pick them out. It was an embarrassment of riches.
"Most of them I haven’t even seen. A lot of them I remembered, but haven’t watched in 40 years. Not only do you see these guests again, but you can watch Johnny’s skill. He was just so good. He really set the standard.”