Dakota Johnson stars in ‘Ben and Kate,’ the season’s most charming new comedy

When Dakota Johnson was a mere 16 years old, in 2006, she was asked by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to be a Miss Golden Globe. Anyone who’s watched the annual awards ceremony will recall these young, glittering figures. They gracefully hand out statuettes to winners, smiling and gliding across the stage before they disappear behind a curtain. Johnson’s mother, Melanie Griffith, had been a Miss Golden Globe, in 1975. So it was like the passing of a baton, in a way. An honor, no sweat. Until Johnson, now 23, had to tell Harrison Ford that he was in the shot.

“It was so scary,” says Johnson. Why would I ever go up to Harrison Ford and say, ‘You can’t stand there; you have to stand behind this line.’ His nose was sticking into the side of the camera. I was afraid to touch his elbow because he was holding a drink. I was freaking out. He didn’t give a f- – – at all. It was an existential crisis for me.”

All these years later, Johnson is starring in her own sitcom, Fox’s “Ben and Kate,” the touching and funny story of a single mother (Johnson), who has to raise two “children” — her daughter, Maddie, and her older brother, Ben (Nat Faxon), the kind of bumbling misfit who complicates every situation he’s in. One recent episode found Ben making a mess of Kate’s admission that she used a false address to keep Maddie in a better school district. Even though things were heading south, Ben managed to smooth things over with the principal. There’s a freshness to the writing that makes this show one of the surprises of the fall season. It has already received a full-season pickup from Fox.

“It’s awesome,” says Johnson, who’s on set, staving off a cold with a lunchtime bowl of soup from a nearby Ralph’s supermarket. “It’s a big relief. The show’s funny and sweet, and I have an amazing cast.”

Playing the straight woman to Faxon’s Ben requires her to keep it together during their banter. It’s not always possible.

“When we’re doing a lot of improving, it’s sometimes weird to rein it in,” she says. “We’re really good at playing off each other. And I can tell what’s coming.”

Johnson has experience dealing with the antics of siblings (she has older brothers and younger brothers and sisters), but playing a mom threw her for a loop.

“It makes me feel old. It’s nice to get home at the end of the day and not have a kid,” she says. “I was even mentally prepared for playing a mom. This is the kind of thing where I get to have a really different sort of relationship with my kid. The characters are friends. That’s so different from what you see on TV. It’s usually the mom yelling at the kid and the kid’s getting into trouble.”

The kid, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, knocks her out, though. “She’s an incredibly smart child. The minute they call action, she’s working,” she says. “It’s really cool to watch her grow physically and become more comfortable, worrying if something she does or says looks stupid. I will help her as much as I can to not have that feeling.”

Johnson’s dad, Don, starred in two long-running series, “Miami Vice” on NBC and “Nash Bridges” on CBS, but did not offer advice on handling the workload.

“There’s no advice anybody can give you at all. It’s really personal to each actor,” she says. “It’s insane. While people are watching one episode, we’re filming five more episodes. There are a few bits that were filmed the day before the show came on the air. It’s an insanely physically taxing job.”

Johnson is looking forward to Kate getting a little wild as the season progresses and she confirms that the she will have a boyfriend, played by Geoff Stults. “He comes on in Episode 5. He’s Will, the hunky neighbor,” she says.

While Kate’s social life is looking up, Johnson is acclimating herself to the grind of successful TV series. When she has her upcoming Christmas break, she says she will be calling the friends that remember her and saying, “I’m so sorry I didn’t call you back for 5 months.”

Source: NY Post

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