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.
“I think I’ve learned more from the people I work with than from my parents,” Dakota Johnson says. Most young actors in Hollywood would probably say the same thing.
However, their parents wouldn’t be Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson. The only child from that marriage, the 23-year-old Johnson grew up on film and television sets.
“I’d watch my parents working,” she recalls, “but I wasn’t sitting there studying them. I was off playing with a production assistant.”
Something must have taken. After a string of small parts in The Social Network (2010), Beastly (2011), The Five-Year Engagement (2012), and 21 Jump Street (2012), Johnson landed a starring role in the new Fox sitcom Ben and Kate. She plays Kate, a single mom who works at a bar and considers herself super-organized. When her older brother, Ben (Nat Faxon), crashes back into her life and decides to stick around and help out, a new “odd couple” family ensues.
Johnson compares Ben and Kate to The Cosby Show (1984-1992).
Tonight marks a milestone in the (so far) short life of Ben & Kate. The New Girl-styled sitcom about grown siblings who move in together — she’s a serious-minded single mom; he’s a terminal adolescent with commitment issues — has been on the air four weeks, a whole month, and is one of the few new sitcoms that looks as if it will stay for a while.
Just last week, parent network Fox ordered several more new episodes, on top of the initial eight episodes guaranteed all new series. That means Ben & Kate will survive both the baseball playoffs and the U.S. presidential election campaign, despite early middling reaction from viewers overwhelmed by the return of Tuesday-night time-period competitors NCIS, Dancing With the Stars, The Voice and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
Then again Ben & Kate, like its eponymous characters, shows early signs of maturing or, if not maturing exactly, growing on one. Dakota Johnson as Kate and Nat Faxon as Ben have real chemistry together. They’re believable as grown siblings. The rivalries and childhood resentments are plainly evident, but so is the loyalty that comes from growing up together in a household of constantly bickering parents.
Ben & Kate creator Dana Fox, a writer for New Girl in that sitcom’s first season, based Ben & Kate‘s characters on her own relationship with her brother, whom she recently described to TV critics in Los Angeles as a “really, really smart Ferris Bueller type” who, when he was younger, did “incredibly dumb things.”
FOX has announced the first two shows of its fall freshmen to get a full season. The network orders nine additional episodes of “The Mindy Project”, and six additional episodes of “Ben and Kate”, bringing both comedies to full seasons.
“‘Ben and Kate’ and ‘The Mindy Project’ have everything we want to stand for in comedy … smart writing, hugely appealing casts and comedy that feels contemporary and real,” says FOX Chairman Kevin Reilly, “which is why we’re confident they will continue to build on what is already an appointment comedy night for young, influential audiences on Tuesdays.”
Dubbed the No. 1 new comedy in adults 18-34 demo this season, “The Mindy Project” debuted to 4.6 million viewers and a 2.4 rating in the demo. It follows Mindy Kaling’s titular character who is a skilled OB/GYN juggling her career and love life.
“Ben and Kate” generated favorable reviews upon its premiere, which drew a 2.1 rating in the coveted demo and 4.2 million total viewers. The story revolves around Dakota Johnson’s Kate and her brother Ben (Nat Faxon), who is her exact opposite. He moves in with his sister to help take care of her daughter.
Don’t mess with Dakota Johnson. The daughter of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and granddaughter of Hitchcock siren Tippi Hedren, knows her way around a firearm. And she always hits her target. “It’s a really cool thing,” says Johnson of her hobby. Professionally, she’s also pulling the trigger on being a full-time actress: Johnson is headlining the Fox sitcom Ben and Kate (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET/PT). And like the seasoned pro she is, Johnson, 22, quickly deflects any questions about her folks. “I get asked about my parents a lot, which is not what I’m doing press for,” she says. Point taken.
Q: What about Kate made you want to play her?
A: “I love the way she’s written. It was the family vibe of it, and the fact that it wasn’t a romantic relationship. It’s a brother and a sister. Kate has a daughter and she’d do anything for her daughter. Kate is really smart and scared and funny — there’s a lot going on.”
Q: Did you base Kate’s relationship with her daughter on anyone specific?
A: “No. It’s a really unique relationship. I’m not a mom. I’m playing older than myself in the show. I have a maternal side to me, but I would never know what it’s like to be a mom until I am one. I wanted to have that opportunity.”
Below is an interview Dakota Johnson, Nat Faxon And Maggie Elizabeth Jones recently did with Showbiz Shelly on B96.com.
One of the fall’s most delightful new comedies, FOX’s “Ben and Kate,” which premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25, revolves around a pair of odd-couple siblings (Nat Faxon, Dakota Johnson) joined at the hip following a childhood that clearly was no bed of roses.
Forced by aloof parents to more or less parent each other, Ben and Kate Fox have spent their recent years living in different California cities. At the moment, Kate is working as a bar manager to support Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), her precocious daughter, whose unplanned arrival five years ago forced Kate to drop out of college just shy of graduation and put her life on hold, acting responsibly and following the rules, just as she has all her life.
That structured world gets turned upside down in the series premiere with the arrival of irrepressible big brother Ben, who needs to crash on her couch for a few days while he prevents a woman he loves from marrying another man, but it’s not long before he starts to notice danger signals when it comes to kid sister’s latest beau (guest star Jon Foster).