John Stamos with women's basketball team
John Stamos with women's basketball team

John Stamos: I don’t understand sports – I never did

John Stamos is surprising people with his latest role, in a Disney+ Original about basketball. Georgia Humphreys finds out more.

Georgia Humphreys
Monday 19 April 2021 12:00

When John Stamos first read the script for Big Shot, he didn’t understand why he’d been asked to play Coach Marvyn Korn. The 10-part Disney+ Original follows a stoic, “unlikeable”, “unfriendly” men’s basketball coach who, after getting fired, is given a chance for redemption with a new job – at an all-girls high school.

And, as a talkative, affable guy, playing someone who’s not good with people was tricky for California-born Stamos, 57. But, the actor says, he had to trust in the writing – and also trust that he was “interesting enough to not do a lot of shtick and bits and funny voices”.

“I told the director, ‘Please if you see me dipping into any old tricks of mine, stop, yell cut’,” he recalls. “The challenge was to just stay in that character, don’t move around too much… I think I pulled it off. It’s hard to be still, right? It’s hard to trust that you’re interesting enough being still.”

Stamos is a notably chatty interviewee; on a call with a group of international journalists, he takes his time with his answers, often sharing anecdotes about his travels around the world. His worldwide fame is largely thanks to his role in the US sitcom Full House, which starred Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and saw him play the loveable Uncle Jesse. The show ran from 1987 to 1995 – and then there was a spinoff that launched on Netflix in 2016, called Fuller House which he also starred in.

Discussing his preparation for this new role, Stamos spent time with Jerry West a former basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers. It was especially helpful as he was not a sporty kid at school himself; in fact, he reflects on how he was a “band geek”. “I know everybody says they were nerdy when they were kids, but I was,” he elaborates. “I was picked on by the sports guys. I was a punk, and I was a geek. I played in a marching band and the sports guys, I was afraid of them. There was always somebody who wanted to beat me up too, I hated it. But, I was true to myself at that time.”

As a musical person, he says he uses music a lot when preparing for a role and for Korn he was actually listening to some heavy metal stuff. What he found particularly hard was portraying the coaching on the court. “I don’t understand sports – I never did,” he admits. “I can’t wrap my head around it. And it was so sad, because my dad loved sports – and I tried! I loved my dad and I wanted to be around him.

“He was a golfer, and I said, ‘OK, I’m going to take lessons’. And then I went out with him one day and said, ‘Dad watch this’, and I hit the ball and I sliced it, and it flew by this older woman’s temple by like a quarter of an inch, and I almost killed her. And my dad said, ‘That’s it, we’re done with golf’.”

You can tell just how much Stamos has loved being part of Big Shot. But it was not an entirely smooth filming process, as it was one of the many TV shows impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. At one point, he had to isolate for 10 days away from his wife – actress Caitlin McHugh – and their three-year-old son, Billy. “He was sending me little videos saying, ‘I want to cuddle’; he knew I was in the house, and it was hard,” Stamos says of his being apart from his son. “I’m one of the luckiest on the planet – we did OK through this [Covid-19]. But still, it was very difficult to not be around my family.

“But I’m glad we did, and Disney was fantastic. I mean, sometimes we complain about how strict they were about everything – and they still are – but thank God, because I’ve stayed safe, and my family’s safe.”

Big Shot is available to watch now on Disney+