LOS ANGELES “Council of Dads,” the new NBC family drama, scheduled to debut at 10 p.m. March 24, deals with what happens when a group of men are asked to step up and be the father figures for a family in case anything ever happens to the dad. It is inspired by Bruce Feiler’s book of the same name.
Sarah Wayne Callies is not certain why she was cast to play the mother other than the role in the series – where every day is fathers day – is the latest where Callies portrays a mom. Her maternal credits also include “The Walking Dead” and “Colony.”
“I think it may be that is just how I am cast and it may be that I am cast in these kind of roles because they are what I am good at,” Callies says. “I’ve always been good with kids. I like kids. Same with elders.
“I was never very good at dressing up and going to parties when I was in my 20s. But, I was more interested at staying home and playing dominos with the family.”
Callies might not have a clear understanding of why she so often gets cast to play a mom but Joan Rater, writer and executive producer of the new NBC series “Council of Dads,” knows why she cast Callies.
“She grounds the whole thing. She is just real,” Rater says. “You want her to be your mom.”
That’s very important for the new series as family takes on a different meaning. Scott Perry (Tom Everett Scott), a loving father of five, has his entire life’s plan thrown into upheaval by an unexpected health scare. He calls on a few of his most trusted friends to step in as back-up dads to help guide and support his growing family.
His selections include: Anthony (Clive Standen), Scott’s oldest and most loyal friend; Larry (Michael O’Neill), his tough-love AA sponsor; and Oliver (J. August Richards, his dedicated doctor and wife’s dearest friend. They soon learn there’s more to being a father than anyone could do alone.
Callies is playing another motherly role but there is a big difference between her character in “Council of Dads” and the moms she played in “The Walking Dead” and “Colony.” The new NBC series is not as action oriented.
That’s exactly what Callies wanted.
“The world felt like a safer place when I was doing different kinds of work. And I hit a little bit of an ‘I will fight no more forever’ moment where I felt like I’d put a lot of violence into the world and I’d been a part of shows that were apocalyptic and bleak at a time when I think we needed to explore that part of the human mythology,” Callies says. “I hit a point where I actually couldn’t consume any television that wasn’t stand-up comedy because I just felt like life was oppressive.
“So I wanted something that made me feel like, ‘We’re going to be OK. We can do this for each other. We’re going to get through it. We might cry a little bit, but we got this.’ That’s what I wanted.”
What she got is a series that is being compared to NBC’s monster hit “This Is Us.”
Callies is certain if this story had been told with a mother putting together a council of moms, it would have been a very different story.
“I think there are paradigms of womanhood and motherhood that allow us to show up for each other and ask for help that fatherhood has not been defined with,” Callies says. “I think we often do this thing to men where we tell them they are weak if they ask for help.
“This is redefining fatherhood and masculinity in really beautiful ways. These are really gentle men in that they step up with soft and generous hearts as well as being strong, masculine men. That’s almost a subversive thing to model right now.”
The men in Callies own life over the year have both guided her toward the kind of person she wanted to be and helped her avoid becoming the kind of person she never wanted to be. At the start of her career, that guidance was mostly toward being an actor.
Acting credits for Callies include “Prison Break,” the NatGeo limited series “The Long Road Home,” “This Is Your Death” and “Black November.” In recent years, Callies has become eaqally interest in other aspects of show business.
She directed an episode of the limited series “Unspeakable” as well as an episode of the final season of “Colony.” As a writer, Callies has several screenplays in development.
“I want to be a storyteller,” Callies says. “I’m interested in telling the kind of stories that I have always wanted to be a part of.”
That will always include playing moms.