Kevin James’ return to CBS multi-cam comedy, Kevin Can Wait, is set and shot on Long Island, and he played a retired cop — because that’s where James grew up, and those are the people he knows, the star told TV critics this afternoon at TCA.
“I grew up with a lot of guys in Long Island … who are police officers.” Now, 20 years later, they’re retiring from the force in their 40s, with “dreams of what they’re going to do every day, race go-carts, go to Mets games and also spend time with the family,” though it does not necessarily pan out that way.
“Coming back to TV, I wanted something special to it,” said James, who is making his return to CBS’s Monday slate, having starred in the 1998-2007 comedy The King of Queens. “If I do another sitcom here, you’re one of many shows here in Los Angeles,” he told the Beverly Hills confab this afternoon. “In Long Island, you’re something special.” That includes the locals who show up to be in the studio audience on taping day, noted James and co-star Erinn Hayes. James said it was the first TV series shot entirely on Long Island.
“I wanted to keep it authentic to Long Island,”James said. “Long Island plays a character in this show; it gives me something to hold on to.”
To that end, they also taped exteriors using “real mom-and-pop pizza stores that I grew up with,” he said.
Among the challenges of making 207 King of Queens episodes was coming up with stories for a character who had one job for the duration. Retired cops, James and EP Rock Reuben noted today, pick up side jobs, like security for celebrities. The side jobs will keep this new comedy from that “claustrophobic” feeling, James forecast happily.
With no studio space available in which to make the series, Sony and CBS built the Kevin Can Wait stage from the ground up.
“It’s pretty expensive to do there, and it was not cheap,” James said. “I’m thankful to them for doing that.”
Kevin Can Wait debuts September 19.