LOS ANGELES -- Leah Remini had good reason to join the new ABC sitcom "Family Tools."
The former "The King of Queens" star has a development deal with the network, and ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee asked her to be part of the comedy, which debuted at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
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Then Remini's mother weighed in.
"She said, 'Who's in it?'" the actress recalled. After hearing the cast included J.K. Simmons ("Juno," "The Closer"), Remini's mom replied, "He's a real actor, Leah. You should do it."
"As opposed to me," Remini said, wryly. "He's real, he does drama."
Remini has made her career largely in comedy, but her mom still can brag on her. Besides the 1998-2007 run opposite Kevin James in CBS' "King of Queens," Remini has worked steadily in a string of sitcoms including "Cheers" and "In the Motherhood." She was a co-host on "The Talk" for a year and is venturing into reality TV production with her husband, actor Angelo Pagan.
(All Remini will say of her experience with "The Talk" is that "a real friendship was born out of that" with Holly Robinson Peete, another host who was released from the CBS show after the first season.)
In "Family Tools," Remini plays Terry, sister to Tony (Simmons). When the irascible Tony faces a health crisis, Terry forces him to bring in his flighty son Jack (Kyle Bornheimer) to help run Tony's handyman business.
Edi Gathegi, Johnny Pemberton and Danielle Nicolet co-star in the sitcom based on the British comedy "White Van Man."
Remini said she and Simmons represent "the grandpa and grandma of the show," the seasoned actors.
"Kyle and Edi and everyone are going over their lines, rehearsing scenes with each other, very actorlike. And J.K. and I are ... 'What did you do last night?'" she said.
"Family Tools" does have its challenges: It's a single-camera comedy filmed without a studio audience, a change from the three-camera sitcoms Remini is used to taping in front of a responsive crowd.
"You get an honest reaction from an audience. They're going to laugh if they think it's funny," she said. But on a single-camera show, even the crew has to remain silent.
"I found myself going up to the lighting guys and saying, 'Is that funny?'" the 42-year-old actress said. "I'm so used to that immediate gratification."