Carol Stream's Eric Petersen embraces 'boorish' role in buzzy new AMC series
When Carol Stream native Eric Petersen auditioned for the new AMC series "Kevin Can (expletive) Himself," he was taken aback by its blunt title. But he came to love the script and the genre-bending concept of a show he describes as a "game-changer."
"It was such a smart idea," said Petersen, heaping praise on the show's creator and executive producer Valerie Armstrong.
Petersen stars as the exuberantly self-centered and schlubby title sitcom husband in "Kevin," while Emmy Award-winner Annie Murphy of "Schitt's Creek" fame plays Kevin's wife, Allison.
Petersen describes his take on the traditional sitcom husband as a mix of Jackie Gleason in "The Honeymooners" and Peter Griffin from "Family Guy." Allison initially functions as a sitcom's secondary "wife character," whose main duty is to be the voice of reason or "fun killer" for the man-children in her life.
But the instant Kevin goes off-screen, the show transforms into a color-desaturated world seen largely from Allison's annoyed point of view. "Kevin" then reveals itself to be a slow-burn revenge drama more akin to grittier AMC shows such as "Breaking Bad" or "Better Call Saul."
"Kevin" debuts on the streaming service AMC+ on Sunday, June 13, and then on AMC on June 20. There are eight 45-minute episodes, and Petersen hopes that audiences will take to the show's stylistic gear shifting.
"I was so excited to have the opportunity to be a part of a show that would really be a game-changer," Petersen said.
Petersen previously starred in the short-lived 2013 TV Land show "Kirstie," so he's grateful to have another crack at a sitcom with more bite.
The new show is set in Massachusetts, and was filmed in that state for seven months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Practically every scene with Petersen as Kevin is brightly lit and filmed like a broad multicamera network sitcom -- complete with a background audience laughing up a storm.
"To do that style of broad comedy with no reaction could be deadly to the soul," Petersen said.
Though the show couldn't be played to a big live-studio audience during taping, Petersen said a group of 10 to 15 "laughers" were hired to watch in a socially distanced sound booth so their audio responses could be captured in real time.
But Petersen said the laughers were only treated to the show's sitcom portions. So Allison's scenes away from her husband will be a shocker as Kevin's many faults become glaringly apparent.
"I would have to say these terrible lines to the character of Allison," Petersen said. "A lot of times the audience wouldn't react negatively because we and they are so conditioned to watching years and years of sitcoms to think, 'Oh, that's just what that guy does, which is to be funny.'"
Though the show is set in New England, Petersen has strong Chicago theater connections. He notably went from doing theater at Glenbard North High School to later starring in the title role of "Shrek the Musical" when its national tour launched in Chicago in 2010. He was also in the Broadway in Chicago tryout of the Jimmy Buffett musical "Escape to Margaritaville" in 2017.
Die-hard storefront theater fans will delight in seeing former Chicago actress Mary Hollis Inboden as shady neighbor Patty in "Kevin." She starred in tiny Chicago productions for The New Colony before landing TV work in "Boss" and "The Real O'Neals."
"'Kevin Can (expletive) Himself' is really Annie Murphy's story as Allison and her relationship with Mary Hollis Inboden as Patty. It's their story of female empowerment," Petersen said. "My poor, boorish behavior as Kevin gives them a new way to look at the world and to break free."