CloserWeekly.com’s Classic TV & Film podcast describes itself as celebrating the golden age of television and movies, then and now. Well, it’s not easy finding somebody who represents both aspects of this podcast, but actor turned director Ken Olin is definitely one of them. He first came to our attention in the ’80s ensemble drama thirtysomething. That show allowed Ken the opportunity to start directing, a skill he enhanced as a producer/director on the J.J. Abrams spy series Alias, which starred Jennifer Garner as undercover operative Sydney Bristow. Flash Forward to today, and Ken is one of the creative guiding forces of NBC’s powerhouse, This Is Us. In a wide-ranging conversation for the podcast, Ken discusses all three shows in depth.
Ken Olin on thirtysomething: “It was career changing. All of a sudden I was offered a lot of different work. Patty [Wetting, his wife, who also starred on the show] was winning Emmys. It completely change our lives that way. You go from being unknown and struggling to being recognized to being offered a lot of different things, and being pulled in a lot of different directions. It’s a mixed bag. It was for me. I was uncomfortable for whatever reasons with celebrity and didn’t handle some of the attention with a lot of equanimity.”
Ken Olin on Alias: “That was an extraordinary thing, and it was also extraordinary for me to work closely with someone like J.J. Abrams whose sensitivities had been informed by things like thirtysomething, as you saw with his show Felicity. He was such a bold filmmaker. He loved those kinds of seminal Spielberg movie moments. That informed the show and was completely different than anything I had done. One of the things that was revolutionary about Alias was that that kind of bold, comic book, cinematic sensibility could be done on television. J.J. loved Mission Impossible, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Get Smart, and Alias was this hybrid of those things, but it also had character stuff. It had intimately observed moments of character. That was really unique. Another show that expanded the vocabulary of television.”
Ken Olin on This Is Us: “This is [series creator] Dan Fogelman’s voice. This is an authentic expression of a really brilliant writer’s sensibilities. I never thought a show like this — like Brothers and Sisters and thirtysomething — in terms of just being fundamentally about people and their relationships and trying to be better people, and a show about love and family and kindness and decency, and those kind of struggles, could cause a sensation anymore. Three years ago when this show started, it wasn’t clear that the impact of what was happening socio-politically in the country would demand something like this. Would demand a kind of cathartic experience or a reminder of some of the things in our lives that are meaningful.”
There is so much more to this interview with Ken Olin. Please check it out, and be sure to subscribe to our Classic TV & Film podcast.