We recently had the chance to speak with actor J. August Richards about his new role on Council of Dads. He plays Dr. Oliver Post, one of the three men entrusted with the task of taking care of Scott Perry's family after his death.
Oliver is Scott's wife, Robin's, best friend and he is more than willing to step in to help the family cope with their loss.
What drew you to the role of Oliver on Council of Dads? What was the casting process like for you?
The day I auditioned for Council of Dads was the day I almost quit acting. I probably wouldn't have gone through with it, but as I mounted the stairs on the Universal lot, I was struck with panic -- the kind of debilitating panic that means only one thing: you're going to blow it!
As I entered the building, I began plotting my escape: "I'll sell my house and teach. I love teaching, and my mother was a teacher, so I'll do that!" Because after 25 years, you would think it'd get easier, and I just couldn't imagine doing this to myself any longer.
I got up to the waiting room, and fortunately, there were a few people in front of me, so I began talking myself down. "Okay. This script is about one thing -- LOVE. And all you have to do is love the person you're reading with. And if you can just do that, it won't matter what comes out of your mouth, they will feel it."
The casting director, Veronica Ronney, came to get me. She has a sweet, kind energy that is infectious. I thought about how much the people in her life must love her. I focused on that.
What's been the biggest challenge you've faced playing Oliver so far?
The biggest challenge in playing Oliver was overcoming a personal wall I had up between my professional life and my personal life.
Up until now, I didn't share the fact that I am gay with the people I work with. I had fully internalized an unwritten rule that if producers and casting directors know that you're gay in real life, it will affect the roles in which they will cast you.
That may still be true to a certain extent, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to give the performance I wanted to give if I had a wall up with my co-stars, and I wouldn't be able to contribute to the characterization in an authentic way if I didn't let the writers the producers know that I understand this character from a place of experience.
How do you feel about all of the emotional reactions Council of Dads has been getting? People are really resonating with the show. Are you surprised by how quickly the audience has gotten invested in these characters?
Not at all because at the first table read, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. I still wonder how the creators, Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, were able to get the audience to care so much in such a short amount of time.
Who's your favorite actor to work with on the show? The dynamic between Oliver and Robin has been especially great to watch.
I can't say that I have a favorite, but Sarah Wayne Callies and I have something very special. We are kindred spirits in the way that we approach the work and the way that we approach life. I fully trust her, and we know each other on a deep level, so I think that shows.
Council of Dads has been praised for showing the relationship between Oliver and his husband, Peter, and their daughter, Tess. It's rare to see two men of color married on television, and even rarer to see them raising a daughter together.
Fans have expressed gratitude for seeing themselves finally represented on screen. How does it feel to be apart of a relationship that means so much to people?
That was a major part of why I made the choice to come out publicly. I saw an opportunity to be of service in a way that you don't by every day. I wanted to be able to speak about the importance of this representation without feeling like I was hiding.
For me growing up, it would have made a huge difference seeing black gay men portrayed as fully realized human beings with the kind of full lives we all aspire to.
Growing up, gay men and especially black gay men were always portrayed as something to be ridiculed and made fun of. And that was at best! I saw an opportunity to help change the narrative in some small way.
We saw in episode three that Oliver is struggling to split his time between the Perrys and his own family. Being tasked with helping out his best friend's family is a big undertaking.
Going forward, can we expect Oliver to face difficulty balancing his time between the two? Do you think Oliver is still driven by guilt to help out the Perrys, even if he knows he did everything he could for Scott?
Oliver's goal in life is to be a great father. It's alluded to that he and his father didn't have the best relationship because he didn't feel accepted. Oliver is driven by creating a safe environment where the kids can flourish and thrive as their authentic selves.
He's let go of the guilt and just wants to be a great father to his daughter and a great father figure to Robin's kids. He also wants to nudge his best friend, Robin, toward the light and move her beyond grief. I love that about him!
If Council of Dads gets renewed for another season (fingers crossed!), are there any storylines you'd like to explore with your character that you didn't get to this season?
Well, something really big happens at the end of the season that will change his life forever... So, I want to see how he handles that!
Council of Dads airs on Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC. You can catch up on previous episodes and watch Council of Dads online here at TV Fanatic anytime.
Jillian Pugliese is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.