When James Caan left “Las Vegas,” he said he wanted to return to movies, but now he is back on TV. What’s up with that?
—Simon Schine, Lebanon, Pennsylvania
When asked, James Caan, 73, jokes that the cause is bad movies. But he also kids around that he thought he had received a call from the Coen brothers, but it turned out to be the Cullen brothers — Mark and Robb — who are the executive producers of his new ABC comedy series “Back in the Game.”
“They are funnier than the Coen brothers, better,” says the Bronx, New York-born actor, who plays an opinionated, beer-guzzling, ex-athlete grandfather of a boy who doesn’t have an athletic gene in his body, but wants to play baseball. “We got together and this was far more exciting and far more fun than anything that I’ve been doing.”
It also didn’t hurt that the series is set in the world of amateur baseball, because Caan, who played baseball in high school and then football, admits that other than acting, his whole life has revolved around sports.
“I think organized sports is probably the most important for a young person to be involved with — boy or girl — learning the sense of winning, losing, dedication, loyalty, all those things,” he says. “So I love sports for that.”
So much so that Caan actually quit acting for six years and did nothing but coach baseball. His son Scott Caan, 37, now one of the stars of “Hawaii Five-0,” was an excellent baseball player, who began with T-ball, went through all of Little League and then wound up playing his last year for Beverly High as their second baseman, before quitting to become an actor.
“I was extremely enthusiastic,” Caan says of his coaching style. “I’d go to these kids’ houses. It was great fun. And I told everyone, ‘If you don’t want to play, I love you just as much. But if you’re going to play, there’s 13 games. You sign on, and you play all 13 no matter how sick you are. Right? So you don’t have to play next year if you don’t like it. There’s something about that whole aspect again about sports, and that’s why I coached.”