Mike Strahan, the next gap-toothed comedian (and about to marry Eddie Murphy’s ex-wife)


Michael Strahan’s new TV show, “Brothers,” begins with a one-hour pilot tonight, 8 p.m., Channel 11:

By Rick Freeman
The Associated Press

Michael Strahan could get used to the Hollywood life.

In his new career as an actor, whenever he makes a mistake or flubs a line, someone is rushing to his side with a script, offering help. It’s a bit of a change from his previous job.

“When I’m having a bad day on the football field, it probably means I have a coach cursing in my face and some guy weighs a hundred pounds more than me is punching me in the head.”

He’ll take a bad day on the set of his new show, “Brothers,” any day over one in the trenches of the NFL, where he spent 15 seasons as a defensive end for the New York Giants.

Now, like dozens of athletes before him, Strahan has crossed into scripted entertainment, putting together a sitcom with a friend he made during his playing days, Daryl Mitchell.

He’s not completely used to it yet.

“You know, probably the weirdest thing to have happened to me is people coming up and saying ‘Oh yeah, congratulations on your new show,'” Strahan said. “When you have other actors come up and say ‘Hey, congratulations on your show, heard about your show, heard it’s doing well,’ it kind of blows your mind.”

In his first prime-time role that doesn’t involve hauling quarterbacks down, Strahan plays, yes, a retired pro football player.

His character, Michael Trainor, comes home to visit his parents, played by Carl Weathers and C.C.H. Pounder.

Mitchell plays his brother, who was once a better athlete than Michael, but was paralyzed in an accident when he got into a car with a drunk driver after Michael was late to pick him up. Now the character, named Chill (also Mitchell’s nickname), runs a sports bar called Trainor’s.

The tension between the two strong-willed high achievers — one coping with resentment, the other with guilt — drives the show, which premieres Friday night. Pounder does plenty of heavy lifting, too, as the determined mom who can’t stand to see her boys still squabbling.

Strahan has some moments of chemistry with Pounder and Weathers (who gets all the dopey-dad lines) — but is at his best with Mitchell.

“We are like brothers in real life,” he said. “We do have that joking, cat-and-dog type thing.”

The two met at a Knicks game six years ago, and hit it off. When Strahan retired after winning the Super Bowl in 2008, he went to Fox’s NFL pregame show. But he was also looking to do a project with Mitchell.

Now that he’s brought his famous gap-toothed grin to prime-time TV, he’s looking for a role that’s a bit more of a stretch. A retired pro football player named Michael playing a retired pro football player named Michael doesn’t require a lot of exertion in the suspension-of-disbelief department.

“It’s not me. It’s so far from being me. That’s really where the similarities stop,” Strahan said. “I would love to play roles that aren’t required for me to be an ex-football player.”

He’s working on that. And on finding roles for his “Fox NFL Sunday” buddies Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson, who are looking to join a parade of guest stars that has already included Mike Tyson (as himself) and Snoop Dogg, as Trainor’s lawyer.

It turns out, Strahan’s character might have gotten some bad advice lately, and can’t afford a real lawyer.

“Yeah, Snoop’s a lawyer,” Strahan said. “Can you imagine Snoop Dogg in a suit, as skinny as he is? That’s funny in itself.”

Strahan’s sense of comedy was formed watching many of the usual stars for someone raised in the 1970s and ’80s. Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy were staples. The latter, Strahan calls “like, ironic,” because his fiancee is Nicole Murphy, the comedian’s ex-wife.

He also singles out Martin Lawrence, fellow New Yorker Jerry Seinfeld, and Steve Martin, guffawing loudly as he proclaims 1979 film “The Jerk” to be “one of the greatest movies ever made, man.”

Strahan never planned to get into acting. It just seemed a natural move for the gregarious defensive end when his career came to a close.

Not that Strahan considers himself a screen star just yet. He’s been working across from guards and tackles and tight ends for two decades — in front of a camera less than two years.

“I know when I was practicing football, they were practicing this,” Strahan said. “I don’t lose sight of that and think, ‘Well, I’m an actor now.’ You know what? I’m learning as I go and I’m enjoying it and that’s the best thing about it.”

Not that the owner of the single-season sacks record, and 141 total, is content to stay a role-playing rookie for long.

“I want people to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know he was a football player,” Strahan said. “I thought he was an actor.”

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