ABC launches “Family Tools” at 8:30 tonight (May 1) and while the comedy has all the laughs of a kitten’s funeral, it does star an actor who always makes projects better merely by being part of the cast. That would be J.K. Simmons.
Don’t be upset if the name doesn’t ring a bell. He’s played everything from a cop boss in “The Closer” to the cigar-chomping newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson in the “Spider-Man” movies. Simmons is one of those actors who has done so many different TV and film roles, you know him once you see him even if you can’t remember his name.
Simmons might have been better known if he hadn’t been so determined not to appear in a TV commercial while spending all those years as a struggling actor in New York. Theater is great but one well-placed commercial can be seen by as many people as see an entire year’s run of a play.
Simmons finally gave in and has been starring in a series of TV commercials for Farmer’s Insurance.
“Now that I’m the Farmers professor for the last couple years, it’s both humbling and daunting that the number of people who go, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re the commercial guy,’ because I got used to being the guy from this movie or that TV show or HBO or whatever it is,” Simmons says.
He thought long and hard about being in a commercial. What made him decide to make the leap was that he wouldn’t be in the commercial as himself trying to hawk a car, breath mint or adult diapers.
“It was a character and I thought the spots were kind of fun and funny. It’s been a campaign that’s been a fun thing to be a part of. And it’s paying for my kid’s third grade tuition too. It’s a beautiful thing here in L.A.,” Simmons says.
The best thing is that doing the commercials hasn’t kept Simmons from appearing in TV and film projects. Actors this good need to be working as much as possible.