Kevin James is back in the comedy series Kevin Can Wait, which premieres this fall on CBS. But though the actor is seasoned in being funny on TV, there’s something new about this experience in particular.
“I never did a show with kids before,” James told PEOPLE at the CBS Upfronts at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday, debuting the show in which he plays a retired cop who learns shocking truths about his family as he spends more time at home.
“So I’m excited about that. I have four kids of my own, and I’ve been breeding them for nothing but comedy.”
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“Honestly, they all come in with their home runs,” James, 51, offers when asked which of his kid costars is most amusing. “They don’t mean to, but they provide a wealth of comedy. All of our writers have kids, and man, we just draw from it.”
And what are James’ real-life children, with wife of almost 12 years Steffiana de la Cruz, up to at the moment?
“My eldest daughter [Sienna-Marie, 10] is kickboxing,” he says, owning up to some personal fear factors. “I’ve got three daughters [Sienna-Marie; Shea Joelle, 8½; and Sistine Sabella, 14 months] and a little boy [Kannon Valentine, 5], but [Sienna-Marie]’s the tough one — she’s strong.”
He jokes, “I’m not going to lie: She’ll put a hurting on you.”
And what about his children’s other hobbies?
“They’re into animation and drawing. They don’t want to be in front of the camera, which I’m happy about, but they want to get behind it,” he says. “They like editing. Right now, they have a program where they are reediting Frozen — because there were so many problems with the first one that made over a billion dollars, but they have the fix!”
The former King of Queens star went on to reveal what drew him back to the sitcom format.
“I miss it,” he says. “I had such a great time doing [The King of Queens]. Truthfully, I miss that live audience reaction — the excitement of it. Stand-up is the same thing, being out there in front of a live audience. You can’t get it anywhere else.”
Explaining the similarities and differences among the characters he’s played, James admits, “It’s me. They’re all elements of myself in these characters. This one a little bit more so because of my family life … with some exaggerations.”
Kevin Can Wait will air Mondays this fall on CBS.
— Jeffrey Slonim