KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD: Interview With Jason Ritter On Similarities With JOAN OF ARACADIA And Bringing Hope Into The World

Brought to television from the creators of AGENT CARTER and the comedy series REAPER, ABC’s new dramedy KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD is a heart-warming and hilarious tale of a young man seeking purpose in his life after a series of devastating setbacks. Just when all seems lost, Kevin meets a being that he believes could be an angel who tells him that he has been tasked with the mission of saving Earth – someone that no one else but he can see. The show is truly a bright spot on the television landscape and it is worth checking out. In an exclusive interview at the Summer TCA Tour, star Jason Ritter talked about the strong appeal of this upbeat and zany comedy series, as well as the interesting similarities with his former TV series JOAN OF ARACADIA.

When you first read the script for KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD, did it occur to you that it had a similar premise to JOAN OF ARCADIA? For example, both shows have characters named Kevin and are about people approached by a person claiming that they want their help in saving people? Like in JOAN OF ARCADIA, Joan talks to God, but in your character Kevin’s case, he might be talking with an angel. So both essentially are speaking with heavenly beings that others cannot see or hear.

JASON: You know, what was interesting is that when the script was sent to me, they said, “I’m not going to tell you anything about it. Just read it.” So, I had no idea what was coming. I thought, “Oh, this is kind of funny and weird, and there’s a meteor or there’s a space alien. What’s going on here?”. And then there was the reveal of what was actually going on. Everyone has different belief systems and things like that, and I’m very sensitive to other people’s beliefs. So it made me nervous actually, when I first read it. But then I was able to see where it goes and I really loved the way that it sort of navigated this world. Obviously, for me, the characters were so different.

Like your character Kevin in JOAN OF ARCADIA was in a wheelchair and this time your character Kevin is not in a wheelchair.

JASON: Yes, exactly, but Kevin starts the show really emotionally broken. And another element is that in JOAN OF ARCADIA, she was a teenager. She was just trying to be normal and trying to live life. But in this, Kevin’s been around for a while. He’s sort of set in his ways. He’s also gone to an extremely dark place when the show starts. It starts three weeks after a suicide attempt for him, and he’s really reluctant to go on this journey, and for a guy who’s having trouble being responsible for himself, to be tasked with saving the whole world is a lot.

TNT also had a story called SAVING GRACE that Holly Hunter starred in, where she was suddenly found an angel in her life, and it was considered a “last chance” angel who was trying to get her on the right path. In this case, Kevin’s angel or “heavenly warrior” is trying to get him on the right path to save the world. So there’s another bit of similarity. These are interesting themes where people are put in these positions, where they’re given a purpose in life bigger than themselves, so they look beyond their own little world that might be suffocating them.

JASON: I think that was one of the things that I really responded to — especially now — where people feel free to say whatever horrible thing they want to say to a stranger on Facebook or on Twitter and just weigh in on someone else’s life without any kind of thought about how this would potentially affect the person who’s reading it. People are emboldened to be horrible to each other because there’s seemingly no consequences, and people aren’t accountable for their own words in a lot of ways. I think that’s part of feeling isolated and that there’s no stakes and that nothing really matters. The thing about this show is that it is sort of reminder that everything you do has a reaction and that we have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but to the people around us to be accountable for our actions and to look at ourselves and think are we making the world a better place or not? And if we’re not, how can we change?

The tone of the show also sets it apart. It just feels so fun.

JASON: That is it exactly.

Your character Kevin, in spite of his problems, seems to have a very positive look on things. Like he thought, “Oh! There’s something happening out there. I’ll go see what it is,” rather than, “Oh, I’ll slam the door shut and I don’t care what is going on.” He even invited his niece to go with him. That’s a pretty positive. Like, “Hey, I don’t want to do this alone. Come with me!”

JASON: That’s true. Though maybe a little irresponsible, like maybe her mom wouldn’t be so happy. He is an enthusiastic.

Plus, he is including her in his life, which is a positive thing, rather than telling her, “Hey, I’ve got issues right now. Go away.” And he’s saying, “Hey, let’s go check this out. Maybe there’s something adventurous. I want to be a part of it.”

JASON: Yeah! And that’s part of the interesting thing too. They did such a good job in the writing of this. That even at his darkest moment, there’s a reason that he’s been chosen. There’s still an element of curiosity even though he’s been beaten down. He’s made a lot of mistakes and hurt a lot of people and been very sort of self-obsessed, but there’s a spark of something there that she sees in him, even when he doesn’t see it in himself.

And that’s part of what you bring to it. I think the casting probably saw that as well.

JASON: [Laughs] Oh, thanks! I hope so. It was one of those things where I read the script and I felt such a connection to it, I just hoped and prayed that they would see it too. You never know who else is going in and what different flavor any actor will bring to it, but I feel very lucky with this.

Do you want to be in a family show? I mean, it does feel family-oriented.

JASON: I wanted to be in a show that meant something — even if it just meant something to me — especially at a time where people are being so mean to each other. There’s an element of the entertainment world in general, and I very easily begin to get kind of upset and start to go into kind of like, “Well, what’s the point of any of this?” I can very easily start to feel my brain going into this sort of apathy, but then I remember that there’s a reason that the entertainment world exists, and it can be important and it can be uplifting and it can be challenging to us to look at our own lives in a certain way — and it can be funny too. It can be helpful and funny and optimistic, and there’s just something about it that made me feel like, “Yes, this is the kind of thing in this climate that feels like I will continue to be happy to talk about it.” I really feel passionate about this one.

The show feels like it is a “beacon of hope” That’s how your audience will probably respond to it as well. It’s going to give them something to feel hopeful in their own life.

JASON: I hope so. I think that’s also a beautiful thing about this little strange world of television and movies is you can have people scream at each other all day long about this or that or this or that and then they go, “But did you see the latest episode of (whatever)?” We do actually have a lot in common, and we forget that when we get bogged down in some of these other conversations.

What kind of TV shows bring you joy?

JASON: One of the ones that’s been bringing me joy recently is a show called “The Carbonaro Effect.” It’s like a magic prank show. But the thing that’s so beautiful about it, to me, is he’ll do a magic trick, but then he’ll tell the people that it’s the result of the latest technology. It’s impossible, but with the smallest amount of technical-sounding jargon, people go, “Oh wow!” And people buy into it. I love that about people. It is that positive spirit. Generally, prank shows make me uncomfortable because they’re mean-spirited, but his prank show is sort of like, “Did you for one minute imagine that the world was much more magical than you thought it was?” People want to believe. They want to believe the possibilities. They want to believe in magic.

And they want to believe in other life and they want to believe in angels.

JASON: Exactly!

There’s nothing wrong with that. That curiosity, that hopefulness is lovely.

JASON: I think it’s sort of the beautiful thing about human beings that we have that capacity to believe in something more than we see. We’re not just like food, water, shelter. People are pushed to do incredible things that they wouldn’t be able to do without some min-muscle pushing them forward or a belief in themselves that is not logical.

Kind of like they’re unlocking a potential inside them to do whatever it is.

JASON: Exactly, and I think it’s interesting, in particular, because Kevin isn’t really adept at anything, and yet, to me, it sort of feels like every one of us has the capacity to save the world or change the world. It always starts with sort of looking inward and you just got to believe it sometimes. It’s nice to sort of celebrate that aspect of humanity, instead of shoving it under the carpet. It’s beautiful that we have that ability to make it through tough times and succeed in the face and rise again.

It sounds like you guys might be having a little bit of fun in the process, as well.

JASON: [Laughs] Almost too much!

I remember JOAN OF ARCADIA debut at a very important time because people were looking for hope then as well.

JASON: It’s very important. That was one of the things that I loved about that show so much is that even if you removed that element and Joan wasn’t actually even talking to anybody, her actions and her decisions, it is more the belief in the possibility that allowed her to do it.

And everything she did had a ripple-effect. We don’t think we influence the things or people around us, but we actually do, and once we have that awareness, we then try to do hopefully more positive things.

JASON: Yeah, exactly! Once you’re sort of awoken to that aspect of your life, then you go, “Oh, wow! I didn’t even realize that this one thing would affect this many people.” Not even the person that you directly affect, but then how that changes their day and then how they act to the people around them. It can be a subtle difference, but the more people who have that awareness, the better we’re going to be as a species, and I hope we’re going in that direction.

One final question: should we even assume in KEVIN PROBABLY that Yvette (Kimberly Gregory) is a heavenly being? She just could be an alien life form adopting that as a way of communicating with Kevin in a way that makes him more comfortable.

JASON: [Laughs] I still don’t know! That’s one of the fun things of the show is: who knows? She certainly seems to be able to alter physical things, but who knows? And it’s been exciting as the episodes come out to learn a little bit more about her character and where she’s from and the whatever’s that she’s able to communicate with other than Kevin. There’s still a lot of her character that’s a mystery, which is exciting.

To find out just who Yvette is and why she feels that it is Kevin’s mission to save the world, be sure to tune in for the premiere of KEVIN (PROBABLY) SAVES THE WORLD on Tuesday, October 3rd at 10:00 p.m. on ABC. Also be sure to follow the show on Twitter @KevinProbably and @JasonRitter for sneak peeks and exclusives about the show.