Created by Charlie Grandy and Mindy Kaling, Champions is a half-hour comedy that centers on Vince (Anders Holm), a washed-up high school baseball star who reluctantly gave up his dreams to take over the family gym in Brooklyn.
Vince lives with his sweet, naive younger brother, Matthew (Andy Favreau), and is on the verge of secretly selling the gym and moving to Florida when his high school fling, Priya (recurring guest star Kaling), unexpectedly drops off their 15-year-old son, Michael (J.J. Totah) on his doorstep.
After raising Michael by herself for 15 years, Priya decided to move her talented and ambitious theater-kid son away from his sheltered life in Cleveland so he could attend a prestigious performing arts school in New York. While she loves her son deeply, she’s delighted at the chance to let Vince and Matthew do the parenting while Michael pursues his dreams. In addition to adjusting to his new home life in the Big Apple, Michael is now a small fish in a big pond and has a lot to overcome before he can make friends and win the EGOT that is his destiny.
Check out our exclusive interviews below:
The Knockturnal: How did you get involved with the show?
Anders Holm: I had so much dirt on Mindy Kaling that it was kind of inevitable for her to give me a show. Yeah, it was either that or the fact that I worked with her on The Mindy Project, and then this came about, and she was like, “Hey, give it a read.” And I did, and I was like, “This is pretty dang good.”
The Knockturnal: Tell us about your character.
Anders Holm: I play Vince and Vince owns a gym and is kind of like a single bachelor guy. Then he finds out that his 15-year-old son is moving to New York to live with him unbeknownst to him.
The Knockturnal: And what’s that dynamic like?
Anders Holm: Totally surprising. They have zero common ground, but they’re gonna try and find it, that’s what the show’s about.
The Knockturnal: What do you admire about Mindy?
Anders Holm: Work ethic. She works constantly and if I could do that I would, I cannot.
The Knockturnal: Tell me about the ensemble that’s been assembled. It seems like such a fun cast.
Anders Holm: First and foremost, funny. Second, most foremost, they’re fun, they’re good people. And then as far as the show goes, it’s a diverse cast, so you get a lot different points of view and it’s fun.
The Knockturnal: Have you shot the whole season yet?
Anders Holm: Yeah, it’s in the can.
The Knockturnal: What was like a highlight of working on it?
Anders Holm: A highlight was the food trucks. A lot of food on this show. They kept us pretty plump.
The Knockturnal: And what else is coming up next for you?
Anders Holm: I have a Netflix movie that comes out on the 23rd with the fellow gentlemen from Workaholics. It’s called Game Over Man! It’s Workaholics like jumping out the gym. It’s crazy, it’s exciting, it’s an action comedy. Everyone who likes Workaholics will love this movie.
The Knockturnal: Talk about what you learned from Mindy Kaling being on set because she really helped give you a big platform from comedian to full-on actor.
Fortune Feimster: Oh, for sure. I mean, I had done some pilots before I got The Mindy Project, but she was the first one that gave me my full-time acting job, so it definitely changed my career as far as suddenly I went from just being a standup comedian to now an actor. And then when she asked me to do Champions I was like, “Oh, my God, yes.” It’s hard when one show ends to find the next job so soon. So I got really lucky that she wanted to keep working together. And I knew whatever she wrote would be amazing.
J.J. Totah: Mindy is a genius. She’s come from so many great generations of television whether it’s The Office or Mindy Project, so I’ve just learned to be a hard worker, always be on top of your stuff, and just enjoy what you are doing.
The Knockturnal: What can fans expect this season?
J.J. Totah: You get to see Michael messing up the family life a little bit and them getting used to each other. And Fortune you’re in the gym, and we meet up. And you see kind of how the gym works and it becomes apart of the family. Yeah, it’s a fun time.
Fortune: Well, you definitely have this family dynamic where they’re dealing with … Vince is learning to be a new father, and Michael’s learning how to be a kid in this new city. But then you have this gym around them where they’re all learning about Michael for the first time, and through this journey become protective of him. And the fun part is where we’re all in cahoots together about some ridiculous thing where we’re kind of meddling in each other’s lives in a fun way.
The Knockturnal: Mindy is known to be collaborative. Talk about forming your character for this show, and how do you come up with who that person was?
J.J. Totah: They had created the characters before they had approached me, and before I had auditioned. I mean, I added some Sriracha, a little pepper. Mindy and Charlie really created such wonderful dynamic characters that it was already there on the table, we just had to spice it up. What about you?
Fortune: They had already shot the pilot when she had asked me to do the show. So they inserted me in that pilot later. So I got a chance to see what it was gonna look like. I did not have to guess how it would come together. I got to see it, so I was lucky in that way. And she just asked if I was interested in doing it. If I was, they would sort of create this character for me, so the best thing about them as writers is that they take your strengths and sort of write to that. And the only thing that I did different with this character, is … since she’s a trainer in a boxing gym, I just made her the most confident because obviously, I’m not what you would consider a trainer. So I just made her the most confident person in the room. You know?
The Knockturnal: Do you think people will look at the gym differently after watching the show?
Fortune: They might want to find a gym that’s like Champions.
J.J. Totah: They will just want to just grab a family member and say like, “Hi, how you doing. I love you.” I don’t know if this is really a profound piece on gyms, however.
The Knockturnal: So the message of the show is family.
Fortune: Family, for sure. And family takes a lot of different forms. It’s not just like your nuclear family, it’s uncles, and friends, and co-workers, it all kind of melds into one family.