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The fantastic Mr Fox …

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Executive producer and cast member Michael J. Fox participates in a panel for "The Michael J. Fox Show" during the NBC sessions at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, California July 27, 2013.

The Michael J Fox Show features the Emmy award-winning actor as his alter-ego, Michael “Mike” Henry, a former news anchor who, after taking four years off when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, decides to return to work. Debashine Thangevelo looks at how Fox has continued to flourish on our screens despite his health setback…

A beacon of hope – that’s what Michael J Fox has been since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The diagnosis was made in 1991; and he went public in 1999.

The 52-year-old made his television breakthrough with Family Ties (1982-1989) as Alex P Keaton. His praiseworthy depiction bagged him three Emmy honours (1986, 1987 and 1988) and a Golden Globe Award (1989) and, by sheer serendipity, also introduced him to his wife, Tracy Pollan, who played his girlfriend on the show, Ellen. They married in 1988 and have children Sam Michael, twins Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances and Esmè Annabelle.

Having given us hit family movies like the Back to the Future franchise, Doc Hollywood – and not forgetting his slew of voiceover work – Fox didn’t disappear from the world of television.

Besides his comic genius and irrepressible charm resurfacing as Mike Flaherty in Spin City, his fans were elated when he popped up in the series Boston Legal, Rescue Me and The Good Wife.

Now he is the lead and co-executive producer in The Michael J Fox Show. Of course, when I first heard about it, I thought he was doing a talk show. Imagine my surprise when I learnt the show was a comedy and he was playing a character similar to himself. Talk about baffling!

In an interview with Collider.com, Fox explained: “I think that, with my kids, (they) are happy that I’m going back to work, just from a sense of (them) being happy for me.”

On drawing inspiration from his family for the characters in the comedy, Fox reveals: “Well, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. There’s a deniability level, but they will recognise things. There’s something in our relationship that I’m taking a run with and, in that germination, it’s moved away from their experience. They’re cool with it.”

The actor turned political activist, known for his tireless efforts to raise funds to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, knows the medical condition is no laughing matter.

As for how the show’s writers deal with the disease affecting his character, which is written in a humorous way, he says: “I don’t vet creative instinct. I just go with it. I feel that it is a reflection of my experience and, certainly in the pilot, it was more prevalent than it is in the following scripts. The way I look at life, and the way I look at… Parkinson’s, is that sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes it’s funny. I need to look at it that way; and I think other people will do the same.”

Fox has done serious already with Lucky Man and his second book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.

That the tenacious actor has decided to showcase the lighter side of life – certainly in this series – is something that should be applauded.

Then again, Fox is a natural-born entertainer!

* The Michael J Fox Show airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Wednesday at 6pm.

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