American Housewife’s Diedrich Bader chats about the reality of his new sitcom and being a dad on and off the screen.
ON CTV’s new sitcom, American Housewife, Diedrich Bader plays Greg Otto, a downto- earth dad who loves his wife and supports his kids—a role that Bader says is the closest character to his actual self that he has ever played.
“It’s really fun for me because I don’t have to constantly be thinking about how a character would think,” says Bader. “I just show up with my lines memorized and do them as I, myself, would say them.”
When it comes to playing dad, Bader has plenty of practice. He has two kids—Sebastian, 13, and Odine, 11. Bader sat down with INBETWEEN to chat about American Housewife, being a dad and how parenthood is about to get real as he embarks on a new phase— teenage hood.
AMERICA’S NEW HOUSEWIF
When it comes to family comedies, American Housewife is added to an already established roster that includes the likes of The Middle, The Goldbergs, black-ish and more. While viewers may not think there’s room for yet another family-based sitcom, American Housewife brings a dose of reality to the small screen not often portrayed in other shows.
“I think American Housewife really digs into the idea that parenting is obviously really difficult, and there can be resentment that parents feel about having to do their job that they got themselves into,” says Bader. “I think it has a healthy approach towards that feeling and that it’s OK to feel that way at certain times. That’s sort of refreshing. One of the things that I really like about the show is, that said, the Ottos aren’t trying to duck out of parenting duties. They really love their kids.”
American Housewife is about Greg and Katie Otto, two middle-class parents trying to raise their three children in the affluent neighbourhood of Westport, Connecticut. While the area is comprised of cookie-cutter, athletic yoga pants-wearing moms and their perfect offspring, the Ottos are just trying to keep their heads above water and do right by their kids.
“I would say the Otto family is about as functional as any family can be,” says Bader. “They are very blessed by the opportunity to have a mother that can be a full-time mom.
A full-time mom is an incredibly hard job. Greg can provide enough that they can do that but they’re just scraping by.”
Katy Mixon (Mike & Molly, Eastbound & Down) plays Katie Otto, who takes the lead on raising the kids; however, Bader says his character, Greg, is happy to take the role of supporting spouse and parent.
“He’s a good father. He really listens to his kids,” Bader says. “A lot of what parenting is at this point with kids who have free will (which is totally overrated in my opinion) is balancing out their inherent rights with your job as a parent to make sure they are going in the right direction. Maintaining authority and listening at the same time is always complicated. I think Greg manages to do that very well.”
They are very blessed by the opportunity to have a mother that
can be a full-time mom. A full-time mom is an incredibly hard job.”
PLAYING DAD OFF THE SCREEN
At home, Bader is in the midst of navigating the tween and teen years with his own kids. He says he takes a parenting cue from his character, Greg, when it comes to really listening to his children.
“I try to listen as much as I can and understand their frustrations,” says Bader. “A boy and girl are so incredibly different. But both of them want to be listened to. They both just want to be respected for their opinions.”
Bader says one of the best things they do as a family to keep the communication open is having dinners together on a regular basis, wherein they discuss the highs and lows of their kids’ days.
“My wife and I barely talk during dinner because our kids tell us all about their day,” he says. “We sit until everybody’s done, even if they have finished their meal. My son, at first, is like any guy. If you ask him about his day, he just wants to say ‘good.’ You have to draw him out and it takes a little more work. But once he gets warmed up, he remembers almost as many details as my daughter. For my daughter, of course, everyday is a novel. It’s unbelievable how many details she remembers.”
As his kids grow older, Bader says one of the biggest rewards of parenting is seeing what takes. After years of exposing their children to art, music and museums, Bader says he’s excited to see how his children will shape their own aesthetic.
“I’m interested to see where they are going with it and who they develop into. They’re just really starting to bloom as students and are getting into things they are genuinely interested in and not things that we’re interested in and bring them to,” he says. “So I’m really interested to see which way they are going to go with the things they really like.”
THE SCARY STUFF
While parenting teens is a rewarding experience, Bader says it also comes with its own set of worries.
As his kids enter into the teenage years, Bader says one of his biggest concerns is having his kids get into a car with a drunk driver.
“I worry about it a lot because I know when I was a teenager, a lot of my friends were not entirely sober when I got in a car with them,” he admits. “I think back in horror about things I was like “whatever” about. I’m sort of terrified about that prospect.”
While Bader says the kids are too young to have that conversation, he says he tries to show them the right thing by leading by example when it comes to drinking and driving.
“If we go for dinner and I have a couple of glasses of wine, my wife doesn’t drink so she’s the one who drives home,” he says. “I don’t drink around my kids on a regular basis. When we go on vacation, I’ll have wine or beer of the local area to show them that it’s not forbidden. But all things in moderation.”
POLITICS AND SEX
Growing up in a political family, the presidential debates were always a topic of conversation at home. Today, Bader says this year’s debates have led his family to have a serious chat about sexual aggression.
“This issue of harassment has come up in a very real way because of the debates and recent revelations about one of the candidates,” says Bader. “It has opened up the dialogue that we have about respect for others and the respect we have for ourselves. It’s in the news almost every day. So we saw it as an opportunity to talk about something that could come up fairly soon.”
DEALING WITH CONFLICT
Any parent of a teen can attest that raging hormones, coupled with a brain that’s not fully developed, can lead to some real teenage blowouts. When this happens, Bader admits sometimes the best thing you can do in a heated moment is to just walk away.
“Sometimes they say things that are offensive, which they both mean and don’t mean,” he says. “The best thing you can do in that moment is to walk away. Remember, you’re not talking to a fully-fledged brain. If an adult said it, you would get into an argument. With a kid, they’re just figuring out how to do things. They’re not able to calculate risk analysis. So in times of conflict, you just need to calm down and pick it up later.”
To keep the peace, open communication is a must, says Bader who adds his dinnertime ritual with them is a great way to keep an open dialogue with his family. He says he’s also having fun sharing his work on American Housewife with his kids.
“I can actually watch it with my family,” he says. “If anything, it shows them what stay-athome moms go through and they can see their own mom’s perspective. They’ve not been able to watch other shows I have been on because they bring up too much grownup stuff. If I were to let them watch Office Space, I would have a lot of explaining to do.”