Tom Everett Scott had one of the most auspicious breaks early in his career when he landed the lead in The Thing You Do, a 1996 film written by and starring Tom Hanks.
Presently, he has a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone, airing on Sunday, September 26, which gave us an opportunity to jump on the phone with him for a lovely discussion about his career.
Tom is so personable, and our conversation was filled with laughter, so please keep that frame of mind as you read about this charming actor.
It’s so nice to talk with you.
Nice to talk to you too.
You have had such an interesting career.
Obviously launching off of That Thing You Do with Tom Hanks. How did that change your life?
Oh my goodness, in so many ways. I really can’t even begin to tell you. But I will say, I think that was my first big job, and I learned so much from the man who was my idol. And then it just opened the door; it opened the door for me as an actor. I was 25 when I was cast in that movie.
And that was like your third part from what IMDB says.
Yeah. It was something like that. I did great Grace Under Fire before that and a couple of other things. An After School Special. But no one really knew who the heck I was.
They did pretty soon after That Thing You Do.
They did, as my Uncle Frank said, “You had a pretty good part in that.” I was like, “Oh, thanks, Uncle Frank.”
You got to love family.
They know how to keep your head from getting too big, right?
So after that, you kind of became a super busy man, first in film and then pretty equally divided between film and TV. How did you manage all of that, and did you have a preference, or did you just go for parts? What was your formula?
There was no formula, mostly just trying to, I don’t know, it’s a combination of trying to make good choices and pick interesting roles, And then also just working, trying to keep working and stay relevant. It’s just been such a long process of 20 — gosh, I’m 51 now; I just turned 51 on Tuesday.
Oh, that’s great, I was going to tell you happy belated birthday, but since you surprisingly called me, I missed it.
It’s all good. Thank you. I guess over these last 26 — whatever it’s been — years since I worked on That Thing You Do, it’s been like a whole process of just trying to figure out and navigate this insane profession.
It is insane, isn’t it?
At times, it’s great. I can’t really do anything else, so it’s a good thing I can make money doing this.
Well, I think it’s a pretty good skill to have.
It’s working for me.
But for all the roles that you’ve had, which are the closest to your heart? What really stands out to you?
Besides That Thing You Do because I think that’s the obvious answer. I think other roles that I’ve really enjoyed playing, the most recent series I did, I’m Sorry, felt very much like me.
I’m Sorry was so funny. It’s such a shame it was canceled.
It was a shame, and Andrea is just such a talent, and we got to have so much fun together making that show and then have it come back to us through the fans who really enjoyed it.
That’s a special role for me. I’ve had a couple of wonderful experiences. I got to be on Broadway. I got to be in a play called The Little Dog Laughed, and that was an amazing experience.
It was a play and not a musical?
A play, straight play by Douglas Carter Beane, who’s nominated for a Tony for best play, and Julie White won Tony for best actress.
And it was just a wonderful experience because I had lived in New York the first 10 years of my career and then went back to do that once I was already living in LA with my family.
So going back to New York, being on Broadway and living in an apartment, and walking through the city and feeling like I was a functioning contributing member of the fabric of the city in some way, it was just like a dream come true.
First of all, as an actor, but also a dream for me as a New Yorker to get reviewed by the great reviewers and had passed the mustard, no, is that phrase? Jeez-
Muster, no D. [laughs]
Pass the mustard, that’s different, that’s what you do when you’re having hotdogs. [laughs] I don’t know- But you never know, maybe that’s your experience with New York, lots of hot dogs.
The big apple, the big hot dog. [laughs]
It’s so funny. [laughs] Would you ever do another play? What’s keeping you from doing that? Other than the fact that Broadway isn’t open.
Broadway is not open. COVID really put the kibosh on that, but it’s in the process of reopening. There will be live theater again. I would do it. Yeah.
I would love to jump at it because it’s a really important thing to do for me. It just does so many good things for me. It gets me back out of my head and onto the stage, and audiences get to see you from head to toe. There’s no hiding.
There’s just this wonderful process of rehearsing for a month, and then you put it up in front of an audience, and you go from A to Z, and it then goes into the ether, and it’s just the experience, it’s hard to describe, but it’s very good for me, like eating a ton of salad.
It’s got to be a different feeling altogether, being live. How many of your shows were in front of a studio audience? But I don’t even think that’s similar.
Nothing that stuck. I did a bunch of busted pilots for multi-cam shows, nothing that stuck. Maybe the best experience with that was that I got to guest star on Will and Grace, and that was like an up-and-thriving kind of thing.
But theater, and I’ve done a lot of theater, especially in the beginning, is just the best. Anyway, I also like film and TV. I like them all.
You’ve been doing this for 30 years now. What do you think about the transformation of television in that timeframe?
Yes. I think that there’s been this wonderful transition; there’s always been good TV, let’s be clear.
There’s always been good TV, but with all the options you have out there and all the different streaming services in different places, and I feel like it started with Sex and the City and the Sopranos on HBO when, for subscribers, you didn’t have to have ads, and you could have really different content.
There is this golden age of television. As a perfect example, if Godfather came out now, it wouldn’t come out in the theaters; it would come out as like a mini-series on HBO.
It’d be a limited series. That’s the level of quality that you’re getting. Everybody’s talking about their favorite water-cooler series, “what have you been [binge-watching]?”
That’s always a great conversation. You want to know what people have been [binge-watching], what to watch, and what’s out there.
And there’s just so much choice, but there’s a lot of good choices as well.
It’s great. And as an actor, it’s given me an opportunity to do some fun stuff, be a part of some interesting series.
What did you watch whenever you were young? What piqued your interest? Why acting?
When I was really little, I loved The Monkees, and I thought that they were funny.
I would watch all the reruns of everything like Gilligan’s Island and Brady Bunch and Happy Days and then Bosom Buddies and Tom Hanks, I did love him, and I was not kidding when I said he was my hero. He was somebody that I really looked up to.
TV-wise, my dad would watch Rockford Files or SWAT, and I would stay up and watch those. Then I became more interested in comedy, so I’d watch Cheers. And then, in college, I kind of dipped a little bit into watching whatever was popular, like Friends and ER. I didn’t really get into TV until some subscriber stuff came out.
You mentioned the things that you watched. How funny that you loved The Monkees, and Tom Hanks was your idol, and then you did That Thing You Do.
Look at that connection.
Yeah. How could you not say, “My gosh, I was so right. I wanted to do this, these were my favorite things, and now I am those favorite things.”?
Oh my goodness. It was just like such a crazy thing for my agent to say, “Here’s the thing that I’m going to submit you for.” And it was like, “Who wrote it? Who’s drafting it; what’s it about? Oh my gosh. Wow.” That’s just the greatest thing to come down the road. All right.
And then to get it, I was just like, “What’s happening?” I called my mom, and she’s like, “Can you believe this?” I said, “No, I can’t. Can you?” “No.” No one could believe it.
It’s just crazy. It is fate.
I had to talk to myself. I had to take myself aside and say, “You are going to freak out. Don’t freak out. You have permission to freak out. Okay. You also have permission to make a big mistake here and there; it’s fine, you’re new at this. But I’m so excited.”
I couldn’t wait to meet the rest of the cast, and I couldn’t wait to practice the drums and for that to be my job. And then to call my director, who was Tom Hanks. And I had to call with my girlfriend, my now wife, then girlfriend to listen to his voice. But it was fun.
Really fun. And your recent shows, I’m Sorry, of course, was… I’m so sorry that it’s canceled, as it was so different than so many other things that you’ve been in.
I tried to get others to watch, and they were freaked out over what they were hearing. I couldn’t believe it. [laughs]
That’s crazy. I know. My mom’s friends or somebody were like, “Oh, we watched your show.” And I was like, “I’m sorry about all the butt hole jokes.” [laughs]
But they were so good, and you guys delivered the lines so well, too. It seemed like normal everyday people, which is how normal everyday people tend to talk whenever they’re amongst themselves.
Exactly. I mean, I’m barely even talking in the show. I was mostly a lot of like, mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah, faces. It’s very similar to me and my real-life wife, actually.
Well, and look how long you’ve been married. So yay.
I want to talk about one more show, but I’m going to talk about that after we cover Rise and Shine because that’s just the perfect segue way into it.
You have been happily married for a long time, and you have children, and it’s wonderful. And by comparison, poor Benedict and Amelia are struggling in their marriage as their dream to have children is tainted by disappointment. How easy was it for you to identify with Benedict Stone?
Right. So sometimes a role will come along, and I understand it, but I can’t actually fully identify because I don’t have the exact same conditions in my life. So in those situations, I’ll just go through the script and mark all the areas of things that are me so that I can go back to home-base.
And then the stuff that isn’t me, I’ll daydream and think, well, what if that was me, how would that affect me, and is there anything similar like that in my life or other people in my life that I can identify with and I can think about their struggle? So that’s the process.
And so the thing that I connected to with Benedict Stone was every marriage requires work. It doesn’t matter who you are. A successful marriage is obtained through work. So we’ve been there, and my wife and I have gone through that.
You do it. You go through therapy; you go through figuring out how to talk to each other, how to fight, how to fight successfully, and when you have kids, fight quickly and successfully and move on.
And then for Benedict, he’s at that point where it seems like this impasse; he’s not sure how to fix it because he doesn’t know how to change, and he doesn’t really even know that it is he who has to change. He thinks it’s her.
She’s the one who has been very honest with her feelings; he hasn’t gotten there yet. So this movie is about a guy, late in life — which I found very interesting and appealing — who thought he knew it all but had so much further to go. We all have further to go; we all have things that we need to learn about and grow from. So I wanted to make that the arc for Benedict Stone because I find it interesting.
I think it’s interesting that so many people tend to think that just because you’ve aged, you’re somehow all-wise and don’t have any reason to reconsider things in your life, and it’s not like that.
Exactly. Right, because you think you are wise because you have seen a lot, you are experienced, but what it does is it also further reinforces some of the things that you don’t want to come around on.
Right? And then you become more reticent. So I found that to be the cool, fun thing to do, and he has the past with the brother and a mistake that he feels like he made and hasn’t been able to address or fix.
Yeah. Benedict’s whole backstory is very touching and sad.
Yeah, it is touching. That was my favorite aspect of the script as well, the reconnection with his brother.
And thank goodness, since it was a movie, they didn’t have to go through too much trauma to find their happy ending. That’s the best thing about movies like that because it’s not too gritty where you have to linger too long in the past.
No, you’re not laboring through it. It happens in the later acts of the show. And then the fun arc of becoming friends and close with Gemma, played by Ella Ballentine. She’s great, and we really had a fun time doing that because she and I had fun as actors playing.
What scenes with her were the most fun?
We hit it off; everything was fun, but the horse riding scene was fun. And everything we did in the house. We would joke around a lot; we got to know each other and have some laughs.
And then when Mia Maestro joined the group. She and Ella… I think I have a pretty good video of the two of them dancing in the street in front of the store. I’ll have to find that. I can share that.
That’ll be fun.
Yeah. We were coming out of like over a year in lockdown, and then to get to do that kind of story was nice.
I can’t believe you didn’t join in and dance in the street too.
Well, I was filming.
Well, obviously, since you have video. [laughs]
I had a job to do.
But you think that everybody would just be like, “Oh, look, it’s the street, and we’re out in it. Even if it’s not real, maskless, without having to worry about stuff, let’s just dance.”
And Benjamin had to kind of up his dating game. Did you identify with that at all? How do you and your wife keep your marriage going? Is it similar? Do you still look for things that are going to impress each other after all these years, just like Benedict and Amelia did?
Yeah. Yes, you have to. You have to keep it romantic and interesting, and we know each other so well, but at the same time, she’s still a mystery to me. She’s still a woman of mystery.
I think that’s beautiful.
Yeah. And I love to surprise her. I love it when I truly have surprised her and in a good way, and we like to go on our getaways and discover new places, so that’s important. You got to keep the romance alive, keep the love life alive.
And I think by retaining that bit of mystery, that kind of fuels that in you; it keeps the romance alive.
It’s not like you’re wearing an old pair of pants. It’s not that kind of love; there are still things to discover. So it’s fresh.
Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah.
And the one other thing I wanted to talk about because TV Fanatic readers went nuts over the show where you died. What the heck was the name of that? Now it just escaped my head.
Council of Dads.
Council of Dads. Yes. Oh my gosh. We even ran a fan page for it. That really hit people in the feels. Do you have any thoughts you could share about it?
Well, we shot some stuff after Scott dies. It took place in Savannah, an old, kind of haunted city, and so there was this element of him sort of existing there as a ghost.
They had this one scene where my daughter, who goes into surgery for her heart, brings his ashes into the operating room and then when she’s getting a heart transplant and, in that moment where she’s technically dead, as she says, but they’re connecting the new heart, she and I meet in limbo, and it was beautiful.
And we got to talk, and she came out as gay and didn’t want to come out to anybody else, and I got to meet as a ghost, and it was this beautiful heart-to-heart between a father and a daughter.
And so they did that. And then they sprinkle my ashes in the river off of the house, and then a hurricane comes, and the water comes back up into the house, and so it comes with my spirit, and then that’s when I visit the wife. So it was kind of a cool vibe.
I was joking on set that it was the Ghost and Mrs. Muir — another great TV show.
I loved it.
But that’s how they kind of brought me back, as a spirit and in memory and in their hearts. That show is a real tear-jerker. That pilot made me cry every time I watched it.
Yeah, it was a lot to handle in one in one premiere. It was just like you’re swinging back and forth.
That was crazy because at the same time I was doing that, I did a movie for Disney called Clouds based on a true story about a boy who really died of cancer, and before he died, he wrote this song called Clouds. I played the dad in that. Oh my gosh, that one, if you haven’t seen Clouds and you really want to cry, man, get a box of Kleenex.
Okay. Wait a minute. I did watch Clouds, didn’t I? Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. I forgot about that. Thank you for reminding me. I did watch that, and yes, I ended up looking up all the real-life stuff, looked for all of his appearances online.
Yeah. That doc gets you. So Justin Baldoni did the doc called My Last Days; that was moving. Then I read the book that the movie was based on written by the mom; that killed me. Oh my goodness.
Yeah. I liked that movie a lot, actually.
Thank you. Glad you like it.
So what do you have coming up?
So right after I did Rise and Shine with Benedict Stone, I went to Winnipeg and did a lifetime movie called The Good Father based on the true story of Martin McNeil, who was a horrible person.
I went from trying to woo my wife to trying to murder my wife. That was hilarious. And I did that because I could quarantine for two weeks for both movies instead of having four weeks.
So I did that, and that was the longest I’ve ever been away from my family. So I went back to LA, hung out for three weeks, and now I’m in Wilmington, North Carolina, shooting an Amazon series called The Summer I Turned Pretty, which is based on a young adult novel series by Jenny Hahn.
This is the first season that we’re shooting right now. That’ll be out sometime in the future.
Are you playing a dad again?
I am playing a dad again. I am just going to run with the dad thing until I can segue way into the granddad thing. I’m just going to dad it up.
Yeah. Yeah. The good news is that you notice that dads and moms in television and movies tend to be older, and as our group ages, we just look different. You’re not going to play a grandfather anytime soon; I don’t think.
Oh, I don’t care as long as I just keep working. I love this job. I am playing the dad. It’s about this girl, Belly — her name’s Isabel, but they call her Belly — and she’s turning 15, and that’s summer she turned pretty.
And so she and her family summer with her mom’s best friend who has a rich family and a house on a beach, a really swanky beach house, and I play the dad of the rich family.
But all the characters are very well-written. It’s a good book series, but the TV writing is very good as well.
I just looked it up on Google, and that’s the author of To All the Boys. So you’ve got a built-in audience in that.
And now everybody gets to watch Rise and Shine Benedict Stone.
They do. They get to see it. And Mia is so lovely, and she’s such a great actor. So it was wonderful. It’s like having a great dance partner.
And you know what I really liked about her part as you said, she knew what she needed; she didn’t have to grow. And they wrote her so that she was so kind and there was never any animosity between them.
Even though she struggled to understand why he couldn’t understand her, the way the movie unfolds is so lovely. There isn’t that kind of cheap shtick that you need to do to make one of the other characters look bad or look understanding. It was very good.
Yeah. Because you’re meeting her, and she’s further down the road of understanding the situation, but she still feels like maybe she’s a failure in some way, and it’s like, “Oh, so then I think that’s where the problem is.”
So it’s interesting then to discover that, oh no, she’s just fully realizing her feelings and able to communicate them, which is very similar to a lot of couples; men have a harder time coming to the truth of how they feel and communicating it.
And what was interesting too was that Benedict felt the same way, that he thought he was expressing how she felt because that’s how she’s always felt. So then they got kind of in that little cycle where “this is what you used to say, and I’m pretty sure that that’s what you mean” instead of actually communicating.
Yeah. Yep, totally. And he failed with his brother after his parents died, so he feels that he owes it to raise children the right way. It’s the whole thing.
But it is more about being connected to the woman, to this person, to her, to Amelia, that’s something you learn as a couple; you come into the room, and there’s your person, and that’s who you have the connection with, and everything is between you and that person.
Rise and Shine Benedict Stone premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Sunday, September 26 at 9/8c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.