Michael J. Fox, a diminutive man with tremendous likability, is returning to primetime television in an eponymous sitcom, The Michael J. Fox Show, tonight on NBC. Even though the Emmy-winning actor has been around, in one capacity or another, since he publicly announced Parkinson's diagnosis, his appearances tend to elicit an unspoken pity from people who don't know what to expect: Uh, y'know, how's he doing? Is he OK? According to Rolling Stone cover story that just went online today, Michael J. Fox is doing very well. In fact, he seems pretty great.
At 52, Fox is still married to his Family Ties onscreen girlfriend, actress Tracy Pollan, and their relationship seems to be doing just fine, if this quote about his post-Parkinson's physical intimacy is any indication ("Sex, he says, isn't a problem, although 'it's always up in the air who will be the agent of motion'"). The piece also deals frankly with Fox's trouble with alcohol, subsequent recovery, and 21-year sobriety ("My sobriety is old enough to drink"), as well as offering some fairly amusing details, like that Fox picked up golf after Alice Cooper "convinced him it was cool," which is just terrific.
Certainly, Fox is dealing with the physical interferences of Parkinson's, but the condition has brought him an awesome sense of clarity, and he's very grateful for that. In the discussion with writer Brian Hiatt, he's frequently offering introspection and insight about his disease and how it causes him to be perceived. Like here, in talking about others' fear and discomfit:
Fox doesn't find his symptoms upsetting, but he's well aware that other people do. "People look at me," he says, "and have fear and sadness in their eyes, which they think they're seeing reflected back at them. They wouldn't see what I'm really feeling, which is, 'I'm OK!' But people are afraid. I did an interview with Larry King and it was a little more disjointed and fractured than usual, and I realized that it was the first time I'd talked to him since my diagnosis and that he was afraid. So I had to understand that before people deal with me they're going to deal with what they think I'm going through. Then time will pass and they'll realize that this is just my life, the stuff I was given to deal with."
Or here, generally regarding the sort of curious, alien ogling that happens around sick people:
Fox thinks it's a mistake, however, to focus too much on his subjective experience of the disease. "There's a fascination with what it feels like to experience something like this," he says. "And I just find that the more interesting thing is what it's meant to me, and I'm much less in the physical part of it than I am in the kind of emotional part of it and the enlightening part of it. Things like the fog lifting and the extremities calming down, that doesn't change the driver I was five minutes ago. That just changes the car I'm in."
Also he has a sense of humor watching others react to their perceptions of his limitations, especially when his hands are shaking and he's holding a gun:
Not long ago, at a summit hosted by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Fox tried skeet shooting. "One of the greatest moments in my life," he says with a grin, "was me with a cocked shotgun and a group of people looking at me going, 'What the fuck?' I knew that when I pulled the skeet I'd be still and shoot it, and I did. I blew it out of the sky on the first shot."
The profile is worth reading. I mean, listen to this guy: "If you imagine the worst-case scenario and it happens, you've lived with it twice."
Here's Michael J. Fox with his new television family, who are all very cute:
[images via Getty Entertainment]
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