Andrew McCarthy drawn to role of sex offender

Andrew McCarthy stars as a recently released sexual offender in “The Family.”
Andrew McCarthy stars as a recently released sexual offender in “The Family.” ABC

We haven’t seen much of Andrew McCarthy in front of the camera in recent years. The 53-year-old actor who leaped to fame with movies such as “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Mannequin” has been spending more time behind the lens directing projects, including “The Blacklist,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Gossip Girl.”

Even when McCarthy has taken on an acting role in recent years, he tends to play generally nice characters.

That’s changed with the new ABC drama “The Family,” in which McCarthy plays Hank Asher, a known sex offender who is released from prison after 10 years. He was behind bars because he was coerced into confessing the murder of a young boy.

He is released when that boy mysteriously returns to his family.

“Some people have asked me why I would do a role like this … and the answer is I just didn’t care, in the sense that I had nothing to protect,” McCarthy says. “Is this a good choice for a career move?”

McCarthy is certain it is. He was content working as a director, but as soon as he saw the script for “The Family,” McCarthy says knew he wanted to be part of the production.

What he read is the story of a politician (Joan Allen) dealing with her son’s return in the middle of her latest campaign. After the initial excitement about the youngster coming home, anger, fear and doubt about him begin to emerge. McCarthy’s character, for one, has a lot of anger toward the family that put him in jail.

McCarthy was initially simply interested in being a part of “The Family,” not necessarily a specific role. But the more he looked at the script, the more he became fascinated with Asher, whom he compares to a “wounded animal.”

Auditioning was easy because McCarthy knew that as a sexual pariah, Asher will have committed unimaginable crimes. But there is more to him.

“That’s a complicated thing in the sense that we just want to label those people as evil. I have three small kids. If someone tried to go near my kids, I’d be in jail for killing them. And yet they’re complicated people,” McCarthy says. “And so we all have a nature, and then we sort of fight against our nature at certain points. …

“One of the things I love about the show is that everyone seems to have a secret. Everyone has an agenda. And everyone has a version of the truth.”

The search for the right actor to play Asher had been going on for some time before McCarthy came in to read for the part. Producers were surprised how perfect McCarthy was for the role. Executive producer Laurie Zaks says this kind of role is not easy to cast because actors have very different interpretations.

All of the acting and directing that McCarthy has done over the years gave him the right perspective on just how to play the role. He found that line between evil and sympathetic.

Executive producer Jenna Bans was impressed by the humanity McCarthy brought to the role.

“I think that was so necessary for this part. To follow his story over 12 episodes, you have to sense the humanity in him,” Bans says. “One of my favorite little tidbits about casting Andrew was I was sitting on the set on the first episode and the script supervisor, who hadn’t been with us for the pilot but was for the filming of the first episode, was like, ‘Oh, I love Hank.’And I was like, ‘I do, too. But you realize he’s a convicted sex offender?’

“And she was like, ‘I know, but I love him.’ 

McCarthy went after the project with no thoughts of what kind of roles it would lead to, and that proved liberating to him.

“I was able to just go do it,” McCarthy says.

It was good he could attack the role so aggressively because “The Family” moves at a rapid pace. At one point, so much had happened in the plot that McCarthy was convinced they were filming the first season finale. It was only the fourth episode.

McCarthy will do more acting, but there’s no time frame as to when and where. He does know that he will go back to directing, something he says he just fell into at the start.

“I directed some shows that were successful, and then suddenly I’m a good director because I directed successful shows,” McCarthy says.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

The Family

  • 9 p.m. Thursday, March 3, KFSN (Channel 30.1)