“Looking back, I wish we had been a bit more upbeat with that ending”, actor Alan Ruck says of the episode of ‘’Spin City’’ in which the gang from City Hall say goodbye to deputy mayor Mike Flaherty, but more so departing series star Michael J.Fox. “The thing is, at that time, by all indications it didn’t look like Michael was going to ever be able to act again. There’s been real progress in treating Parkinson’s [disease] since then, but at the time, it looked grim. Still, I don’t like it that that episode is such a bummer.”
Still, that was only one episode of 145 for Ruck, and he says the rest made up what was one of the most enjoyable moments of his career.
When he was cast in “Spin City”, Ruck was somewhat webbed in career limbo. Hs most famous role (“I’m still recognized for that role more than anything else, every day”, admits Ruck), that of the title character’s best friend Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was many moons ago, and he was now playing small supporting parts (like the one he played in 1994’s “Speed”). The role of Stuart couldn’t have come at a better time.
“People kept telling me ‘you have to do this! You have to do this role! It’s a Michael J.Fox show – it’s guaranteed to be on forever – at least at that time, it was guaranteed to play a long time.’”, Ruck says, admitting that the prospect of secure employment was already tempting. “But also, this was a part I hadn’t played before – it wasn’t the dorky best friend role, it was the confident, out-there jokester. I knew it would be a blast!”
And it was.
“It was such fun. The show – especially in those first few seasons – was terrific to work on. The cast were all great to work with, and Michael, especially, was a joy to be in business with.”
“Spin City” was a consistent rater, but that didn’t prevent the series from encountering a few speed bumps along the way (aside from Fox being forced to leave the show) – least of which was a falling out between the show’s star and its creator.
“Michael and Gary David Golberg [had a falling out]”, explains Ruck, “And as a consequence, Gary left the show. After that, I think the show started to suffer a bit; the seasons that followed weren’t quite as good as the earlier ones. They kept trying new things, to get it back to where it was, but it just wasn’t the same show.”
Neither was it the same show when Fox left and Charlie Sheen took over as the lead.
“I love Charlie. He’s the nicest, sweetest guy – and at this time, he was at his best; he was clean, sober and firing on all cylinders. But I think the writing was on the wall by this stage – the show just didn’t work like it did. Charlie did a great job, but replacing Michael was tough. And, as I said, the show wasn’t the same – for all sorts of reasons.”
When Sheen came in, the show relocated from New York to Los Angeles. As a consequence, it lost numerous other cast members. Still, Ruck stuck with it – and gave it his all.
“I missed a few episodes of that final season, because I was sick, but I returned for what was supposed to be the season finale – and ended up being the series finale.”
He doesn’t see a lot of the cast these days (“they all have their own things going on”), but Ruck did have the opportunity to work with his regular “Spin City” sparring partner Michael Boatman again recently.
“[Michael] does a show called Instant Mom now, and I did a guest appearance on it. It was so great… just like old times.”
As for what’s next, Ruck says parental duties.
For the past few years, he’s spent most of his time playing an at-home dad while wife, in-demand actress Mireille Enos has been pulled in every which direction.
“She’s been doing The Killing, World War Z, Gangster Squad, The Captive… all these things, so we’ve been working around [Mireille’s] schedule a lot. She’s doing great.”
“Spin City” – various seasons – is now available on DVD