Though Jesse Bradford had acted in several notable films before coming to Columbia as an undergraduate student—Steven Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill,” “Romeo & Juliet,” and “Hackers” to name a few—he more or less flew under the radar. That is, until he was seen making out with Kirsten Dunst in teen classic “Bring it On.”
“It was perfectly cool and fine for me: people kind of knew me from this and that, but it never seemed like anybody gave a shit.” Bradford recalls of his time at Columbia just over a decade ago.
“Then the cheerleading movie came out, and I remember some frat dudes yelling out to me across the quad: ‘BRING IT ON!’”
Today, Bradford has made his first foray into sitcom with a starring role in the prime time television sitcom “Guys With Kids” on NBC. The 2002 Columbia graduate plays Chris, a straight-laced new father and recent divorcee who unwillingly participates in the wacky antics of his two friends (Anthony Anderson and Zach Cregger) who have young kids of their own.
Producer Jimmy Fallon hearkens back to the traditional sitcom formula with the show, which is taped in front of a live studio audience.
“The thing you want to draw attention to about a show like this is we’re not trying to break any ground,” Bradford says. “It’s trying to revitalize an old formula and say ‘this can still be done really well.”
It is a departure for Bradford, who, though he initially climbed to fame in the chick flick genre, has since devoted his career to more serious roles in dramas like Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” and the George W. Bush biopic “W.” But even when the topic is more somber, Bradford said he’s connected it to his experience at Columbia—in “W,” he played Bush’s pledgemaster at Yale. Bradford mentioned that his time spent in the now defunct Fiji House on fraternity row helped him in his preparation for this minor but memorable role.
One month into his senior year, Bradford took a gap year to go to Hollywood, getting top billing in films like “Clockstoppers” and “Swimfan” before coming back to Columbia to get his degree in film.
Aside from the time off, Bradford had a pretty normal four years at Columbia, studying Contemporary Civilization in Butler, going to the Heights on the weekends, bumming Ritalin from friends when, he said, “I had 800 pages of reading, and it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.”
Bradford said the choice to major in film was motivated by a desire to become more well-rounded and potentially direct one day. “I didn’t want to be a guy who only knew about acting,” Bradford said. “Industry respect from my years of acting and my Columbia film degree are the two things I have going for me in terms of just getting somebody to trust me, to trust that I can do it.”
Bradford brings that same experience on to his new role.
Though reviews are middling at best, the ratings have been strong enough to convince the network to purchase an additional four episodes past the 13 already filmed. With the rise of increasingly edgy cable TV programming, Bradford hopes “Guys with Kids,” his first stab at sitcom acting, will find a niche as a family show funny for both kids and adults.
“We’re not trying to compete with Homeland,” Bradford said. “It’s not the kind of show that I would watch as a 33-year-old single guy. But if I caught it, apropos of nothing, I would probably walk away going, ‘You know what, that show was better than I thought it was going to be. It was more relatable on more levels that I thought it would be.’”
“Guys with Kids” airs Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.