Actor Peter Krause has played a reluctant funeral director in "Six Feet Under," a newscaster in "Sports Night," a lawyer from "Dirty Sexy Money" and now the earnest dad in NBC's new "Parenthood," which premieres next Tuesday.
He may seem like a sophisticated troubadour, but says, Krause, he hasn't traveled far from his Minnesota roots.
"What you grow up with — in terms of your parents and siblings — can sometimes feel like Kryptonite to the Superman or Superwoman inside of you," he says.
"For me I was able to recreate myself by moving away from my family. I love them dearly and I love going back, but it was a time going to NYU to get back in school where I got to stretch myself. I was 21, fresh out of college. I thought I was really grown up at the time. When I look back on it now, I was not."
When he left home for New York, he'd never been on a plane before, never seen the ocean. "I took the train, the Long Island Railroad to Long Beach, just got off the train, walked off, took my shoes off and walked out to the ocean. So I appreciated all those things. I came to acting late ...."
He admits he was a trial to his parents when he was a teen. And there was a rough patch when his father left the family. About that Krause is guarded. "He came back later. He was taking some time for himself. He was having a hard time with life. But he's straight now, he's an awesome guy."
Krause himself has a son, 8. He shares custody with the boy's mother, to whom he was never married. Becoming a father changed his perspective, he thinks.
"Certainly having my own child and recognizing this movable place on the human continuum by becoming not only a son but also a father, linking those things up and understanding better the challenges that my mother and father made when they were having children at a time when they weren't making nearly the living that I am now; coming through the places that they did. They were struggling but were also very happy. We didn't have to have clothes that fit perfectly or the best food to be happy," he says.
"This might sound canned but what we needed most was to be together and in some ways that's what the series, 'Parenthood' is about. No matter what happens we have each other, we're together and we're a family. That's been incredibly powerful in my life whether it's my own natural family or the family of actors at NYU, the 16 of us who went through those three years together, or the family of actors that I shared 'Six Feet Under' with. I still look at those people as family."
He left pre-med when he discovered acting in his junior year at college.
The idea of acting for a living was foreign to his parents, who were both teachers. His mom backed him. But his dad did not. "But he grew up during the Depression and they didn't have electricity or running water in his home till he was 16 years old so he was coming from a very different place in the world. And it just wasn't something he could ever imagine for his son."
But Krause was vindicated when he landed a comedic spot on "Carol & Company" with Carol Burnett. "For my parents I don't think there could've been a better stamp of approval than working for Carol Burnett. They got to come out to Disney Studios and meet her and it was a real affirmation for them that is was OK that I was doing this and I wasn't asking for money anymore."