When Hollywood sees a formula that works well and entices audiences, it tends to stick with it.
The common trope of two opposites coming together in unlikely circumstances is far from new, and the twist of throwing in a few kids, with one of the leads as the caregiver, has found its own wide success in media. Best illustrated in the movie musical The Sound of Music and shows like The Nanny, Who’s the Boss?, and Melissa & Joey, it’s a well-beloved storyline that has once again been given new life – this time in Netflix’s Country Comfort.
Jamie Mann is familiar with the predecessors of the trope that Country Comfort executes. Where others might worry that audiences won’t be able to stop comparing the new series to the likes of The Sound of Music or The Nanny, whose executive producer Caryn Lucas is the showrunner of the Netflix show, the young actor is taking it all in stride. He acknowledges the similarities while also staying confident in the way that Country Comfort will stand out on its own.
“I think the main thing is the family aspect. I think that this is a very unique family,” he says of what sets the series apart. “Being able to showcase that aspect of it – we worked really hard to create a family dynamic that was effective and people believed in and I think we really did that.” He adds another major difference is the country music. “Obviously, there’s music in The Sound of Music but this show has a bigger country feel, which I think country music in itself, a lot of it, is just so happy and exciting to listen to. And I think that really resonates with the show itself. There’s a lot of really fun, upbeat country numbers that we have.”
In the streaming landscape, Jamie also feels there’s enough within the show to set them apart from other new shows as well. He cites the music as well as dancing to be a fun aspect, unlike many other shows airing now. He also adds that it is a family series. “I honestly think that in this time of COVID when we’re kind of stuck together, it will be a nice show for everyone to see.”
The cast hosts a number of familiar actors and performers for the whole family to enjoy. Including Katharine McPhee of American Idol, Smash, and Broadway fame to Eddie Cibrian’s lengthy television resume, and even Ricardo Hurtado drawing in fans from his days on School of Rock and Malibu Rescue, the series gives enough for all ages to enjoy. The familiar trope is also guaranteed welcome entertainment.
“Country Comfort is a show about a country singer, played by Katharine McPhee, who gets dumped from her band and is driving along the road and comes across this ranch that she gets stranded on. She goes up to the door and the family takes her in as their new nanny,” says Jamie of the Netflix series. “It’s a musically talented family. However when their mom passed away, they stopped playing music. Katharine McPhee’s character Bailey reintroduces music into their lives and she becomes their new nanny and some chaos ensues.”
A laugh slips into his voice as he adds, “It’s very funny and I think it’s a really good show.”
On the show, Jamie takes on the role of Brody, the second oldest of five children. “He’s a little bit innocent, he’s a little self-conscious. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that his older brother is kind of the ‘hot one’ in the family – he’s really confident and he gets all the girls. And I think that those insecure aspects of Brody make him a little bit goofy and sometimes he acts like a klutz, which is very funny,” he begins to say of his character. “Down to his core, he’s a very good brother to his siblings, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that his mother passed away and he and Tuck [Ricardo Hurtado] often have to step into the parental role and take care of his siblings.”
Over the course of season one, Brody gains more confidence in himself. “I really do think he grows as a person as the season goes on. So it was really fun to discover those moments and go on that journey with them as we were filming,” the actor shares.
Being a brother is a big part of Brody’s identity, as the family dynamics are at the heart of the show. Jamie recalls how the producers and especially Caryn Lucas wanted to make sure that all of the kids of the family actually felt like a family.
“We had a week where we all got to meet each other and we ran through the first episode that we were filming and got to know each other’s characters,” he recalls. “That was really special and effective because we got to know each other as people as well as actors, and that helped to further that family dynamic. The different moments that I have with my siblings on set have a lot to do with the family dynamic that we have in real life. I’m very close with all my co-stars and I think that definitely shows on screen.”
As an older brother of three siblings in real life, it comes as no surprise then that Jamie enjoys playing the role of older brother. “I really like Brody’s interactions with his siblings because he doesn’t have a ton of aggressive opinions. I don’t think he’s super opinionated, and he only really chimes in [if] he absolutely has something to say. He comes off as the sort of mediator, watches as his siblings fight which I think is very funny of him, that he’s a little bit of an observer.”
The actor also points out his character’s relationship with his older brother Tuck and calls it a funny dynamic. “We have a lot of moments together that are very cute and brotherly and I thought very real.”
Relating to his real life as an older brother made the transition into Brody a seamless one. “I think that was something I really could take to the screen as this character, [those] brotherly interactions that I have with my siblings because I think the way that Brody interacts with his siblings is very similar to the way that I interact with mine,” the actor says. Jamie continues, “One of the aspects of filming that I was most comfortable with were those scenes where there are a lot of siblings within, because they were very similar to life back home. Just having those funny moments with your siblings when you’re quarreling over stupid stuff – it was very real. And I thought that was something I could definitely take to Brody’s character and utilized on screen as a real-life moment that I absolutely could connect to.”
His highlights another of Brody’s relationships as he explores his character’s dynamic with his father. Jamie explains, “Once their mother passed away, [Brody] and Tuck took on this parental role, so I think he and his dad are definitely close. His dad turns to him and Tuck when he needs someone to fill in for that parental role if he has work to do or if he can’t be driving kids around or taking care of the other siblings. I think that he definitely trusts Brody and Tuck in that role and I think that says a lot about their relationship with him.”
Another unique dynamic on the show is between Brody and Katharine McPhee’s Bailey. Both of them are a little quirky and are trying to figure out their way in the new situations they face.
One moment between the two, as shown prominently in the trailer and included in episode four, is when Bailey offers Brody some dating advice.
“We actually filmed that episode first. Getting to work with Kat in the first week of filming was really nice because we got to know each other a little bit,” reveals Jamie. “I really enjoy Brody and Bailey’s relationship. I think he often comes to her when he has any girl issues and she’s a really great source of advice. Even if the advice itself comes in various bizarre forms,” he says with a small laugh, “I think it definitely holds. In the end, it’s very effective and useful advice that she gives.”
Continuing, the actor adds, “[Brody’s] very adaptable. So when he meets her, he very quickly comes to like her and they become close, obviously, in that episode. I really like to see him react because he enjoys getting advice from her. He really trusts [Bailey] and he’s very trusting in a lot of people that he meets.”
There’s a pride in his voice as Jamie says, “Those moments with Bailey and Brody are really special.”
The dynamic between the two is extra special when one considers how much Jamie admires Katharine as a performer and a professional.
“When we were on set, [Katharine] was really great. If any of us had questions, she was always there to answer them,” he recalls. “I honestly think the thing I got out of working with her the most was just watching her on set because she’s such a professional actress and she’s just very in tune with herself as a person and an actress.” He goes on to explain how her professionalism set the tone and made an example of how set would be. “She was really professional but she also had a really awesome mix of being professional and fun at the same time. We always had an amazing time working with her on set.”
For Jamie, the wisdom his co-star imparted on him came more from her actions as he observed her work ethic. “I honestly think the biggest thing that I got out of [working with Katharine] was that I got to work with her and almost follow in her footsteps in the way that she carried herself on set, just watching her professionalism. I mean, also the way that she sings is insane,” he adds, pure adoration filling his tone.
“She is the most gifted singer I’ve probably ever heard in my entire life. She was amazing and she would sing like that all the time; she would sing like that during table reads! She was always just stellar. I really looked up to that and hope that someday I can be at that level and follow in her footsteps in that way.”
Katharine’s voice isn’t the only one heard on the series. Not only does her character Bailey stumble onto Brody’s musical family, but when she reignites the passion for music in their lives, it leads to plenty of entertainment.
“There’s definitely a lot of singing within [the show]. You’ll absolutely be hearing some songs that I perform, which was an amazing experience. Being able to perform those songs on screen was incredible and I think it’s really fun because there are a lot of different moments where the family sings together,” Jamie says. “Being able to sing with that group is just a really fun experience, [it is] so amazing to get to do that with my co-stars.”
Audiences got a glimpse of that when the cast came together virtually to sing a song promoting the series for Netflix.
He says of the promo clip, “That was really cute and fun. We filmed that all after we stopped shooting. I got to watch that recently and that was awesome.”
What is also awesome is how relaxed Jamie had been when speaking with TEENPLICITY just days before the show’s debut. His secret, according to the actor, is to live life as normally as possible.
“I’m a little nervous for the show to come out just to see what people think of it,” he admits at first before continuing. “But I’ve been hanging out with friends – obviously safely, because of COVID – I’ve been trying to keep a normal life, keep my regular routine. I’m in high school right now, so obviously I have a lot of homework. I’m just trying not to stress about it as much as possible and just be excited for everybody to see it because we had such an awesome time shooting.”
Though the entire first season recently debuted on Netflix, TEENPLICITY asked Jamie to tease what audiences can expect on Country Comfort, whether they haven’t watched the show yet or are spacing out the episodes for further enjoyment.
“One thing [you can expect] if you watch it over time: it’ll be really nice to see this family interact and grow together.” He teases, a grin palpable in his voice as he says, “There’s some love interest stuff within, which is very fun to watch. You know, there’s always so much going on because it’s a family of six people, so everybody gets a little bit of a storyline. You’re never bored watching the show. I can tell you that it’s always exciting and there’s always something going on – that’s what I’m really excited about.”
A moment sure to entice new fans is the special appearance of LeAnn Rimes, who is Eddie Cibrian’s wife in real life which the show teases about. With the endless possibilities of who else the show could potentially attract to guest star in the future, Jamie’s mind runs wild with ideas.
“That’s so hard, there are so many people,” he says at first, laughing for a moment as he thinks. “I actually sang a song by Carrie Underwood for my audition so that’d be really cool and full circle if somehow she managed to get on the show. I think that would be so fun.”
The actor also gushes, “Having LeAnn on set and in that episode was such an incredible experience. I think that anyone else that comes on, I’ll be super excited about, no matter who it is. It’s just there are so many people I could say and I don’t know if I could choose one, but having LeAnn on the show was amazing. She’s so talented and so professional and just a wonderful person to be around. I hope that we keep having those cameos because that one was super fun.”
Playing off of the name of the series, TEENPLICITY couldn’t help but ask Jamie what are three things that give him comfort.
The first thing that comes to mind is his collection of photos that he’s put up on his wall of his friends and his time from set. “Those photos all around my room give me comfort,” he says. He adds of his second item, “I have a journal on the side of my bed that I like to write in sometimes and that gives me comfort because I know I have an outlet to put my feelings into.”
For his last item of comfort, he leans into the more physical meaning than emotional or mental side of it. “I have a giant Comfy which is like a giant Snuggie. That absolutely makes me feel so comfortable because it is so nice and warm. Maybe it’s not comfortable on the sentimentality level, but it’s a nice warm blanket-hoodie thing that I very much feel comfortable in so, you know, maybe not the same type of comfort but definitely comfort nonetheless,” Jamie concludes with a laugh.
Country Comfort is available to stream on Netflix now!