“The Good Cop” is a milestone for Tony Danza. Its premiere Friday marks the actor’s return to television, his streaming-service debut and, for those who are keeping track, his sixth scripted TV role as a character named Tony.
“This job was the most fun acting I’ve had since ‘Who’s the Boss?’ ” Danza, 67, says of the Netflix comedy that lets him slip into the bingeing world alongside Grammy-nominated singer Josh Groban.
The NYC-set police series gets things a little twisted when it pins together its amusing, though unlikely, duo: Groban appears as TJ Caruso, a straightedge NYPD officer, and Danza, as Tony Caruso, a fame-seeking former cop on parole.
“I do all the singing in the show and Josh does all the fighting,” the former prizefighter points out, proudly. (Yes, they’ve traded off-screen tips).
But at the core of the series, Groban and Danza portray a father-son team, which actually translates to Groban being a revered detective and his father being the disgraced pariah who’s required to stay away from the NYPD. Yet, somehow, he wiggles his way into every single case.
“This is how I fleshed it out in my brain. He was a really stellar cop, good cop, and he made one bad decision and it was a slippery slope. While he was in prison, his wife was killed by a drunk driver and he didn’t get to go to the funeral,” Danza explains. “He thinks he’s doing a good thing, and I’ll tell you something, I love playing him. Oh my goodness.”
The part was pretty much written for Danza to play. Tony Caruso’s flow of jokes and friendly banter come easy to the actor who’s no stranger to playing a sitcom’s most-liked character.
“It took me a little while to really figure out in this business, it’s about the writing . . . man, I want to hug this guy. I don’t want to change a single syllable,” Danza boasts about the series’ writer, Andy Breckman.
In its 10-episode premiere season, “The Good Cop” is split into 45-minute episodes that each chase a different murderer. The crime-solving drama, at times, puts more emphasis on the comedy than it does on the sleuthing, and that’s exactly what drew Danza to it.
“I’m so sick of [those shows],” Danza says, of New York City’s growing list of “who done it” crime scripts. “Procedurals have never been my thing. You know the greatest show I ever turned down? ‘NYPD Blue.’ How about that . . . I was stupid. That was a big mistake.”
Eh, what are you gonna do?
The Brooklyn-born actor’s career is still studded with other New York City-set favorites, from “Taxi,” which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, to “The Tony Danza Show.”
“We got to shoot here in New York, you know, it was so much fun to work in New York City again as opposed to on location someplace else,” Danza says.
Currently based in Manhattan, the actor says it was a quick commute to the office for “The Good Cop,” which filmed in Brooklyn, the Bronx and within Broadway Stages’ Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island.
“We were shooting at the prison over and over. There were a couple of days I went out and saw my uncle while I was down on Staten Island,” Danza says of the project’s convenience. “I got to sleep in my own bed.”
Locale and love of the script aside, a personal connection to the NYPD also attracted Danza to set the project as his TV return. He’s a member of the board of directors at the department’s Police Athletic League (PAL), a nonprofit that looks to provide city youth with places to “learn, grow and play” while building relationships with officers.
“I think it’s really important that we reach the kids because PALs is at the nexus of one of the most intractable problems we have in this country, that’s the police and young people, especially young people of color,” he says. In the spring, Danza launched the second annual “Tony Danza & the Stars of Tomorrow” event, an acting class led by the “Who’s the Boss?” star himself.
“Oh, by the way,” Danza says, “my other NYPD connection is my uncle Eddie Zigo caught the Son of Sam, but that’s a whole other story.”
“The Good Cop,” which is set to be released on Netflix in full, has not yet been picked up for a second season, but the actor is staying hopeful.
“I’m so fortunate. I mean I feel so blessed. I started when there were three networks, now I’m on a streaming service,” Danza says. “I’m very happy with this and am hoping that people do like it and Netflix decides to go further.”
SEE DANZA: Tony Danza is set to perform a show at the Staten Island St. George Theatre with his four-piece band. “Standards & Stories,” in which Danza shows off his singing, dancing, and ukulele skills, hits the theater on Oct. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Visit stgeorgetheatre.com for tickets.