20 Questions With Jason Ritter

'CMT 40 Greatest Firsts' Host Discusses His Career and His Famous Father and Grandfather

Jason Ritter was born into entertainment royalty. In addition to being the son of actor John Ritter, his grandfather, singer-actor Tex Ritter, was one of the very first inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Tex Ritter also holds the distinction of being the first artist to release a country album.

Considering his credentials, Jason Ritter is the perfect person to host CMT 40 Greatest Firsts, a two-hour countdown of some of the most significant achievements in country music. The special premieres Saturday (May 28) at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

In the middle of his busy schedule, the star of Joan of Arcadia recently took the time to answer 20 questions submitted by his fans at

1. What is it like hosting a show, acting in a TV show and being in Raise Your Voice with Hillary Duff?

They're all different. Hosting was very fun, but it was very quick. I just went there for one day and we shot it all, and it was fun. But I'm not that involved in the whole process. I'm not there during the editing. It was just a short half-day of work. And doing Raise Your Voice with Hillary Duff, that was a pretty quick experience as well because my character died so early on in the movie that I didn't really get a chance to work that much on the set. But it was fun. Hillary was really nice. I was nervous that she might be a little spoiled, but she's just really down to earth, which I think is rare for someone who is that young and that recognizable. And then the TV show, I would probably say that's been my favorite thing just because I've gotten to know the family on Joan of Arcadia so well, and just by the fact that you work on a TV show for a year, you just start to develop a family, not only with the other actors but all the crew, so that's been a really nice experience. It's kind of the closest thing I'll ever get to as far as a 9-to-5 job, but I have so much fun and I love the people.

2. Has playing a role on Joan of Arcadia affected your spirituality? Or has your own spirituality enhanced your character's role? It is a great show -- one that we enjoy together as a family (my husband, myself and our 8 and 9-year-old sons).

To answer the second part of the question, I don't think my spirituality has affected my character. I feel like my character is much more cynical about his beliefs, and I think I have to kind of drop what I believe in order to play him. He feels like he has every right to be angry with any kind of higher power. So he doesn't really spend too much time thinking about it at this point. Although he's had to recently as he started dating. But I would say it has affected my spirituality. ... It has made me realize to a stronger degree that we all are connected, and every action that we make has a reaction, and you don't realize how you affect the world around you. But everything you do has repercussions, whether they're good or bad. It just kind of made me look at the world as somewhere where this is some kind of system and there is some kind of plan, and it helped me in that way.

3. How long did it take for you to get used to being in a wheelchair for Joan of Arcadia? I have been in a wheelchair permanently since age 18. I find it fascinating to see how actors and actresses portray people with physical challenges. So far out of the young actors that I have seen lately, you are by far the best at handling the situation. Keep up the good work.

Oh, well, thank you. That means so much to me. It was really important to me to be as accurate as I could. I spent two or three months, that was about all the time that I had in between the time when we shot the pilot and when we got to start working on the show, and I had someone who trained me and taught me tricks and taught me how to go down stairs and up a curb. I mean, I can only go down two stairs, but these kinds of things taught me balancing techniques and how to feel comfortable and how you fall if you fall and all these things. And we haven't even used half of them on the show, yet. But I would say it took me about two months. ... And then I've continued to learn and endeavor to be even more accurate as the show has gone on. I don't ever feel like I've learned all there is to learn about it.

4. How do you think you would cope if you were really wheelchair bound?

I think I would cope like anyone copes with any tragedy. I'm sure I would be very upset for a while and then there would come a point where I would either have to stay in this place of darkness and anger, or I'd have to accept that it happened and life needs to go on, and I should make the best of the situation. A tragedy like that, I don't think there's ever a day that goes by where you don't think about what your life would be like if it hadn't happened. I would, just one day at a time, just try to get through it.

5. I was at one of the viewings of Happy Endings at Sundance. ... Great job in that movie and handling the Q&A by yourself afterward. Any more movie projects coming up in the near future?

Yes, I did this movie called Our Very Own that I actually shot in Shelbyville, Tenn. And it's set in the '70s. It's about five friends growing up, and they're kind of all obsessed with Sandra Locke because she is from Shelbyville. It's a sweet movie. It's going to be in the L.A. Film Festival, and hopefully it's going to get distribution so that everyone can see it. Happy Endings is coming out in July, and then I'm working on this movie right now called Lenexa, One Mile about five guy friends in Kansas in the '80s.

6. How much did your dad and grandfather being in show business influence you to go into acting?

My father and my mother were both nothing but encouraging. They really wanted me to take it seriously, and instead of just blindly supporting me in what I wanted to do, they really pushed for me to go to school and really learn how to do it and better myself before I tried my hand at it. So they were both very supportive. My dad and my mom would come see my plays in high school and tell me what I did right and tell me what I could improve on, never over critical to the point where I felt like I wanted to give up.

7. I was and still am a big fan of your father's and have recently seen how great of an actor you are. Everyone knew your father as being a great comedian, and so I was just wondering why you decided to take a different route in your career? Why did you decide not to start out in comedy but to do more of a serious role?

Well, actually, as an actor starting out, there's not too many options open to you. It wasn't like I could really choose which parts I wanted. With that being said, I would audition for as many comedies as I would dramas. However, there would be lots of times when I would go in for a comedy audition, and the auditioner would talk about how funny my dad was. And it would make me really nervous, and I would mess up the audition because, all of a sudden, I would feel the pressure of trying to live up to how funny he was. So, I just kind of never was really good at auditioning for comedies, but it wasn't something that I purposefully did try to get away from my father. It's just sort of how it's worked out. But I've been able to start doing a little more comedic stuff. I still haven't done the flat-out comedy, but I've been able to inject little funny pieces in dramatic works.

8. Do you feel like you have to perform better than your grandfather or father to impress people and keep them from comparing you to your relatives?

I have kind of just accepted the fact that people are going to compare me to my dad. No one has compared me to Tex, yet. I have just accepted that fact because I do kind of look like him [father], and I grew up with him, so some of my mannerisms come directly from watching him as I was growing up. I know to a certain degree that I won't be able to get away from that, but I definitely feel a certain amount of pressure just to honor their talent and their abilities. It does push me to want to be the best actor I can and really take it seriously.

9. How was it growing up having a famous father and grandfather, and could your dad sing? How about you?

My dad and I both would sing. I wouldn't say we were ready to go on Broadway and do a big musical, but we could carry a tune and we enjoyed singing. I like karaoke, but neither my dad nor I have that amazing deep voice that Tex had. My grandfather died before I was born, so I never got to meet him, but I got to hear stories about him and I got to see movies. As far as growing up with a famous dad, it was strange. Any time I was at camp or going to a new school or something like that, there was always the day that I would dread where everyone would find out who my dad was. And then I'd have all these new friends. And there were a lot of fake relationships and fake people coming up to me and all of a sudden wanting to be my friend. What that did for me, though, I can be really good at detecting insincerity now, so I surrounded myself with true friends who like me for who I am, and I've kind of protected myself in that way. At first it was like, when I was growing up, people would come up to my dad and ask him for an autograph and say that they loved him, and for me it just like, "OK, yeah, that makes sense. I love my dad and so should this stranger." I didn't know anything else.

10. I adored your father. He was such an amazing actor, and it saddens me to think he is not here physically, but he will continuously remain in our hearts. What do you think you inherited from your father, personally and professionally?

I guess one of the things that I inherited from him professionally is his courtesy to everyone he's working with. My dad never followed a hierarchy on a crew and never treated a producer any better than a grip or a makeup or a hair person. He was nice to everyone across the board, and I feel like I do that, too. I feel like I judge people on who they are rather than what their title is.

11. What is it like being an actor?

It's strange. It's a strange life to choose because there really is never a sense of security that you can look for. There are things that are close, like a TV show, but then it can get canceled and you have to go back to square one and go right back into auditioning again. It's not as glamorous as people would like to think. I'm a pretty regular guy. I'm not a big nightclub-bar type of guy. I've met a lot of great friends who are actors, and they're interesting people. ... I don't know about all actors, but my friends are. I like the fact that all of my friends and I can make each other laugh. We'll go to events and premieres and stuff. We got to go to the Emmys last year, but then I sit home and watch the Oscars on TV if I feel like it. Last year, I didn't even do that. I didn't even see who won anything. There are certainly those people who just are completely glamorous and do all of that kind of thing, but I stay out of it.

12. With this being the last season for Joan of Arcadia, which my mom and I love, what will you do after the series ends?

As far as what I would do next, that's one of the things about being an actor. You never know what the next thing is going to be on your resume. I'm doing this movie right now, Lenexa, One Mile, and after that, who knows? I really don't know.

13. Who are some of your favorite country artists, actors and actresses?

I really like Kenny Rogers, and I get Shania Twain songs stuck in my head all the time. (sings, "So you're Brad Pitt/That don't impress me much.") I like Loretta Lynn a lot. I really love Loretta Lynn. My favorite actress is Giulietta Masina. She was an Italian actress who was married to Fellini. And my favorite actor -- James Dean is always amazing and inspiring.

14. I was stationed in London some years back and loved the city and its people. I'm curious as to your feelings about London?

I really loved London. I really loved studying there. I loved doing a play there. It's a little steep for me. The pound is so strong to the dollar at this point. But I really did love London. I did get mugged there, unfortunately, but for the most part, I really liked the people, I really liked the atmosphere. And I think the thing about British food is a myth. I had such fantastic food over there.

15. You are really cute. How old are you, and do you have any regrets with your acting career.

I'm 25. And do I have any regrets with my acting career? Yes, I do. But I feel like it would be betraying the other people I worked with to say that I didn't like some certain project. But yes, I do have regrets.

16. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Yes, I have my sister Carly, my brother Tyler and my half sister Stella. They're all awesome.

17. What singers have had the most influence in your taste of music?

I would say Kurt Cobain, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Doug Martsch of Built to Spill.

18. Are you in any way involved in the music industry, such as singing or producing? Do you play instrument of any kind? You are becoming a great actor. You have tough shoes to fill, and you are doing a good job. Keep it up.

Thank you! I play bass guitar and I play guitar. I haven't been in a band for a long time, but I have a bunch of friends in bands, and I go to their shows. I'm supportive of their work. But I haven't been in the music world for quite a while as far as performing goes.

19. What are your vacation hot spots, and what things do you like to do in your time off?

My girlfriend is from Scotland, so usually on our vacations we go back to her country and see her family and hang out with her sister, mom, niece and their whole family. We're also going to plan a trip to Poland because that's where her roots are.

20. Since your grandfather is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, have you been to Nashville to visit the Hall of Fame?

Yes, when I was in Shelbyville filming that movie, Our Very Own, we went into Nashville. We got taken around, and I saw the Thomas Hart Benton painting that my grandfather had commissioned. It was the last one he ever painted. It didn't have his signature on it. He died before he could sign it. I think that's why. And it's dedicated to my grandfather. It was an amazing experience. Really amazing.

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