To say Joe Theismann is a busy man would probably be an understatement. As a retired NFL quarterback, he spends his time as a football analyst, restaurant owner, motivational speaker, and most recently, as an actor. His performance in “Love on the Sidelines,” a Hallmark Channel romantic comedy, is what we are discussing, but I can’t suppress my inner football geek.
“So…do you have any playoff predictions?” I ask.
Now, I’m sure that Joe gets asked football questions all the time and he probably wouldn’t mind continuing our conversation about his recent acting experience, but he humors me. Not only that, Joe seems more than happy to talk about the upcoming games.
“My picks for the Super Bowl are the Cardinals and the Patriots. The Cardinals are the most complete team in the NFL right now, and when New England is healthy, they are hard to beat,” says the man who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 1983.
As our conversation continues, we discuss the Redskins, recent coaching changes, and RG3. Not only is he extremely well-spoken, but he’s very friendly, insightful, and patient as I jump around from topic to topic.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, as both Beth Grossbard (the executive producer of “Love on the Sidelines”) and Joe’s assistant, who helped me with scheduling, both praised him for his easy-going nature and genuine interest in connecting with people. Grossbard described Joe as better than any therapist and I totally get it after having the opportunity to chat with him.
If you’ve seen “The Blind Side,” you may recall that the movie opens with footage of a Redskins-Giants football game with a Sandra Bullock voice-over explaining why the left tackle, the guy who protects the blindside of the quarterback, is often the second highest paid player on a team. The footage shows a quarterback succumbing to a gruesome leg injury. That quarterback is Joe Theismann and sadly, that injury ended his career in the NFL.
More often than not, Joe’s name is synonymous with that injury. While it would be understandable if he tried to distance himself from that terrible moment, he doesn’t. In fact, he was recently quoted in The Washington Post describing it as “a blessing.”
The experience is actually one of the reasons Joe was drawn to his role in “Love on the Sidelines.” In the movie, Joe plays Owen Holland, the father of a quarterback who is in the process of rehabbing a serious injury.
“There was an emotional connection there,” says Joe, explaining that he understood the process that the injured character was going through. Having the opportunity to play the father, and one who showed pride in what his son had accomplished, was also appealing to Joe.
This wasn’t Joe’s first foray into acting, as he made appearances on “Necessary Roughness” in 2013 and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in 2014. When I questioned him about the experience of acting, he described the challenge of transitioning from a public speaker. (Joe travels the country as a motivational speaker. You can check out a snippet here.)
“Speeches are about projecting, there’s more force to it. Acting is about capturing the moment. It’s about taking the written words and making them a part of who you are,” says Joe.
A highlight of the experience was the cast and crew. Joe had nothing but good things to say about the director and described Emily Kinney (pictured below with Joe at the Hallmark press party) and John Reardon, who play the lead roles, as “consummate professionals and fun to be around.”
From speaking with executive producer Beth Grossbard, it was apparent the feelings were reciprocated by the cast and crew. She appreciated the attention that he showed to everyone on set and fondly recalled how “he would make a touchdown signal any time he had a good take.”
Even though he was only on-set for one day, he signed autographs for everyone and he showed genuine appreciation for being part of the romantic comedy.
“I’m very excited about having [this] opportunity,” says Joe. “It’s a terrific movie. I think it will be enjoyed by a lot of people.”
It was an absolute thrill to talk to Joe, who was extremely generous with his time and left me the nicest voicemail, which I will probably never delete because I’m weird like that. Thank you so much to Joe Theismann for talking to me about acting and football, and to Beth Grossbard for arranging the interview.
(Oh and for those of you who are wondering, here are some of the interesting NFL tidbits I got from Joe: He thinks that despite the Redskins’ recent playoff loss, they were able to accomplish a lot in in the face of change and injuries, especially to the tight ends and corners. He thinks that the team’s priorities for 2016 should be corners and receivers (“You can always use more receivers”) and now they can start drafting for depth to fortify the team. As far as head coaches go, Joe thinks that Cleveland is walking away a winner with Hue Jackson and he was surprised that San Fransisco went with Chip Kelly.)
“Love on the Sidelines” premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 9/8 Central. Photo courtesy of Beth Grossbard / Hallmark.