Michael J. Fox returned to series television in 1996 with ABC's "Spin City," portraying Michael Flaherty, New York's deputy mayor. He won critical praise, garnering three Golden Globe Awards, three Emmy nominations, a GQ Man-of-the-Year Award (in the TV comedy category), a People's Choice Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. During his time on the show, shot entirely in New York City, Michael did everything from galloping bareback through Central Park to jumping into the Hudson River. Fox also served as executive producer, along with Gary David Goldberg, Bill Lawrence, David Rosenthal and producer/director Andy Cadiff.
Born Michael Andrew Fox to parents William and Phyllis in Edmonton, Alberta, Fox adopted the "J" as an homage to legendary character actor Michael J. Pollard. Fox, an "army brat," moved several times during his childhood, along with his parents, brother and three sisters. The Foxes finally planted roots in Burnaby, B.C., a suburb of Vancouver, when William retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1971.
Like most Canadian kids, Michael loved hockey and dreamed of an NHL career, though he never realistically expected it. In his teens, Michael's interests expanded. He began experimenting with creative writing, art, and played guitar in a succession of rock-and-roll garage bands before ultimately realizing his affinity for acting.
He debuted as a professional actor at 15, co-starring in the CBC sitcom, "Leo and Me," with future Tony Award winner Brent Carver. For the next three years, Michael juggled local theater and TV work, and landed a few roles in American TV movies shooting north of the border.
At 18, Michael ventured to Los Angeles. He struggled through a series of bit parts and CBS' short-lived (yet critically acclaimed) Alex Haley/Norman Lear series "Palmerstown USA," before winning the role of lovable conservative Alex P. Keaton in NBC's enormously popular "Family Ties" (1982-89). During Michael's seven years on "Ties," he earned three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, making him one of America's most prominent young performers.
"Spin City" reunited Fox with "Family Ties" creator/executive producer Gary David Goldberg. Together with Bill Lawrence, Goldberg created the series expressly for Fox, establishing it as a joint venture of Dreamworks-SKG, Goldberg's UBU Productions and Lottery Hill Entertainment (run by Fox and partner Danelle Black). Goldberg served as co-executive producer with Fox for "Spin's" first and second seasons, and Lawrence stepped in during the third. For the fourth seasons, Rosenthal and Cadiff shared duties with Fox.
Fox's other forays into television included a variety of roles and duties. In 1994, he starred in Woody Allen's "Don't Drink the Water" on ABC. He directed Teri Garr and Bruno Kirby in an episode of cable's "Tales From the Crypt" and later directed an installment of the critically acclaimed "Brooklyn Bridge."
During all of this, Fox also became an international film star, appearing in over a dozen features showcasing his keen ability to shift between comedy and drama. These include the "Back to the Future" trilogy, "The Hard Way," "Doc Hollywood," "The Secret of My Success," B"right Lights, Big City," "Light of Day," "Teen Wolf," "Casualties of War," "Life With Mikey," "For Love or Money," "The American President," "Greedy," "The Frighteners," and "Mars Attacks!"
Fox married "Ties" co-star, actress Tracy Pollan, in 1988. Together, they have three children.
Inspired to find projects that his kids would enjoy, Fox lent his voice to a variety of hit children's films in the 1990s. He began as Chance the dog in Disney's "Homeward Bound" movies. In December 1999, he provided the voice of Stuart Little for the Sony feature of the same name, and in summer 2001, Fox was featured as the lead in "Atlantis The Lost Empire," his first animated Walt Disney feature.
Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease in 1991. Upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson's research.
Fox announced his retirement from "Spin City" in January 2000, effective upon the completion of his fourth season and 100th episode. Expressing pride in the show, its talented cast, writers and creative team, he explained that new priorities made this the right time to step away from the demands of a weekly series.
Though he maintains a strong commitment to his acting career and running Lottery Hill Entertainment, Fox has shifted a good deal of his focus and energies toward the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. He hopes the foundation will increase awareness, provide a voice for PD advocacy, and raise much-needed research funding.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
Los Angeles Times welcomes civil dialogue about our stories; you must register with the site to participate. We filter comments for language and adherence to our Terms of Service, but not for factual accuracy. By commenting, you agree to these legal terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.
Having technical problems? Check here for guidance.