Out comedian keeps winning in new primetime sitcom

Fortune Feimster as Ruby Photo: Danny Ventrella/NBC

A new sitcom featuring LGBT characters is hitting the airwaves this week — and it looks to be a winner. 

The show centers on Vince (Anders Holmes), who lives with his good-natured brother after he gave up on his post-high-school dream of sports stardom to run the family gym in Brooklyn. Secretly, he’s on the verge of giving up on the business and moving to Florida when his high-school sweetheart, Priya (Mindy Kaling), shows up unexpectedly to drop off their 15-year-old son, Michael (J.J. Totah), in his father’s care so he can attend a prestigious performing-arts school in New York.

Out comedian Fortune Feimster, who is no stranger to television regularly appears on “Chelsea Lately,” “Last Comic Standing” and “Glee,” plays Ruby, Vince’s childhood friend who works at his gym. 

Feimster said that show creators Charlie Grandy and actor Kaling (“The Office,” “The Mindy Project”) wrote Ruby specifically for her.

“They asked me if it was something I would be interested in,” she said. “It would have been some character and this character would be based around me. I had already worked with them before and had a really positive experience. It’s so rare to have creators tell you that they want to build a character around you, so I jumped at the chance.”

Feimster said that, at first, the show focuses on Vince and his brother Matthew adjusting to suddenly having a new family member in their chaotic lives. But other characters eventually help the brothers.    

“As the season moves on, you get to explore more of the gym and how everything works together,” Feimster said. “But you definitely want to see the dynamic of how they suddenly take on the responsibility of taking care of this kid. When you have this young actor like J.J. who’s at the helm, you want to wind him up and let him go. He’s so funny. I think he’s really going to stand out.”

Feimster described the show’s humor as fast-paced but heartfelt.   

“It’s got the quippiness of a ‘Mindy Project’-type show where there’s a lot of sharp jokes and pop-culture references but at the end of the day, it is about these people that really love each other, not only the brothers who are trying to raise this teenager but also the people at the gym who they’ve known forever,” she said. “It’s like this ‘it-takes-a-village-type show. We definitely give each other a hard time but it has a lot of heart. It’s a quirky comedy but it’s still people you want to root for.”

The show also dives into issues of diversity and family structures that aren’t the norm.

“Everything about this family dynamic is non-traditional,” Feimster said. “You have a multi ethnic situation. He’s a gay teenager and suddenly he’s going away from his mom to be raised by his dad and his brother in New York City from Ohio. His idea of New York is everything he’s watched on ‘Sex and the City. This new transition as a young gay kid, making new friends, you do explore his ethnicity and it’s an interesting journey. A lot of kids these days are coming to terms with their sexuality a lot sooner than my generation did. There’s a sense of confidence there and knowing who they are but also dealing with things teenagers deal with. So I think it’s a pretty interesting look into the young kid’s world. As a gay person, I’m super proud that there’s this TV show that is going to have a gay kid and a lesbian on network TV. I feel like most of the time, you either have one or the other or none, so I have a particular sense of pride being a part of this show.”

  Feimster has had to put her live standup gigs on hold while working on “Champions,” but she said she’ll be back on the road with new jokes soon after the sticom premieres.   

    “I’ve been doing a lot of writing when I’m not filming. I’m trying to prep for when I start back on the road in mid-March. I’ll be coming into these shows with new material and a new perspective on things. I’m working towards putting together a new hour that I hope will be on some platform. I’m in the process of creating that material.”     

“Champions” premieres 8:30 p.m. March 8 on NBC. For more information, visit www.nbc.com/champions or www.fortunefeimster.com.