Tony Danza could have been quite the contender in the boxing ring. But his life took a different route when a producer discovered him inside a Manhattan gym and swiftly cast the budding boxer ― with no acting experience ― on the sitcom “Taxi.” To this day, Danza still wonders what life would have been like had that not happened.
Luckily, though, that chance meeting turned into a five-year stint on “Taxi,” the Emmy-winning series, which ran from 1978 to 1983 and featured a top-notch cast, including Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Christopher Lloyd, Jeff Conaway and Andy Kaufman.
For Danza, it’s hard to believe so much time has passed since the premiere of the show, which centered around the lives of people working at a New York taxicab company.
“Forty years. It doesn’t seem possible,” Danza told HuffPost at Build Series, which is owned by Oath, HuffPost’s parent company. “In just a blink of an eye. And what’s great is that we all still hang around together — I saw Chris [Lloyd] yesterday. It’s a touchstone in my life because obviously it changed my life.”
“But I think about that a lot — how they treated me,” he continued. “Think about this for a second, right? So, these actors … they’ve been knocking around for a long time. They’re all looking for a show. Now they get this show. They get a great show with the greatest writers. They’re coming off ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ with all these Emmys. They get the best time slot on TV. It’s right after the No. 1 show. They got the best director [James L. Brooks] … Oh, but just one thing — there’s this fighter that we found in New York. He’s never acted, but we’re going to put him in the show. And they welcome me with open arms … and I was just allowed to thrive … It was like being in the best school of all time.”
“Taxi” served as a launching pad for Danza’s career, which later found him starring in “Who’s the Boss?,” hosting his own talk show, hitting Broadway and gracing both the big and small screen in a variety of projects. Still, “Taxi” holds a special place in his heart.
“There was a ‘Taxi’ marathon a few years ago. It was a holiday or something,” he said. “I watched 19 episodes. I couldn’t stop, and they were great. Invariably what it’s about is somebody gets into trouble, and everybody goes to their aid. And I loved it. I’m so proud of being in that.”
When asked whether he’d like to see a revival of “Taxi,” Danza admitted he feels torn, especially with the recent flurry of reboots and revivals.
“This rebooting thing is kind of nutty. Why not think about something new? … I’m just not that crazy about doing something we’ve already done. I like to think ahead.”
He certainly wouldn’t rule it out though.
“But if you can get the guys back on ‘Taxi’ I might do it,” he added while smiling. “I’d jump in, I think.”
Meanwhile, Danza has been working on a project that imagines what his life would have been like had he continued to pursue boxing.
“I would love to play a trainer … I’ve been writing a script. It’s called ‘The Hard Way’ … I boxed for six years. I took those six years before I got the part [on ‘Taxi’], and then I’m trying to imagine what would happen to me had I not gotten the part. And unfortunately, at the end it’s not like everyone has their hand up in the air. I think it’s a sad story because for three years, I boxed every day, five days a week. Every day I was in the ring … You take a lot of punishment. So what would I be like if it had been 10 years or 15 years? And I think what we know about the damage [boxing can cause] … I think that’s the story.”
Before that script fully takes shape, though, Danza can be seen in a new TV project. Called “The Good Cop,” the Netflix series follows Tony Sr. (Danza), a disgraced, former NYPD officer who rarely ― if ever ― follows the rules. He lives with his son, TJ (played by Josh Groban), an honest NYPD detective who ― unlike his dad ― makes a point of always following the rules. The show, filmed on the streets of New York, blends comedy and drama and also manages to incorporate mystery into the plot. Danza and Groban also get a chance to show off their music skills.
“The part is so much fun,” Danza said, adding that as soon as he read the script he felt as though the role has been written for him.
Now 40 years into his career Danza attributes his longevity to good fortune ― plus, a few other things.
“I’m lucky. I’m blessed. But I also work hard,” he said. “I put in the time. I also keep myself in shape … You have to put in your shift. And you have to be able to deal with unemployment. When you’re an actor, you have to deal with unemployment a lot …. That’s just the nature of the beast … You have to reinvent yourself a lot. You can’t just do the same thing you did when you first started.”
“The Good Cop” is currently available on Netflix.
For the full Build Series interview, check out the video below.
Correction: A previous version of this article had Jeff Conaway’s name as Jeff Conway.