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TODAY   |  September 25, 2013

Michael J. Fox: Parkinson’s changed how I act

The actor talks to TODAY’s Willie Geist about his family’s support for his decision to return to acting despite the advance of his Parkinson’s disease, and how he has changed up his acting style to compensate for his condition.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> well, this week michael j. fox is making his much anticipated return to television.

>> he plays a family man who goes back to work after taking time off to focus on his parkinson 's disease.

>> it's a story out of fox's own life and a story near and dear to me. as some of you know, my own father has parkinson 's.

>> there he is. welcome home my friend.

>> it is a homecoming of sorts for michael j. fox and for the character he plays on the michael j. fox show. both are returning to television.

>> we love you, bro.

>> thanks man. thanks for man.

>> reporter: fox plays mike henry , a family man that goes back to work as a local nbc anchor, five years after being sidelined by parkinson 's disease.

>> there's a scene in the first episode where your character breaks the news to his family, i'm going back to work. take me inside the moment when you broke the news to your family that you were going back to a series sitcom.

>> i said to tracy, what do you think about me going back to work? and she thought i could do it but they were like you have to do something. because you're just hanging around the house.

>> there's a line in the show that moved me where your character says what if i'm not the guy they remember when i go back to work. was he speaking at all for michael j. fox .

>> yeah at a point in my life. the disclaimer is i have gone through a lot of stuff -- i didn't wake up and be in this place of poz activity and hearts and flowers and unicorns. i went through a lot of stuff.

>> reporter: when he was 30 years old, fox was diagnosed with parkinsons. he was told his career had 10 years left.

>> set the table.

>> reporter: that was 22 years ago.

>> do you think you've lost anything as an actor or comedian because of parkinson 's disease?

>> it's changed me. it changed the way i worked. i can't rely on a quick eyebrow lift or express myself in a certain way facially. i just feel stuff more. what comes out i have less control over but it tends to be more honest.

>> do you get tired of people saying michael, how are you feeling? there's a look people have. i've seen it with my dad too. they feel sorry for you.

>> i have come to realize that those people and i have nothing against them, it's all coming from a good place but that's their own fear. oh, i really hope i don't get what you have.

>> right.

>> i'm in much better shape than you.

>> egg me.

>> everybody has their own --

>> can you not have a personal victory right now? we are starving.

>> we were like what is this show about? it's about control. we don't control.

>> oh, that's good.

>> reporter: fox may not always be in control but he's hell bent on not letting parkinson 's control him.

>> i have difficulty running and i can't turn sideways when i'm moving and talk. it's just a thing i can't do. we shot a scene in the park with the football and i ran 20 yards out and caught it over my shoulder and kept running because i said to myself i'm not going to tell myself i can't do this. i'm just going to do it and if i ball hits me on the side of the head and i fall down then that happened.

>> you're not self-conscious at all. i don't get the impression that you are at all.

>> no, vanity is really overrated. when i was 20, teenage girls had my picture on the wall, i don't need to be more than who i am. i just am who i am.

>> natalie was one of them. i did. i had a back to the future poster in my room.

>> i did too.

>> in addition to the show that comes out, fox is active working with the michael j. fox foundation for parkinson 's research. i'm on the board of that foundation. my father came out publicly with the disease last year and i joined the board. the michael j. fox show premieres tomorrow night at 9:00, 8:00 central here on nbc. what an incredible attitude he has about this. it's easy when you have parkinson 's to shrink back and not want to put yourself out there. he is the exact opposite. he runs into it.

>> he was so good in spin city . he kept that comedic timing. welcome back michael.