“I certainly have a fear of pity,” Michael J. Fox tells ABCNEWS’ Diane Sawyer. “Pity can be a step away from abuse. It’s not something that I’m comfortable with.”
In his first television interview since announcing his departure from Spin City, Fox spoke to Sawyer about his battle with Parkinson’s disease, his decision to walk away from his hit sitcom and his future plans.
“As an actor with Parkinson’s disease,” says Fox, “playing someone who doesn’t have PD, you know, I’m always doing the math on how to physically navigate my way through a scene.”
But nine years after being diagnosed with the illness and four years since Spin City first aired, Fox will no longer be doing such calculations. The final episode of Spin City, of which he was the executive producer and star, will be broadcast on May 24.
“I loved it very much,” he says of the show.“But it was just too much energy to spend in one place. I don’t mind spending that much energy but I want to dole it out a little bit.”
Says Fox: “It takes a different degree of energy and concentration for me to do things than it does for you to do things. It’s not better or worse...It’s just different.
“It wasn’t so much what I couldn’t do on the show,” he continues. “It’s what I couldn’t do outside of it because I was tired. I couldn’t spend time with my kids because I was tired. I’d get home and I’d just be tired.”
“I don’t want to whine to you. You know, I’ll deal with it,” he tells Sawyer. “The difference between whining and advocacy is huge.”
Indeed, Fox intends to put his time toward fighting Parkinson’s and finding a cure for the illness that afflicts approximately 1 million Americans.
“At this point, I want someone to give me a magic pill that’s going to make it go away,” he says. “Well, that doesn’t exist, so I’m wasting my time if I ask someone for it. But now, having arrived here, I know what I want, I want what is reasonable, which is that there are people waiting to be empowered and motivated and let loose.”
So he has established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and has developed a Web site to energize those who seek help. Today, Fox is in Washington to officially launch his foundation at a Capitol Hill press conference.
“I do firmly believe that there will be a cure by the time I’m 50,” says Fox. “I’m 38 — it gives me 12 years, it’s a nice window. I’ll put money on it.”
Though his television career of more than 22 years may be ending, Fox is not resentful about the toll his illness has taken on him.
“I don’t spend a lot of time wishing for anything other than what it is,” he says. “I’m not depressed. For some reason, I don’t have that chemical in my head. I don’t get depressed.”
He tells Sawyer, “I think my peace of mind and my optimism and just the fact that I still enjoy life comes from the fact that I’m fully aware that everybody, everywhere, every moment of every day is not thinking about me. My problems, you know.”
Nor is his illness at the center of his family life. Fox is married to actress Tracy Pollen and has three children. His son Sam is 11, and his twin girls, Aquinna and Schuyler, are 5.
“It’s not a white elephant that nobody deals with,” he says of how he explains to his children his condition, “but it’s not the focus of our lives.”
For example, he may tell one of his daughters, “I can’t brush your hair right now.” When asked why, he explains, “Because, you know, my hands don’t really work that well right now.”
As for his wife, he says, “She’s just there for me. She always has been there for me, she’s always made it clear that I make her laugh, which is as good as anything else you can do.”