Veteran actor Timothy Omundson continues his prime time reemergence with appearances this week on “This Is Us” and “American Housewife” — two-and-a-half years after suffering a stroke.
“At first I wanted to keep [the stroke] under wraps. I didn’t want a photo of me in a wheelchair taken out of context, with people saying, ‘He can’t ever work again,’ ” says Omundson, 50. “But I wanted people to know that I’m alive and … I needed to show people I’m more or less well and back and walking and moving.”
In April 2017 Omundson, who’d had “a horrific headache, like an ice pick in the back of my head” at a movie premiere the night before, collapsed from a stroke in Tampa International Airport while waiting to board a flight back to LA.
He spent three weeks in a Tampa hospital, eventually undergoing surgery on his skull (“they cracked it like a walnut,” he says) to alleviate pressure on his brain. He had to relearn how to walk and his vision was impaired (due to damage to his optical nerve) but his speech was largely unaffected.
“I 100 percent thought my career was over and I guess the surgeons told my wife [Allison] they weren’t sure if I would ever walk again,” he says. “This all happened at the height of my career; I was coming off of [the ABC series] ‘Galavant’ and had just shot a pilot with Carol Burnett.”
Omundson, known for his role as Carlton Lassiter on USA’s “Psych,” was coaxed back to work by his “Psych” co-star, James Roday (“A Million Little Things”), who titled the show’s upcoming reunion movie “Psych: Lassie Come Home” as a tribute to Omundson.
“It was a pretty big learning curve,” Omundson says about returning to work. “I had to try to figure it out with a new brain and a new body that didn’t quite work but they were patient with me. Part of it was that I was a little rusty; I didn’t memorize lines as well as I used to — that was one of my superpowers — and they set it up where I was not taxed with having to move too much.”
His “This Is Us” character, Greg, a stroke survivor who walks with a cane, was introduced in last week’s episode, sniping to neighbor Kate (Chrissy Metz) about Toby (Chris Sullivan) parking on the sidewalk. He returns on Tuesday’s episode interacting with Kate, Toby and their newborn son, Jack.
The role was written for Omundson by series creator Dan Fogelman, with whom he’d worked on “Galavant.” “All Dan told me was that [Greg] was a guy who was in deep recovery from a stroke,” Omundson says. “That first day on the set it was just incredible to have Dan there.”
Omundson returns to ABC’s “American Housewife” as Stan Lawton on Friday’s episode, in which Stan, whose new wife left him after he suffered a stroke on his honeymoon, is welcomed back to Westport and by his ex, Chloe (Jessica St. Clair) — who suspects he’s having an affair with Katie (Katy Mixon).
“Prior to me going back to ‘This Is Us’ I was in the depths of darkness with my recovery and my wife was on the couch watching ‘American Housewife,’ ” he says. “When they said Stan had left [in the plotline] she burst into tears and said, ‘That’s over, that’s it.’ But Rick Wiener and Kenny Schwartz, two of the writer/producers on ‘Galavant,’ also work on ‘American Housewife’ and they kept hope alive … and came up with a great story and brought me back. Walking back on that set was amazing.”
Omundson says he heard from fellow stroke victims after his first appearance on “This Is Us.”
“That’s why I was so excited to come back and do that role with the stick,” he says, alluding to his cane. “Maybe my situation can inspire people. I really feel it’s an important story to tell and I told Dan, ‘Let’s go, I want to show this warts and all.’ ”
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