‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ stars praise the show’s authenticity

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Bob Hearts Abishola | Monday, 8:30 p.m., CBS

A dating Web site would never match Midwestern compression-sock salesman Bob (Billy Gardell) with Nigerian nurse Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku). But a spark nevertheless is lit when Bob has a heart attack and Abishola is the cardiac-unit-nurse who attends to him.

“She’s the first person he sees,” says “Mike & Molly” star Gardell, 50. “That imprint is on him and he thinks, ‘I want to know more about this person. And I then I want her to give me a chance.’ ” As for Abishola, she’s not looking. But isn’t that usually when you meet someone? Bob’s advantage is that he can make her laugh. Abishola, whose work ethic takes precedence over her romantic needs, “wants to focus on what she came to this country to do,” says Olowofoyeku, 35. “She feels for the first time that someone wants to take care of her.”


The story of how these characters meet is as surprising as Olowofoyeku’s tale of how she made her way from Nigeria to sitcom stardom. She and Gardell spoke to The Post at the Beverly Hilton hotel.

You were born in Nigeria. How did you find your way to Southern California? It’s a long way from home.
Folake Olowofoyeku: Step by step. I knew I wanted to be in art. I taught myself to play the guitar. I started on an acoustic and went to an electric. I went to Harlem and studied theater at City College.
Billy Gardell: I drove by a college once.
Olowofoyeku: I stayed in New York for 10 years. For a long time, it was great. Then all of a sudden I was like, “I don’t like the cold.” I considered Atlanta. I considered going back home. I considered LA. I considered England and visited in February. So that was a no. That’s what brought me back to LA.

Are you from California?
Gardell: I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But I’ve been in California for 25 years.

Billy, how did you feel when “Mike & Molly” ended? Did you not want to do another show for a while?
Gardell: I felt blessed because that was such an incredibly wonderful cast. And it was wonderful after working for 25 years as a comic. I never thought in a million years that I’d be given a chance to be one of the leads in another great show.

One of the things that drew me into this is that the humor is so grounded. The humor comes from very real moments. It’s an act of kindness.

What appealed to you about playing Abishola?
Olowofoyeku: I just needed a job. I’m not going to turn down anything. And then I got into the room … with everyone. And I saw how dedicated they were to telling an authentic story. I’m lucky.

What does Abishola mean in the Yoruba language?
Olowofoyeku: Born to protect wealth.

Does Folake have a meaning in Yoruba?
Olowofoyeku: Yes. Folake is a sentence. It means, “Use wealth to pamper.” But not monetary wealth. It’s like an all-encompassing wealth.

So, you’ve told your family you’re going to star on a big American TV show.
Olowofoyeku: You have to understand Nigerian families. I would have to be the president of America for them to be impressed. I’m sure they’re still thinking, “Nothing’s going to come out of this.” There’ve been a couple of projects over the years that I’ve been excited to share with them, and they’re like, “So when are you coming home?”

So I just got into the habit of keeping things to myself. And then after the upfronts, I started getting phone calls from them. [Co-creator] Chuck [Lorre] is doing something very real and very special.

What does the future hold?
Gardell: What they’re looking to establish is two people who have what the other doesn’t. You never know where you’re going to find that. And do you have the courage to pursue that? She’s trying to make a better life for her son. He’s a guy who’s running a business and trying to stay alive. They kind of give each other what the other doesn’t have. It’s a very slow-moving process. They’re just building their bridge right now.


And here’s what else to watch this week:

Catherine the Great | Monday, 10 p.m., HBO

Series premiere. Catherine the Great (Helen Mirren) reigned from 1762-96, instituting extensive changes in Russian society and bringing Lieutenant Grigory Potemkin (Jason Clarke) on board to help her expand the empire. She also fell in love with the strapping conqueror, amusing herself with various boy toys when he was at sea for long periods. The first of four episodes airs Monday night.

Watchmen | Sunday, 9 p.m., HBO

Series premiere. In an alternate America where police conceal their identities behind masks to protect themselves from a terrorist organization, Detective Angela Abar (Regina King) investigates the attempted murder of a fellow officer under the guidance of her friend and boss, Judd Crawford (Don Johnson).

Evil | Thursday, 10 p.m., CBS

On Halloween, Kristen (Katja Herbers) and David (Mike Colter) are sent to assess an exorcism, but they are at odds while determining whether it is a demonic possession or a disease escalated by physical and mental distress.

"Evil" stars Skylar Gray (from left), Brooklyn Shuck,  Maddy Crocco, Katja Herbers and Dalya Knapp.
“Evil” stars Skylar Gray (from left), Brooklyn Shuck,  Maddy Crocco, Katja Herbers and Dalya Knapp.CBS

All Rise | Monday, 9 p.m., CBS

Lola (Simone Missick) officiates her first nuptials on “Wedding Day,” an annual event when couples flock to the courthouse to be married free of charge.

Castle Rock | Wednesday, Hulu

Season premiere. A feud between warring clans comes to a boil when budding psychopath Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan), Stephen King’s naughty nurse, gets waylaid in Castle Rock.

Mixed-ish | Tuesday, 9 p.m., ABC

Before Bow (Arica Himmel) can dance the night away, she’ll have to consider the social impact of her date choice. Johan (Ethan William Childress) finds an outfit for the dance and discovers his love of fashion.

Dolemite Is My Name | Friday, Netflix

If you missed the limited US movie- theater engagement of this Eddie Murphy vehicle, fear not. Netflix is now streaming the film about performer Rudy Ray Moore, who assumed the role of an iconic pimp named Dolemite during the 1970s.



By Robert Rorke

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