ET also spoke with the actor about his new Apple TV+ show, 'Mr. Corman.'
Joseph Gordon-Levitt couldn't be more grateful for his "first TV family."
At the age of 14, the actor starred as Tommy Solomon on 3rd Rock From the Sun from 1996 to 2001. While speaking with ET's Lauren Zima, the now 40-year-old actor credits the sitcom for helping him pay for college.
"I am really lucky that I got to be on a popular television show when I was a kid so I was able to pay for my own college, but my college was expensive," the actor reflects. "If I didn’t happen to be on that show, I would have a lot of student loan debt…I think [I] have so much to be grateful for."
The show, which co-starred John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston and French Stewart, helped him land roles in 10 Things I Hate About You, Manic, The Brothers Bloom, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and many, many more.
Years later and with over 80 acting credits, Gordon-Levitt is able to create, write, produce, direct and star in his own projects -- and that is just what he has done with his latest endeavor, Mr. Corman. The Apple TV+ series follows Gordon-Levitt as Josh Corman, a fifth-grade teacher with former rock star aspirations "who struggles to find happiness and meaning in a world that sometimes feels short on both."
The project, which he calls "the most personal thing" he's ever done, came at the perfect time for Gordon-Levitt.
"What made me do it is, because it's so much fun," he simply states. "I'm a film nerd and I love acting. I love it to death. But I also am fascinated with so many different parts of the process. Ever since I was a kid on a set, I'd be like, 'What are they doing over there with the camera?' or the lights or the costumes and production design. 'How does editing work? What about score?'"
"All of those things are cool to tell a story, and when you're an actor, you don't get to play with all those things, you just focus on your job," he notes. "But it's a very gratifying delight to get to play with all those tools and really tell a story."
As for the inspiration behind the storyline, Gordon-Levitt says that while Mr. Corman is a lot like himself, "there are certain things that are different about him."
"[It's sort of] an alternate universe in a way. I feel so grateful for the life I live, I found the perfect woman for me and we have our kids and I have two wonderful parents, I get to do work that I care about, I am healthy, I'm safe, and I think a lot of that just comes down to plain luck," he expresses. "I've worked hard, sure, but I've had some really lucky breaks and I think all the time about what if that had gone differently? What if I hadn't been lucky in that way or that way? And that's kind of where Josh Corman came into being."
Even exploring the character, he got to spend a lot of time with teachers and calls it a "really illuminating experience."
"I admire the heck out of teachers. I wish that teachers were valorized and celebrated the way that entertainers are. I think we'd live in a healthier world if we had a greater appreciation for what teachers do," he adds, sharing that he wouldn't mind taking on a teaching role in the future. "I know I want to do it someday. I really do."
Mr. Corman premieres Aug. 6 on Apple TV+.