Tony Danza Shows High School Students Who's Boss Actor Tony Danza, known for his roles on the sitcoms Taxi and Who's the Boss?, is now playing to a much smaller venue. He's teaching English to 26 sophomores at a Philadelphia high school for a reality show to air next year on A&E.
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Tony Danza Shows High School Students Who's Boss

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Tony Danza Shows High School Students Who's Boss

Tony Danza Shows High School Students Who's Boss

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GUY RAZ, host:

Here's what Tony Danza's character, Tony Micelli, said about his first day of school on the 1980s sitcom �Who's The Boss?"

(Soundbite of television program, "Who's the Boss")

Mr. TONY DANZA (Actor): (As Tony Micelli) I remember my first day of school. I cried all morning; then I threw up all over the teacher.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Now, Tony Danza's headed back to the classroom, but this one isn't on a TV set. It's a real class 26 sophomores at Northeast High School in Philadelphia. Tony Danza is teaching English for a reality show to air next year on A&E. We caught up with him between classes at Northeast High, and he talked about how he's been handling the first month.

Mr. DANZA: There are moments of extreme joy, and there are moments of extreme desperation and self-doubt and just emotional - sometimes Armageddon, if I may. It's thrilling, and yet it's, you know, you look down and you're working your tail off trying to make them see some value in "Of Mice and Men," for instance, and you look down, and you see somebody making origami, you know? It kind of breaks your heart.

I guess the best way to tell you is that I only cried twice in the first five minutes�

(Soundbite of laughter)

�so that will probably give you an idea.

RAZ: Now, Tony Danza, we should mention, you have a degree in history�

Mr. DANZA: Right.

RAZ: �an undergraduate degree. You are not certified to teach.

Mr. DANZA: No, I am actually working towards my certification, and there's a test in November that I'm studying for.

RAZ: So what's your role, exactly, right now in the classroom?

Mr. DANZA: I'm the teacher. I mean, there is a teacher watching me, but I am teaching. You know, I'm meeting the parents tonight at back-to-school night. Basically, the kids and I are in this sort of ballet of teacher-student relation.

RAZ: Tony Danza, you're best known for playing Tony Banta in "Taxi" and Tony Micelli in "Who's the Boss?" Do the kids call you Tony?

Mr. DANZA: Well, the kids don't know - for the most part, they have never seen those shows.

RAZ: Oh, my gosh.

Mr. DANZA: You've got to remember that these kids were born after the show, after "Who's the Boss?" was off the air, let alone "Taxi." You know, I'm not exactly Miley Cyrus. So nobody knows who I am, you know?

RAZ: Mr. Danza, can the students really get an education, can they learn something with all these cameras in the room and all these distractions around them? I mean, the arguments that some critics are making is that this is a gimmick.

Mr. DANZA: Well, they could be right. Let's be honest, Guy, they could be right. What I found so far is that it's like the cameras aren't there. You know, if I'm aware of the cameras, I think the kids will be aware of the cameras. But I find myself totally unaware as I'm trying to do something, and it's a very hard thing that I'm doing. I mean, I sometimes lie awake at night thinking: What have I done? Because I'm going to have to - you know, there's benchmark tests. We have our first one the 29th of this month. So there's a predictor. So we're going to know. We're going to find out. And the only way to dispel those doubts and those criticisms is to be a good teacher and have it work out.

I was thinking about doing this in any case. I was going to answer the president's call for service and join Teach For America or whatever. And I was speaking to a buddy of mine who's a TV producer and he said, hey, you ever think about doing that as a TV show? And I didn't think we could. And then we went and spoke to A&E, and they were very excited about it. But I sort of really laid down the parameters that it couldn't be just a gimmick, that it had to be a real attempt, you know, because I was going to really attempt to be a good teacher.

RAZ: Tony Danza, what grade did you get in sophomore English when you were in high school?

Mr. DANZA: You know, I was, like, an �80s student. So I was somewhere in the 80s.

RAZ: That's not bad.

Mr. DANZA: I wasn't worse than that.

RAZ: That's respectable.

Mr. DANZA: And I had a great teacher that year, a guy named Mr. Messenger(ph), who instilled - and by the way, there is, to use figurative language, there is certain irony to Tony Danza teaching English, I would say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

But I figured, let me make the joke before anybody else does.

RAZ: That's Tony Danza, actor-turned-teacher at Northeast High School in Philadelphia. Tony Danza, get back to class.

Mr. DANZA: I will, Guy, thanks very much. Yes, we've got to move.

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