A funny thing happened over the course of three decades: "Full House" became cool. And a cast of actors who'd become an extended clan off-screen got to have a family reunion.
"When the show was on originally, it wasn't hip, it wasn't cool," says John Stamos, who starred in the family sitcom that aired on ABC from 1987 to 1995 and now executive produces and strategically guest-stars in the contemporary follow-up series "Fuller House," which is in the midst of shooting its third season for the streaming service Netflix.
"We never got covers of magazines, never got awards, never got nominated for awards -- nothing," says Stamos. "All the hip shows, all the edgy, cool, shows -- where are they now? And we're back 30 years later."
In a certain sense, the series never went away. Modestly but consistently rated during its eight season run -- which centered around a "Three Men and a Baby"-esque setup featuring widowed Danny Tanner (Bob Saget) recruiting his brother-in-law Jesse Katsopolis (Stamos) and buddy Joey Gladstone (Dave Coulier) to help him raise his three young daughters -- the sitcom's family-friendly, heartwarming tone became a cornerstone of a generation's childhood, and as it matured that generation found itself turning again and again to the show's simple, familiar and nostalgic comforts as it re-aired in syndication with increasingly impressive ratings over the years.
"It's because of those values and the heart of it, I guess," says Stamos of the show's enduring popularity, as original viewers eventually introduced "Full House" to their own offspring. "People still crave it, no matter what the packaging is. Whether it's more sophisticated, or better written, or whatever, or not. It's like comfort food. Certainly for people that watched it back then, or put their kids on to it. I think at the heart of it, it's the heart. It's the chemistry of us."
Despite its warm-and-fuzzy appeal, Stamos admits that getting the reunion series "Fuller House," which became one of Netflix's most hotly anticipated original shows amid edgier fare like "Orange Is the New Black," "House of Cards" and its Marvel superhero series, was no easy feat.
"It's been a trip," chuckles Stamos. "I was involved with this reboot for six, seven years -- we took it around town forever ... Before Netflix, we went to 10 other places, maybe 15. Everywhere. Every single place turned it down, except for Netflix. Netflix was our last stop, and I said, 'If ABC Family or Nickelodeon aren't going to pick it up, Netflix sure the hell ain't going to pick this show up.' There was a guy there, Brian Wright, who got it. He just got it, and he knew. And here we are today."
As the series prepares to launch its third season on Sept. 22nd, members of the reunited cast agree that as thrilled as they are with the success of the revival -- which centers around now-grown-up sisters D.J. (Candace Cameron Bure) and Stephanie Tanner (Jodie Sweetin) teaming with childhood bestie Kimmy Gibler (Andrea Barber) on single-parenting duties -- the real reward has been re-connecting with the people who were a crucial component of their own formative years and with whom they'd remained close -- indeed, closer than most casts after the end of series -- over the intervening decades.
"It's probably the best gift I've been given in my life, really," says Cameron Bure. "It's been unbelievable to be back with all of them working. I get to work with my best friends every day. We have so much fun. Aside from the fun, I think we all strive to do good work, and just bring laughter and humor into people's living rooms, or on their phones, wherever they're watching the show on Netflix."
"We all are so appreciative of being there, and it's a very different perspective than being a kid, which we all enjoyed at the time," adds Cameron Bure. "But we are there because we choose to be there. Our goal is to enjoy our work and bring laughter to people. That's a pretty amazing job that we have. So we're grateful that we get to do what we love."
"Other than my parents, this family is the only one that I've known my entire life," agrees Sweetin. "I was five years old when I started doing the show. They have been the people that I have laughed with and cried with, that we've been through life and death and loss and celebration and so many amazing, wonderful, painful moments together. Getting to work on 'Fuller House' now, I have these moments all the time where I'm just looking around and I'm so incredibly grateful that I get to be surrounded by people that I love, that I've known for 30 years. It's pretty incredible."
"I'm 35," Sweetin adds. "I really don't have any memories -- maybe two memories -- of my life before them in it. Almost all of my big, important ones have my parents and my 'Full House' family in them, and that's really it. So that just shows you what a huge impact they've had on my life. I always say that Bob is one of the people that has taught me how to laugh through anything, and really shaped my sense of humor and sort of my worldview, which is very dark, funny, and sarcastic, all those things. And I really do think in a large part they really shaped a lot of things about me."
"I always equate it to when you move out of your house when you're a kid, and somebody buys your house, and everybody says, 'Well, you can never go back home again," says Coulier. "We got to go back home again."
"What's really crazy, and somewhat surreal, is that we're back at Warner Bros., on the same lot where we shot the original show," notes Coulier, who in addition to recurring on the series also frequently directs episodes throughout each seasons. "But not only that, we're on the same stage where we shot the original 'Full House.' After us it was 'Friends,' and then it was a show called 'Joey,' and then it was 'Mike & Molly,' and then now we're back.
"It's very strange to stand on that stage and think, 'Wow, a lot of crazy stuff happened here so many years ago, and we're back,'" he chuckles.
For some, when they rejoined on the soundstage, it seemed like the two decades between the two series didn't really exist. "Yeah. It just felt like it never stopped, for some reason," says Stamos. "To me, it was just natural. We just kind of fell right into it. I think the challenge – and I think what's paid off -- is bringing the new kids in, and trying to figure out what we did back then that we couldn't connect to now."
The new formula has clicked with modern audiences as successfully as the original, prompting an increasingly adventurous third season. "It's all about summer fun," says Cameron Bure. "The Tanner/Fullers are taking a very big trip this season, so we're doing an episode on the road -- and it's all the way over the ocean. I can't tease yet where that's at, but it's going to be a very big trip. It's not Disney World. It's farther."
"It's going to be a really good season," promises Saget. "The girls are doing an amazing job. It's my family. It's my TV family that's more than a family."