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Enrico Colantoni was surprised when he was contacted by the producers of the new CBS summer series “Flashpoint” to play the head of a group of handpicked cops. The group handles everything from hostage situations to defusing bombs. The efforts of the SRU (Special Response Unit) can be seen starting Friday on CBS.


It wasn’t that Colantoni never had played a cop. For three seasons he was the fatherly Sheriff Keith Mars on the UPN series “Veronica Mars.” But that was different.


“With this kind of show, it is usually the good-looking, chiseled guy who gets to play the cop,” says Colantoni during a telephone interview in June.


Colantoni’s photographer character on “Just Shoot Me!” had no problems with dating. But the Canadian actor says he knows he is shorter and has less hair than the typical star of heavy-action cop shows.


The role actually called for someone who could handle a character who is sensitive and intelligent but could still use the hardware to keep the streets safe.


He was happy to be chosen for the part and even more so once he started to work. He got to play with all kinds of cool guns and gadgets. For him, it was like being a 6-year-old playing cops and robbers.


“We were always doing quick draws on each other or singing the ‘S.W.A.T.’ theme,” Colantoni says.


He has long been a fan of cop shows. His favorites are less the procedural shows like “CSI” and more the police dramas that depend heavily on character development, such as “NYPD Blue” and “Hill Street Blues.” He did have a part on “NYPD Blue,” but not as a police officer.


“Flashpoint” will have plenty of cop-show flash, he says, but it will go beyond that.


“This is the kind of show that will look at what happens to a police officer who has to pull the trigger to kill someone or do something that affects them in the line of duty,” Colantoni says.


Canadian television viewers already know that - the 13 episodes of “Flashpoint” have aired there. CBS purchased the rights during the writers’ strike a few months ago to broadcast the action program here. It was one way the network knew it would have original programming if the strike went for a long time.


So now that the work is done, how does the “Flashpoint” role of Sgt. Gregory Parker differ from Keith Mars? Colantoni calls Parker more masculine, a guy who has to be the “alpha male” of the group. Keith Mars, says Colantoni, had to be father and mother to Veronica (Kristen Bell).


Before Colantoni moves on to the next interview, there is just enough time to ask him about one of his movies that had nothing to do with either cops or robbers. In “Galaxy Quest” he played an alien pushed into heroic actions when his people mistakenly call on the cast of a “Star Trek” type TV series to help them save their world. The adventure comedy-science fiction movie came out in 1999 and has a devoted following. Colantoni delights in the positive reaction he gets about the film from little kids to 90-year-old women.


“I never get tired of talking about ‘Galaxy Quest.’ I am so proud of that movie. Our only fear was that we were having so much fun making the movie we got concerned it might not be as good as we thought it was going to be,” Colantoni says.

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