Ted Danson relishes playing the bad guy for a change

[21 August 2007]

By Ellen Gray

Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

Ted Danson knows that Glenn Close scares people.

“C’mon, she’s evil!” Danson said jokingly of the actress, who stars in FX’s “Damages” (10 p.m. EDT Tuesdays, FX) as Patty Hewes, a lawyer out to destroy the billionaire played by Danson.

“We saw her. We saw her in ...‘Fatal Attraction.’ We know, we know,” said Danson following an FX press conference last month during the Television Critics Association’s summer meetings.

But if Close’s “baggage” is that people expect her to scare them, “isn’t it interesting,” Danson asked, that they cast someone opposite her who’s best known as a good guy? “I’m Ted, I’m from `Cheers.’ But I’m in the backseat with the hooker.”

What wouldn’t have been interesting to executive producer Daniel Zelman would be “for us to come into the front door with a quote, unquote, bad CEO who was clearly just a big, bad guilty guy,” Zelman told reporters. “We prefer to approach things a little more sideways.”

And sideways is what you get with Danson’s Arthur Frobisher, who’s ruthless and charming by turns, portrayed in “Damages” as a man trying to put an end to a nagging business problem that’s proving a far bigger threat to his home life than that hooker in the backseat.

“Definitely Enron was a big part” of the inspiration for the case involving Frobisher, whose employees are suing him over their lost pension funds, said Todd A. Kessler, who shares creator credit on the show with his brother Glenn and with Zelman.

It wasn’t clear whether Zelman and the Kesslers realized, before a reporter brought it up, that Danson and Close had worked together before—in the groundbreaking 1984 TV movie about incest, “Something About Amelia”—but the two have yet to share a single scene in “Damages.”

Todd Kessler cited 1979’s “The Onion Field” as a film Danson did “that has just been a huge influence on Glenn, Daniel and myself, and that was something that had always stuck in our minds.”

“And when we sought out to cast this role of Arthur Frobisher, Ted kind of came into focus,” he said, adding, “And the fact that it’s reuniting Glenn and Ted, which happens later into the season, is something that the whole season is building up to.”

Danson, for his part, was attracted to “Damages” simply because Close was in it.

“This was introduced to me as something she was going to do. So immediately, the ears perk up, because she’s chosen a lot of great material over her life,” he said.

“This is very relaxing to do,” he said of playing Frobisher. “This feels really easy, relaxing and calm to do ... If the writing’s good, you’re home free.”

He is, however, working away from home, “Damages” having been set in New York to accommodate Close, who’d done 13 episodes of FX’s “The Shield” in Los Angeles two years ago and didn’t want to be away from her family that long again.

“A lot of the traps in L.A., for me, is, `You are known to do this, and we’re going to hire you to do this, and you better show up with your game,’” Danson said.

“In New York, you’re a student forever,” he said. “You can be doing Broadway at night and doing soap opera during the day and a commercial on the weekends. There’s no prejudice or class system. We’re all actors, we’re all just going to dig in there and keep learning and keep working and keep growing. For me, that’s the sense of New York, and that’s really the fun part about it. ...

“I actually went to a great acting coach (Harold Guskin, author of “How to Stop Acting”) right before I did this, and he kind of re-excited me about the attitude of ... `I know there are six lines I have to say—I may not say them all. I’m only interested in the first one, “Kiss my (behind).”’ Which is a kind of very powerful place to come from, acting-wise.”

The kind of person who’s done what Frobisher’s done with his business, “there’s an arrogance of power, which is, `I can do anything I want, whenever I want. I don’t really care what you all think.’ Well, that kind of acting, that’s fun,” he said.

As for Guskin, Danson said, “I will absolutely go to him” again.

And now that he’s in a New York actor state of mind, does this mean he’ll be adding an episode of “Law & Order” to his resume?

“No,” said Danson, smiling. “I think I’m doing my `Law & Order’ right here.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/ted-danson-relishes-playing-the-bad-guy-for-a-change/