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For Dylan Walsh, playing the evil stepfather is a nice break

Roger Moore
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Dylan Walsh isn't into the whole spiritual psychobabble deconstruction of the profession of acting. He's a lot more blunt about taking on an iconic villain role, the title character in the remake of the sleeper thriller hit of 1987 — "The Stepfather."

"This is a chance for me to take that stereotype that I play on TV and to flip it upside down," says Walsh, "the good brother" in the FX Channel's troubled-plastic-surgeons dramedy "Nip\Tuck." "For all our talk, as actors, about psychological truth, you've got to know when you're acting in a thriller. The acting has to hit those cliched genre thriller notes, especially if you're playing a heavy."

All those years of playing the brother with a conscience, as opposed to the shallower sibling (Julian McMahon), a heartless in-it-for-myself womanizer, may not have grated on Walsh in "Nip\Tuck." Sean, his character, is the "goody-goody" surgeon who loses at life, love, the works. Even he calls his TV character "a stereotype." Aaron Barnhart of the popular TV opinion blog TVbarn.com complains that Walsh has become "a barometer" for how "far out there" the show is with his "ridiculous reaction shots in scene after scene."

So maybe Walsh, 45, is ready to move on. Playing a stepfather with a twisted, violent past was just the thing.

"It was great fun playing this, because in a given scene, I could be TWO guys, both versions of this man — the sweet guy who tries to take care of his 'family,' and then I turn away and the camera catches some sort of darkness that comes over my face. That is a good time for an actor!"

He might have been reluctant to take on a role that, for years, seemed to hang over the 1987's film star (Terry O'Quinn, lately of "Lost") and hold him back. "But I'm already known for the TV show, so I might dodge that."

Like most Americans, he's not on his first marriage "and my two kids from a previous marriage have a stepmom." But he figured out what makes this stepfather tick.

"I try not to think 'villain.' That's important. Because what sets this guy apart, at least on the surface, is how he wants a family. In his mind and in his thinking, that's all he wants. The way it comes out is skewed, perverted, but as it starts, all he wants is a wife and children.

"On one level, it's a family movie until stuff starts happening. This is a guy who just wants a family, and wants the family to work. I went to the set thinking about the guy who was struggling to have a family, to make that family work. And I just trusted that the dark stuff would just come to me when the need arose."

He avoided seeing the original film, "because I am very impressionable. I'd just end up imitating Terry O'Quinn and that would be deadly! But now that ours is finished and coming to theaters, I'd love to see it and meet Terry."

Walsh thinks the timing of the remake couldn't be better. "The Stepfather" is, if anything, "something even more Americans can relate to, be afraid of now, than when Terry O'Quinn was playing this guy back in the '80s. My kids have stepparents. Their friends at school have stepparents. The movie is playing on a really common fear, right? You know it's just a natural thing to wonder 'How sinister is this new person in our family?'"

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