Law unto himself
THE entertainment industry is littered with names of actors who struggled to escape the shadow of a high-profile brother or sister.
Anyone remember Frank Stallone, brother of Sly, or Don Swayze, brother of the late Patrick? They’re just a couple who couldn’t reach the stellar heights of a sibling.
When self-destructive comedian John Belushi died at age 33 from a drug binge at LA’s Chateau Marmont Hotel in 1982, it appeared his ghost would forever haunt the career of younger brother and aspiring actor Jim.
However, Jim has a string of films to his name and is hoping fortune will keep shining on him in TV land.
The 56-year-old actor and comedian hit pay dirt with hit US sitcom According to Jim. He played suburban dad Jim Orenthal for eight years and 182 episodes.
Now Belushi is starring alongside Jerry O’Connell, ( Crossing Jordan), in The Defenders. The TDT comedy-drama is set in Las Vegas and loosely based on real-life lawyers Michael Cristalli and Marc Saggese.
‘‘ The appeal of The Defenders was that it wasn’t a sitcom,’’ Belushi says. ‘‘ I did eight years of that, so I wanted to do a drama.
‘‘ I saw a documentary on Michael and Marc and I loved their partnership.
‘‘ They were brilliant in the courtroom and really stupid [ in their personal lives].
‘‘ I thought, ‘ How could anyone that bright be so stupid with women?’
‘‘ Then I looked at myself and realised it was a natural for me.’’
Belushi was born June 15, 1954, the third of four children, and grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. The son of an Albanian immigrant father, his performing abilities first became apparent in high school when a teacher, impressed by his improvisational skills, convinced him to try out for a school play.
He joined the school’s drama club, he once joked, ‘‘ because of girls’’.
‘‘ In the drama club, there were about 20 girls and six guys,’’ he said.
Belushi has been married three times. He has two children with current wife Jennifer Sloan and a child with his first wife Sandra Davenport.
The rapport between Belushi and O’Connell, both pictured, is the heart of the show. Their characters Nick Morelli and Pete Kaczmarek have plenty of fun using all means necessary to free their clients.
Belushi describes Las Vegas – location for everything from CSI to The Hangover – as ‘‘ the third character’’ in the show.
‘‘ People come here and let loose but they don’t realise that Las Vegas is in Nevada, which is the most conservative state in the US,’’ Belushi says.
‘‘ Juries love to put people away, so these guys work hard to keep the prosecutors from overtrumping the charges.’’