Much to cheer about

Ted Dan­son ex­pe­ri­ences ca­reer surge on cool shows.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TV - By FRA­ZIER MOORE cheers, curb youren­thu­si­asm, Dam­ages CSI: crimescene In­ves­ti­ga­tion.

THESE days, Ted Dan­son has gone ve­gan. He laughs at him­self as he says it, like: Here’s the Los An­ge­les guy latch­ing onto his next fad. But what the heck, Dan­son says it makes him feel bet­ter. And that hearty health-food shake he and his ac­tress wife, Mary Steen­bur­gen, quaff each morn­ing – well, they ac­tu­ally look for­ward to it.

Mean­while, even apart from his di­etary fo­cus, Dan­son is feel­ing great these days. And why not?

Two decades af­ter end­ing his spec­tac­u­lar Cheers run, he’s been savour­ing his lat­est ca­reer surge on cool shows such as Curb Your En­thu­si­asm (where he and Steen­bur­gen comed­i­cally acted out their real-life friend­ship with se­ries star Larry David), and on the gritty le­gal thriller Dam­ages (where Dan­son played a cut­throat cor­po­rate bil­lion­aire).

Now he is ap­pear­ing on two other se­ries – si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

He is back for a third sea­son of the HBO com­edy Bored To Death,” where he plays ur­bane pot-head Ge­orge Christo­pher.

He also stars in CBS’ long-run­ning CSI: Crime Scene In­ves­ti­ga­tion, which he joined this sea­son in the role of new CSI Su­per­vi­sor D.B. Rus­sell, a sci­en­tist and fam­ily man who loves the sto­ries a crime scene tells.

“It’s so dif­fer­ent from every­thing I’ve ever done,” Dan­son says of his new ven­ture. “We have a mag­got wran­gler!

“Ev­ery day I go in, and there’s some­thing new I’ve never done be­fore. To de­liver all that ex­po­si­tion and still be a real char­ac­ter takes a huge amount of tech­nique and work, and I’m still grap­pling with that. But it’s ac­tu­ally the most re­lax­ing job I think I’ve ever had.”

The job came up sud­denly at mid-year, and within a week he was in Las Ve­gas (where the show is set) get­ting a CSI crash course. The next week, he was back in Los An­ge­les in front of the cam­eras.

“I was feel­ing wind­burn, things were mov­ing so fast,” he says with a laugh. “And at first, I pan­icked: If this (gig) is suc­cess­ful, I was look­ing at 18 months of solid work, be­cause I’ll go straight from this to Bored To Death, then straight back to the next sea­son of CSI. I thought, ‘ Omigod, how will I do that!’

“But you take it day by day, and it’s quite doable.”

Dan­son signed on for CSI shortly af­ter wrap­ping this sea­son of Bored To Death, which is set and filmed in New York.

It stars Ja­son Schwartz­man as Jonathan Ames, a writer who, fired up by his love of de­tec­tive nov­els, places an ad on craigslist ad­ver­tis­ing him­self as a pri­vate eye.

Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis plays a comic book artist with his own su­per­hero delu­sions of grandeur. Round­ing out this trio (a lit­tle bit Three Mus­ke­teers, a lit­tle bit Three Stooges) is Ge­orge, who, as a prom­i­nent mag­a­zine editor, had been Jonathan’s boss.

This sea­son Ge­orge, ever the bon vi­vant, has opened up an ar­ti­sanal restau­rant (the chichi mar­ket­ing term for a din­ing spot that serves “hand-crafted” food items). It’s called, provoca­tively, Ge­orge on Jane, although Green­wich Vil­lage’s Jane Street is where it’s sit­u­ated.

“It’s kind of my new can­vas,” says Ge­orge proudly. “Like the mag­a­zine – but with steak frites.”

Pow­ered by a steady in­take of mar­ti­nis and mar­i­juana, the 60-ish Ge­orge is al­ways game for any ca­per, es­pe­cially when teamed with his younger chums.

On a stake­out at Grand Cen­tral Ter­mi­nal, he and Jonathan go look­ing for a wo­man.

“My mark is sup­posed to be tall and wear­ing a dis­tinc­tive yel­low hat,” says Jonathan, to which Ge­orge, seek­ing clar­ity through his cock­tail haze, asks, “Is the hat dis­tinc­tive be­cause it’s yel­low? Or is it yel­low, and dis­tinc­tive?”

“The key to Ge­orge’s char­ac­ter is, ‘Don’t leave me out! I want to play! I still want to be rel­e­vant!’” says Dan­son with a laugh. “I’m 63 and I want to be rel­e­vant, too, so it’s re­ally easy for me to play him. And I’m hav­ing the time of my life.”

All the more fun for sev­eral episodes in the sea­son ahead: Dan­son will be shar­ing scenes with Steen­bur­gen.

“My wife plays my voice-coach-slashlover-slash-fel­low-pot­head,” he ex­plains. “I never ac­tu­ally learn to sing. All we do is sleep to­gether and smoke dope.”

As he speaks, Dan­son is as crisply at­tired and stylish as when he’s cos­tumed as Ge­orge. He is wear­ing an im­pec­ca­ble blue pin­stripe suit, with a white dress shirt that sets off his snowy white hair. He props his square jaw on a fist and leans in to­wards his ques­tioner as talk turns to what drew him to a life as an ac­tor.

“I fell in love with act­ing when I was 20 or 21 at Stan­ford Univer­sity,” he says. “I au­di­tioned for a play, got the small­est part, and a light went off. And I still feel that way. I love go­ing to work. I love be­ing with crews. I love be­ing with ac­tors. I re­ally en­joy it.”

De­spite his se­ri­ous­ness in tack­ling a role (he took a bar­tend­ing course be­fore film­ing the Cheers pi­lot), and his ef­fort in find­ing post-Cheers roles to move him be­yond Sam Malone, “I do the same char­ac­ter over and over again,” he de­clares.

D.B. Rus­sell on CSI? “Sam Malone sees dead peo­ple.”

Ge­orge Christo­pher on Bored? “Sam Malone with a mag­a­zine, smok­ing dope.”

He laughs at the sug­ges­tion he is sell­ing him­self short.

“Ba­si­cally, you bring your life ex­pe­ri­ences to any role; you bring you,” he pro­poses. “Be­cause if you don’t show up with your­self, then peo­ple go, ‘ Oh, that’s a nice im­per­son­ation.’

“And then you do dif­fer­ent things in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. That, to me, is what act­ing re­ally is: You do dif­fer­ent things, but you’re still bring­ing your­self to the party, or else you wouldn’t be worth watch­ing.”

And for Dan­son, in love with his work, a party is al­ways un­der way. – AP

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