No more Mr Bad Guy

Kurt­wood Smith adds a lit­tle life to Res­ur­rec­tion, dis­cov­ers Su­san King.

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KHurt­wood Smith turned the im­age of the sit­com dad on its ear in the rau­cous Fox sit­com That ’70s Show as Red For­man, the tough-nosed war vet fa­ther of Eric (To­pher Grace). Red was the an­tithe­sis of such sweater-clad warm-and-fuzzy tele­vi­sion dads as Ozzie Nel­son on The Ad­ven­tures of Ozzie and Har­riet and Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show. In fact, Red was more Tas­ma­nian devil than teddy bear. He loved his power tools, drink­ing beer, hunt­ing and fish­ing.

Red was known for his pun­gent put-downs of his son: ‘‘What are you go­ing to put on your re­sume? Dum­b­ass?’’ The char­ac­ter of Red hit close to home for Smith. The 71-year-old ac­tor based the char­ac­ter on his late step­fa­ther ‘‘in terms of his at­ti­tude, his voice, the walk and the edge that he had’’.

His step­dad never got a chance to see his small-screen al­ter ego. ‘‘He died a mat­ter of months be­fore it aired,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Plus, he would have prob­a­bly said: ‘What the hell? I’m not like that at all’.’’

The ver­sa­tile char­ac­ter ac­tor is back on tele­vi­sion play­ing a vastly dif­fer­ent, far more com­plex dad on the new drama se­ries Res­ur­rec­tion.

For Smith, act­ing suc­cess in Hol­ly­wood came later in life. He was a sea­soned theatre vet­eran of 44 when he was cast in RoboCop. He steals ev­ery scene he’s in play­ing the bone-chill­ing vil­lain Clarence Bod­dicker in Paul Ver­ho­even’s 1987 block­buster. Af­ter earn­ing an MFA in act­ing from Stan­ford Univer­sity in the late 1960s, he stayed in the Bay Area and acted pro­fes­sion­ally be­fore mov­ing to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Smith pounded the pave­ment for two years in search of an agent while get­ting day work in tele­vi­sion and film, parts like the pizza de­liv­ery guy on the sit­com Angie. Then came RoboCop and an­other high-pro­file part in Peter Weir’s 1989 Dead Poet’s So­ci­ety as the dis­ci­plinar­ian fa­ther of Robert Sean Leonard’s char­ac­ter.

Since then he’s worked al­most con­stantly, in­clud­ing films with such noted di­rec­tors as Woody Allen ( Shad­ows and Fog) and Alexan­der Payne ( Cit­i­zen Ruth) and on pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion se­ries such as 24 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In Res­ur­rec­tion, Smith plays Henry, a once-pow­er­ful man liv­ing in a bu­colic small town. He and his wife, Lu­cille (Frances Fisher), had their lives up­ended 32 years ear­lier when their 8-year-old son, Ja­cob (Lan­don Gimenez), ac­ci­den­tally drowned.

In the first episode, the young Ja­cob sud­denly re­turns home look­ing ex­actly the same as he did be­fore he died.

With­out reser­va­tion, Lu­cille ac­cepts Ja­cob as their son, while Henry looks on the boy with skep­ti­cism and keeps his dis­tance. Though Ja­cob’s death brought Henry and Lu­cille to­gether, his reap­pear­ance be­gins to tear them apart. enry strikes a per­sonal chord with Smith. The fa­ther of two grown chil­dren, he couldn’t stop think­ing about his grand­daugh­ter, who is the same age as Ja­cob, when he first read the script. ‘‘One of the things I find fas­ci­nat­ing about the char­ac­ter is that he has such a strong im­me­di­ate emo­tional re­sponse,’’ Smith says. ‘‘But at the same time, the re­al­ity of it to him makes no sense. He put the kid in the ground.’’

Henry, says Smith, ‘‘ex­ists on a more emo­tional level than so many of the char­ac­ters I have played. I have played a lot of hard-nosed char­ac­ters’’. De­spite be­ing one of the busiest char­ac­ter ac­tors in Hol­ly­wood, Smith had to au­di­tion for Res­ur­rec­tion. The net­work was ini­tially re­luc­tant to cast him, he noted – it wanted a big­ger name.

‘‘To be hon­est, you pretty much have to au­di­tion for pi­lots these days,’’ the wiry ac­tor says. ‘‘I felt a spe­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with it. I just did that one au­di­tion.’’

Aaron Zel­man, the cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of Res­ur­rec­tion, says the net­work was ‘‘go­ing af­ter one ac­tor in par­tic­u­lar and some­one they thought was a name that would pos­si­bly in and of it­self bring view­ers. But I have to say that Kurt­wood was cer­tainly al­ways at the top of the list from the be­gin­ning. The name be­ing bandied about I had doubts about’’. The rea­son? ‘‘My con­cern was that he didn’t have a sense of hu­mour,’’ says Zel­man, who wrote the pi­lot. ‘‘Kurt­wood, I knew ob­vi­ously did com­edy and could give the char­ac­ter a wry, ironic sense of hu­mour. I wanted him to have that ca­pa­bil­ity.’’ And be­sides, Zel­man says, he had been a fan of Smith since RoboCop. ‘‘He was so mem­o­rable,’’ Zel­man says. ‘‘I said [to him]: ‘You were the scari­est bad guy I had ever seen in a movie’.’’

Kurt­wood Smith: says he felt a spe­cial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with the role of Henry on Res­ur­rec­tion.

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