Ottawa Citizen

Noth returns to roots … twice

Revisiting Law and Order not as easy as reprising Sex and the City role

- BY JAMIE PORTMAN

NEW YORK

• Sometimes it’s smooth sailing when an actor returns to a character he originated on screen. But sometimes it’s quite the reverse. Just ask Chris Noth. In his reprise performanc­e as Mr. Big, the guy who keeps Carrie Bradshaw’s heart fluttering in the film version of Sex and the City, Noth is a vital part of the chemistry which has made the film one of 2008’s big hits — and he admits he had a ball doing it.

But when it comes to Law and Order: Criminal Intent — in which he revisits the character of Det. Mike Logan, a role he originated on the original Law and Order series in 1990 — he is far less high on the experience.

Sometimes, it seems, you can’t go home again. He clearly has a love-hate relationsh­ip with the Law and Order franchise which brought him stardom 18 years ago but also led to creative friction with series creator Dick Wolf, who fired him five seasons later.

Noth remembers how comfortabl­e he was doing those first seasons of the original series because he felt it was saying something important about investigat­ive techniques and the judicial process. But when he was asked more than a decade later to return to the fold and alternate with Vincent D’Onofrio in the role of lead cop in Law and Order: Criminal Intent, things were less easy.

He was working with an unfamiliar producer-writer team on a spinoff series based less on reality than on D’Onofrio’s concept of a cop who behaved like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.

“So I found myself uncomforta­ble doing it,” Noth says bluntly. “I thought the stories were totally implausibl­e. That, however, has been totally fixed by the new crew that’s in … and I think we’re doing some of the most powerful stories since my first year on Law and Order.”

Completion of the current Criminal Intent season was delayed because of the current Hollywood writers strike, and Noth was hinting last month about giving up his “obligation” to the series when current shooting ends in late July.

Even though he’s happier with more recent scripts, he continues to find Criminal Intent a far more difficult challenge than the parent series. “It’s not based on character. It’s based on pushing a story and plot, and you try to infuse a little character along the way. I’m lucky because people know my character from how I first did Logan.”

It’s also obvious that he and creator Wolf still have philosophi­cal difference­s.

Noth says Law and Order has survived a huge number of cast changes in its various manifestat­ions — and that’s because Wolf came to the conclusion that the actors don’t matter as much as the story.

“That’s why there have been so many turnaround­s. I alone have had four or five partners. Jerry Orbach, the heart of Law and Order, had a bunch of partners. So you feel less relevant sometimes and that makes the work harder. In other words, if character doesn’t count, and the story is the only thing going, and you’re pushing the story up the hill, it’s great when it all comes together but not creatively as fascinatin­g.”

On the other hand, his return to the world of Sex and the City offered no such disappoint­ments. “It was like slipping into silk pyjamas,” Noth grins. “A nice sexy feel.”

He says he never questioned where writerdire­ctor Michael Patrick King would be going with the film version “because I knew it would be a fun place.”

Noth, 53, often works on gut instinct. “You read the script and say: ‘Wow! I can’t wait. I can’t wait to play that scene.’”

So he didn’t mind the fact that it took four years after the shutdown of the TV series for a movie to materializ­e, because he knew fans were willing to be patient.

“I think it showed the resilience of the show and that we need some adult entertainm­ent these days. It’s got the veneer of what everybody goes to these days, but underneath that, there’s some real substance.

“I’ve been waiting for years for teenage entertainm­ent to take a back seat. This is an adult romantic film.”

 ??  ?? Chris Noth has reprised his Law & Order role despite his discomfort over his creative difference­s with the show’s creator.
Chris Noth has reprised his Law & Order role despite his discomfort over his creative difference­s with the show’s creator.

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