Fil­lion hits the re­set but­ton for ‘Rookie’

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Go! - By Yvonne Vil­lar­real

As a young boy grow­ing up in Canada, Nathan Fil­lion spent many a day play­ing cops and rob­bers with his older brother. Ac­tu­ally, they played High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers. If we’re be­ing su­per spe­cific, they pre­tended to be the leads of TV’s late-’70s clas­sic “CHiPs.”

Fil­lion, as the fair­erhaired brother, took on the role of Jon Baker, op­po­site his brother’s turn as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. “We’d be on our bikes with walkie-talkies that were ter­ri­ble and never worked,” Fil­lion re­calls

These days, Fil­lion, now 47, has grad­u­ated to play­ing a rookie po­lice of­fi­cer.

Two years af­ter wrap­ping his stint on ABC’s pop­u­lar who­dunit pro­ce­dural “Cas­tle,” Fil­lion re­turns to the net­work in the new cop drama “The Rookie.”

Based on a true story, the se­ries fol­lows John Nolan (Fil­lion), a 40-year-old, re­cently di­vorced small­town guy who, af­ter a lifechang­ing in­ci­dent, de­cides to pur­sue a ca­reer as a cop — be­com­ing the old­est rookie of­fi­cer in Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment his­tory. The se­ries pre­mieres Oct. 16.

In­side a spa­cious trailer on the Warner Bros. lot in Bur­bank, Calif., Fil­lion, who also serves as an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on the se­ries, has plopped down in a chair dur­ing an af­ter­noon break from film­ing the fifth episode of the sea­son. He’s as ge­nial and self-dep­re­cat­ing

“It used to be that you get a job, and that’s your job un­til you re­tire. Things move much faster now.”

— Nathan Fil­lion

as you’d ex­pect from a guy who’s earned the rep­u­ta­tion as the charm­ing guy-next-door. He also has that slightly tired-but-re­silient look of a per­son set­tling back into the grind of a net­work hour­long drama.

“I had my doubts as to whether or not I was ready to come back to work,” says Fil­lion, who had an eight-sea­son run as a cheeky crime solver in “Cas­tle.”

The idea of hit­ting the re­set but­ton later in life felt to Fil­lion like in­trigu­ing ground to cover.

“This is the new norm, start­ing over,” he says. “It used to be that you get a job, and that’s your job un­til you re­tire. Things move much faster now.”

Fil­lion knows some­thing about chang­ing course. He was raised by two English teach­ers, and like his brother, was on the path to be­come an ed­u­ca­tor. “I didn’t have a pas­sion for teach­ing, by any means,” he says. “I told my par­ents my plan: ‘I’m go­ing to get my de­gree, and then I’m go­ing to go try act­ing. ... I doubt I’ll suc­ceed. I’m sure it’ll be tough ... but I can al­ways fall back on teach­ing.’ ”

“The Rookie” fur­ther deep­ens Fil­lion’s ties to ABC. He scored his break on the net­work’s com­edy se­ries “Two Guys and a Girl” be­fore tran­si­tion­ing to “Fire­fly” and “Cas­tle.”

“What I think the au­di­ences re­spond to with Nathan is he feels very ac­ces­si­ble,” said ABC En­ter­tain­ment Pres­i­dent Chan­ning Dungey. “Yet, at the same time, he’s heroic. He’s like the guy-nextdoor gone one de­gree bet­ter. I think that’s what makes him re­lat­able but also grounded. I think that’s a big part of his ap­peal with au­di­ences.”

WILLY SAN­JUAN/IN­VI­SION

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