- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Coby Bell hit Hollywood in a flash after earning a truly useful bachelor's degree in theater arts from Northern California's San Jose State University in 1997. Three months later, he began intensive training as a security guard. He was running low on cash and needed a job with flexible hours so he could make rounds of auditions at film and television studios during the day.
"So there I was in this boring training class with a drill-sergeant-type guy telling us how to become badly paid security guards," the strapping 25-year-old actor says.
"Then, in the middle of the first class, I got a page from my manager, so I had to leave the room and find a phone," Mr. Bell continues. "She told me that I had been booked on an episode of 'E.R.' I thought, 'Cool, cool, cool' but had to go back in class to take a rotten test. It was surreal."
Mr. Bell was miserable when he dragged himself to another security-guard training class the following day, but he cheered up considerably a half-hour later when he answered the second page in as many days from his manager. He had been hired for a guest shot on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." He didn't bother going back to class, and his security-guard career was over before it got started.
Somehow he kept rolling up credits, including two guest-starring roles on the sitcom "Smart Guy" and the first 13 episodes of the cable drama series "L.A. Doctors," a k a "L.A. Docs" (1998).
The definitive break came a year later, when the executive producers of "E.R." remembered his performance as Brett Nicholson in an episode titled "Good Touch, Bad Touch" and cast him in their new action drama "Third Watch" (Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC).
The native Southern Californian suddenly found himself in New York City playing Ty Davis Jr., a by-the-book second-generation cop partnered with the seasoned "Sully" Sullivan (Skipp Sudduth).
"The move was a little radical," he says, laughing, "because I wasn't used to an actual change in climate and come from a culture where everything revolves around a car.
"If you need a quart of milk in L.A., you jump in your car and drive a block to the convenience store. You don't see anyone; you don't bump into anyone. In New York, you walk and walk and walk in streets teeming with people on a compacted little island. There is constant interaction."
About 95 percent of the time, Mr. Bell finds himself shooting on Manhattan locations while trying to stay warm.
"We're in the streets, which basically means that we're in people's way interrupting their daily routines. They're trying to get wherever they are going to, and we block their way with trucks and lighting equipment. If they're fans of the show, their usual greeting is, 'Hey, Davis, how are you?' If not, we see some interesting hand gestures."
A fast study with a whole day of security-guard training behind him, Mr. Bell already has learned to take charge in tricky situations including on a recent day when, wearing a reasonable facsimile of the uniform worn by New York's finest, he was shooting a scene in a restaurant while looking out the window. Suddenly a delivery truck drove into the shot, and the driver started unloading the merchandise.
Seconds later, a flustered production assistant politely asked the driver to vacate the premises as soon as possible because he was holding up an expensive TV show. The driver didn't care and conveyed his feelings to the camera crew. Doing a fair imitation of the high and mighty Officer Davis, Mr. Bell strode up to the recalcitrant truck driver and told the driver to move the rig posthaste.
"I said, 'Buddy, you can't park here.' He looked at me like, 'Oh, crap,' and was gone in 30 seconds. Hope I don't get in trouble for impersonating an officer."
Born in sunny Orange County's Anaheim, Mr. Bell and his two brothers were reared in Richard Nixon country San Clemente in the wake of their parents' divorce.
Mr. Bell stumbled into acting as Baby Bear in a kindergarten production of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and liked the attention. A lot. That later led to a number of campus plays at San Clemente High School between surfing excursions and basketball practice. During his senior year at San Jose State, he made his professional debut in a play called "Williams and Walker" at the St. Louis Black Repertory Company.
Tough and resourceful, Mr. Bell worked his way through college as a parking-lot janitor for the university's administration building. It kept his student debts to a minimum and allowed him the small nest egg that carried him through the first three months in Los Angeles. Early guest appearances on "Players" and "The Parent 'Hood" plus a co-starring role in the telefilm "A.T.F." also kept him from having to polish his rent-a-cop badge.
In love, Mr. Bell makes his home in Manhattan with his very serious girlfriend of two years, Aviss Pinkney, who works closely with autistic children.
"I do plan on marrying Aviss," he says with certainty, "because she is the kindest, sweetest person I have ever known. And we want children in the next year or two."

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