- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2000

A member of the "Third Culture" (primarily composed of the rootless children of diplomats, military personnel and international businessmen), Oliver Platt is one of the relatively select few not born and raised in his own culture.

Mr. Platt was born in Windsor, Ontario, where his father, Nicholas Platt, launched a distinguished diplomatic career in 1960 as a lowly junior consul stamping visa applications.

From ages 4 to 8, as his father rose through the ranks, young Oliver lived with his family in Hong Kong. By the time he was 12, the clan had moved for a two-year stint in Beijing. From the time Mr. Platt was 14 until he enrolled as a drama major at Boston's Tufts University, the wandering Platt family lived and worked in Tokyo.

"I was only dimly aware that we had a kind of vagabond lifestyle and wasn't able to appreciate it until we settled in Japan," recalls the somewhat dimpled, rumpled and crumpled 40-year-old actor. "It was very cool, though moving around is not necessarily the best for kids.

When Mr. Platt discovered he had a knack for acting ("It was a way of assimilating with new cultures"), there was no turning back. He made his professional debut between his freshman and sophomore years at Tufts, hauling in $100 for an entire summer of portraying Big Daddy in a Tufts Arena Theatre production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He elected to stay on in Boston following graduation in 1983, while his friends moved on to New York.

Mr. Platt made his feature film debut in "Married to the Mob" (1988) with Michelle Pfeiffer, Alec Baldwin and Dean Stockwell. Suddenly a working movie actor, he has piled up hefty credits in a couple dozen big-screen projects, including "Executive Decision," "A Time to Kill," "Postcards From the Edge," "Working Girls," "Flatliners," "Benny and June," "The Three Musketeers," "Dr. Doolittle," "Bulworth" and "Gun Shy."

TV offers have rolled in during the past decade, but Mr. Platt never took them seriously until he found location work was pulling him away from his wife, Camilla, and three small children ranging in age from 1 to 6 for months at a time. That's when the pilot script for "Deadline" a one-hour NBC drama set and shot in and around his home in New York came across his transom.

"The first script was better than a vast majority of the features I've been offered," he muses, "but I was surprised by how excited I got by the idea of staying home and working on something good."

He portrays Wallace Benton, a crusading New York newspaper columnist of the Jimmy Breslin variety dedicated to exposing skeletons in the closets of the Big Apple's rich, poor, famous and infamous.

For extra cash, the blue-blooded black sheep teaches a seminar on investigative journalism at a local university. "Deadline" (Mondays at 9 p.m. on WRC Channel 4) also features Bebe Neuwirth as his no-nonsense managing editor, Lili Taylor as a vitriolic gossip journalist, Hope Davis as an award-winning journalist who is his estranged wife, and Tom Conti as a powerful media mogul.

A stickler for research, Mr. Platt started hanging out in the newsrooms of New York's three major dailies before going into production on "Deadline."

"I find newsrooms incredibly addictive and intoxicating when I wasn't there, I wanted to be there," he says with a laugh. "A newsroom is like … human behavior [involving] very intelligent people who, most of the time, are smarter than the subjects they interview and making a lot less money."

Not that Mr. Platt had to look for journalistic guidance his older brother, Adam Platt, is the restaurant critic for New York magazine and younger brother Nick Platt, who is starting up an Internet business, once spent years as a reporter for Reuters News Agency and wrote a weekly column for the New York Observer.

"My godparents are journalists, and I grew up with reporters because they always hang out with diplomats. I come at it from a very personal angle."

The personable actor probably can feed an endless string of story angles to the writers of "Deadline" drawn from his own experiences over the years.

"I didn't fully appreciate what was going on when my brothers and I became the first American kids to live in China after it opened up to the West again in 1973," he recalls. " 'Red China,' as we called it then, was a very strange place when my father was asked to open up a liaison office. It's exciting to think about now."

If there is one certainty in Mr. Platt's life, it is that his family will remain in New York City until the children are off to college.

"It sounds hokey, but I love to hang around with my kids and my wife who was Kermit the Frog's publicist when I met her," he says. "It's easy to get sucked into all the show-business crap. My family is my grounding. They give all this stuff perspective."

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