- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Kudrow’s friend

It helps to have friends in high places.

“Friends” co-star Lisa Kudrow and Aisha Tyler, who recently had a recurring role on the hit sitcom, are staying close with a workplace comedy set up at CBS, Reuters News Agency reports.

Miss Tyler will star in the project, which is described as being in the vein of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Miss Kudrow will serve as an executive producer. “Grounded for Life” creators Bill Martin and Mike Schiff have come on board to write the pilot.

“Basically, it’s about a woman trying to maintain her sanity and self-respect in a modern corporate environment,” Mr. Martin told Reuters.

Miss Tyler hosted E! Entertainment’s “Talk Soup.” Her feature credits include “The Santa Clause 2” and the upcoming “Meet Market.”

“We’ll try to fashion a show around Aisha, capitalizing on her smart, fun, sophisticated, accessible personality,” said Dan Bucatinsky, Miss Kudrow’s production partner.

Miss Kudrow, who is wrapping the 10th and final season of “Friends,” next appears on the big screen in “Happy Endings.”

New coupling

Actor Colin Ferguson knows how it feels to be on a quickly canceled sitcom — his show “Coupling” lasted just a few weeks on NBC.

He also found out how swiftly fortunes can change for an actor.

Mr. Ferguson is part of “Line of Fire,” a new ABC show that debuted this week, Reuters reports.

“I got the call, and 12 hours later, they wanted me on set,” Mr. Ferguson said, explaining how he joined “Line of Fire’s” cast after NBCaxed “Coupling” before the November sweeps.

“Line of Fire” follows the lives of several FBI agents in Richmond and the criminals they set out to capture.

Mr. Ferguson stars as an assistant U.S. attorney opposite Leslie Bibb.

The new gig is not all good news, however.

“Getting cast at the last minute always has pitfalls to it; you don’t have the research time or the time to choose the wardrobe and work out the little details,” he said. “It feels like you are flying without a net.

“But now that we’ve shot one episode and had a break, I’ve had more time to do all that, so I can go into the second episode with a lot more honesty.”

Speaking of honesty, the Montreal native admitted that he was a bit saddened that NBC canceled the sexy sitcom in so short a time.

“It really didn’t have a chance,” Mr. Ferguson said.

“I don’t want to sound like sour grapes or anything, but I just think it needed a little more time,” he said of the show, a spinoff of a hit British sitcom.

“Line of Fire” airs at 10 Tuesday nights on ABC.

Johnson’s ‘Honor’

The star of “Nash Bridges” and “Miami Vice” can be a softie, particularly when it comes to his son.

When Don Johnson saw his son Jesse in uniform as part of a new telepicture the two were shooting, the veteran actor got all choked up.

“It was very moving… My emotions were right at the surface when I was making this film,” Mr. Johnson told Associated Press about “Word of Honor.”

In the film, debuting at 8 p.m. Saturday on TNT, Jesse Johnson portrays Benjamin Tyson, an Army lieutenant in the Vietnam War. Some 30 years later, Mr. Tyson’s seemingly tranquil life as a successful business executive and family man is shattered when he’s blamed for a massacre at a village hospital during the war. Don Johnson plays the mature Tyson.

The Turner Network Television movie, which also stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, will be repeated throughout the month.

Seeing his son in uniform made Mr. Johnson reflect on his own state of mind at the time of the Vietnam War. He shared his recollections with his son.

“We talked about what it was like to lose my friends,” he told AP, “what it was like to see the news coverage, and how frightened and terrified I was approaching my 19th birthday because when you were 19, boom. You just went.”

Mr. Johnson got lucky. The draft adopted a random-selection system in 1969, and a high lottery number kept him out of the conflict. He was able to continue “hustling around, trying to get jobs as an actor.” He also joined Hollywood activists such as Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland in protesting the war.

Mr. Johnson notes that issues in the movie can be tied to the war in Iraq.

Executive producer and co-writer Leslie Greif says, “We didn’t want to get too political, but we did want to focus on the murkiness of war, the morality, the immorality… all the ambiguities that drive all the madness and passion.”

Mr. Johnson, 53, also has an 18-month-old son, Jasper, with his his wife, Kelley. He has a daughter, Dakota, with Melanie Griffith, to whom he was twice married. Jesse, who turns 21 Sunday, is Mr. Johnson’s son from his relationship with Patti D’Arbanville.

The actor’s romantic life has attracted its share of tabloid headlines, but despite the dubious exposure, Mr. Johnson, whose films include 1996’s “Tin Cup” with Kevin Costner, considers himself “very lucky with the reportage over the years.”

No such luck for Lt. Tyson. When the story of the massacre is revealed, he and his family become the target of a media frenzy — another aspect of the story Mr. Johnson found intriguing.

He describes Tyson as a “shut-down kind of guy,” typical of many Vietnam War veterans who “carry around things with them for the rest of their lives no one can relate to.”

So the role demanded a lot of between-the-lines nuance that is “hard to play but rewarding for an actor,” Mr. Johnson says.

“I would much rather play an emotion or a moment, or body language. In fact, I never think about delivering lines. They either fall out of my mouth or they don’t.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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