- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Finding her ‘Way’

British actress Julia Ormond once seemed like the next Julia Roberts, a beauty whose acting talents would propel to the top of every noted director’s A-list.

Then films such as “Sabrina” and “Smilia’s Sense of Snow” failed to justify the hype. Now she’s latching onto a CBS dramatic pilot, hoping to find success on the small screen.

The actress soon will begin shooting “The Way,” a new drama about a powerful New England family — two brothers and a sister (Miss Ormond) — who use witchcraft to further their business enterprises, Reuters news agency reports.

She isn’t abandoning her film career, however. Miss Ormond’s next appearance will be in David Lynch’s feature “Inland Empire,” set to premiere at Cannes in May.

French connection

WETA-TV’s new “Cezanne in Provence,” debuting at 8 tonight, examines the link between the French painter (1839-1906) and his hometown while also exploring the artist’s work and its ties to his personal life.

Actress Jacqueline Bisset narrates the hourlong special, filmed on location in Provence as well as the District. The program coincides with a National Gallery of Art exhibition of 117 of the postimpressionist’s works — including watercolors and oil paintings of his hometown — on display through May 7.

New legal eagle

Actor Eric Balfour is a familiar face for fans of Fox TV’s “24” and the feature films “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “What Women Want.”

Yet when Mr. Balfour — one of the stars of NBC’s new legal drama “Conviction” — describes his career path, he sounds more like a rookie stepping up to the plate for thr very first time.

“I kinda feel like I’m starting out, really,” the actor told Associated Press. “I’ve been at this for a while, kind of. But I’ve accomplished so little, thus far.”

As an actor, Mr. Balfour displays impressive chops along with a distinctive look that enables him to adapt to a wide range of characters and even ethnicities. The Los Angeles native is a self-described “mutt,” a mix of French, Russian and American Indian, but he can pass beyond those borders, he says with a laugh.

“Wherever I travel — Greece, Puerto Rico, Spain, Italy — they think I’m one of their own,” the 28-year-old actor says.

On “Conviction,” debuting tomorrow night at 10, Mr. Balfour plays Brian Peluso, one member of a team of young Manhattan assistant district attorneys. Peluso is a brash, push-the-limits sort of guy who reports to work hung over and disheveled — having left not only his latest conquest in her bed, but his D.A. badge as well.

Still, he fights for his clients with a passion fueled by righteousness and six-packs of Red Bull.

“Conviction’s” large ensemble cast also includes Milena Govich, Anson Mount, J. August Richards, Jordan Bridges, Julianne Nicholson and Stephanie March (who is reprising her role as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot, late of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”).

Before “Conviction,” Mr. Balfour enjoyed small roles in both “24” and HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” but his other projects didn’t last long enough to make an impression.

In 2003, he starred in ABC’s action-mystery series “Veritas: The Quest,” which was canceled after just four airings. Another drama, the WB’s “Fearless,” never got on the air.

The following year, Mr. Balfour joined the ensemble cast of NBC’s sassy cop drama “Hawaii.” It lasted a wee bit longer than his steamy UPN soap “Sex, Love & Secrets,” which came and went last fall.

“People keep asking me, ‘Why do you do shows that fail?’ But they just don’t understand,” Mr. Balfour explains with a rueful grin. “I like doing shows that fail.”

Like it or not, he’s following a tradition made famous by George Clooney, who weathered years of busted pilots and failed series before “ER” came along. As with Mr. Clooney, it’s easy to conclude that Mr. Balfour’s shows have let him down, not the other way around.

Even so, the TV series shuffle can take its toll.

“You fall in love with the people you’re working with, you fall in love with your character,” Mr. Balfour says. “It’s heartbreaking when the show doesn’t turn out to be what I imagined when I signed on.”

However, once production on “Conviction” began, he told himself, ‘Yup, this is what I thought it would be,’ he recalls. “And that felt really good.”

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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