A Conversation With Veteran TV Actor Ted Danson

(By Matt Sayles -- Associated Press)
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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ted Danson was a fixture on broadcast television in the '80s as Sam Malone on "Cheers" -- the 11th and final season arrived on DVD last week -- and later as the agitated physician on "Becker" before it was cool to be a cranky doctor. Now, after a few years of forgettable films and TV shows, Danson, 61, is headed back into the spotlight with a new HBO pilot and a recurring stint on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." He's getting the most attention for his role as nefarious billionaire Arthur Frobisher -- arch-rival to Glenn Close's ruthless lawyer -- on the second season of FX's hit thriller "Damages."

-- Emily Yahr

Does the intensity of "Damages" carry over to the set? It's hard to imagine that kind of show having a blooper reel.

To me, it's a party whenever I go to work. The writing is so wonderfully dark, and everybody's lying to everyone else, that it's funny. It was a very relaxed time for me -- actually, way more relaxing than comedy. Comedy makes me uptight. Because in comedy, everything is not funny until that one thing that is.

You've said you went to an acting coach before you started "Damages." Did you need to learn how to be evil?

In drama -- and I'm exaggerating -- you can show up drunk, divorced and in a bad mood and the camera goes, "Oh, wow, that's interesting." All you have to do is be real and have fun in the moment . . . and here I am about to go play a billionaire narcissist. [Acting coach] Harold [Guskin] got me to stop being a nice actor. . . . There was an arrogance that he gave me to the acting process that was fun to play with.

And now you're doing a new dark comedy for HBO, "Bored to Death"?

It's with Jason Schwartzman, who's one of my favorite actors around. And the show has one of the best New York novelists who's heading the writing, Jonathan Ames. . . . I just love his quirky point of view on life.

How do you feel seeing TV couples (we're thinking "The Office's" Jim and Pam) these days being compared to Sam and Diane?

I think I had the realization once. . . . I kind of stopped one day, having watched an episode in reruns and went, "Oh my God. I'm the guy who got to play Sam Malone. How cool is that? How amazing is that?" . . . I am totally honored [by] any reference of "Cheers" or Sam and Diane.

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