At 59, Robert Prosky is an actor with a full plate.
Narrator of "Lifestories" on Sundays and co-star of tonight's NBC movie, "The Love She Sought," he is also filming "Life in the Food Chain" with Rita Moreno and Paul Sorvino in New York and rehearsing for Arena Stage's new production of Thornton Wilder's classic "Our Town," premiering next month.
But until he took the role of a Catholic bishop in "Love," he had never been to Ireland. Filming occurred during last summer's World Cup, the first time Ireland's soccer team had made the final round. "They were winning, too," he recalled. "The place just went bananas. And the little old ladies in Ireland, to them Angela Lansbury was a saint."
Lansbury doesn't play a saint, but she does play a Catholic schoolteacher who has been corresponding with James O'Hannon (Denholm Elliott) for some five years. Unmarried, she has grown to love the man she's never met. When the school gives her a trip to Ireland as a retirement gift, the bishop goes along, leading the tour and out to recruit priests, Prosky said.
The bittersweet story is based on Jon Hassler's "A Green Journey," a novel Prosky said read he before filming began.
"It's a good piece of work, not pap at all," he said. "We have an interesting relationship between Angela's character and myself. We're sort of worthy adversaries. In the book, he has a line, 'She would have made a worthy bishop.'"
Prosky, grandson of a Polish immigrant who left Catholicism to form the Polish National Church, has played clerics before. This one, Prosky said, is "a very vital man. He drives around in a little red sports car in Ireland, and he doesn't wear his bishop's clothes, because one of the themes is that in Ireland, a priest is placed on a pedestal. And I get to play the trombone. That was fun. I play 'When the Saints Go Marching In.'"