Entertainment - AP TV
Disgraced Cop Rebuilds Life in 'Hack'
Wed Jan 15, 1:07 PM ET
By FRAZIER MOORE, AP Television Writer
NEW YORK - Few characters grab viewers like someone unjustly accused. Consider Dr. Richard Kimble of The Fugitive, pursued by authorities for murdering his wife while he chased the man who really did it.
But Mike Olshansky doesn't have the luxury of a bum rap. He really did what he was nailed for.
The tarnished hero of this season's new CBS drama Hack, Olshansky was a decorated Philadelphia cop who collected "hazard pay" on the sly. Then he got caught pocketing $4,000 in drug money at a crime scene. He was booted off the force.
Now jobless and alone (his marriage collapsed with his career), he's forced to drive a cab to make ends meet. But for an ex-cop, old habits die hard. He can't say no to his desperate fares.
A minister persuades Mike to help find his runaway daughter. Another passenger leaves $10,000 in the back seat, supposedly meant for a mother to reunite with her child; Mike tracks down the man and returns the money. A homeless man expires in the back seat, whereupon Mike feels compelled to locate his family.
"But it's not The Equalizer, it's not Touched by a Cabbie," declares David Morse (news), who stars as Olshansky on Hack (Fridays at 9 p.m. EST). "He isn't thinking how to be a good guy, how to help people. It's more like he's an addict and can't modulate; he gets involved for stupid reasons sometimes, and doesn't always end up helping."
Moral: No cabbie, any more than the rest of us, knows a short-cut to redemption.
Hack is a drama that lurks in shades of gray, particularly thanks to Olshansky's former partner, played by Andre Braugher (news) (Homicide: Life on the Street). Marcellus Washington stole money, too, but wasn't caught. His job and reputation rest on Olshansky's continued silence.
Beyond this strained relationship, Olshansky's circle consists of his estranged wife (Donna Murphy ) and young son (Matthew Borish), both of whom he loves but keeps letting down, and his priest-drinking buddy, Father Tom "Grizz" Grzelak (George Dzundza).
Olshansky isn't exactly admirable, or even likable. But he's a rarity in television drama: a protagonist who made mistakes and is held accountable. For that, all by itself, he's a champion worth rooting for.
"In a genuine way, not a forced way, I think we can go in a lot of directions with this guy," says Morse. "That's not true with a lot of series."
Another distinction Hack can claim: It is the first prime-time series to be based in Philadelphia, not just set there, like "thirtysomething" and "Philly."
Indeed, Hack is shot almost entirely on location, often out on the streets, and since Olshansky accepts any shift to a large extent at night.
The grueling, all-weather production schedule is a far cry from Morse's first series, the NBC medical drama "St. Elsewhere" (1982-88), where he played Dr. Jack Morrison on a sprawling hospital set comfortably installed on a Hollywood soundstage.
So if Olshansky's boyish face looks weary and drawn, that's one part of the performance that comes naturally for Morse.
He gets few if any days off. To make this recent lunch with a reporter in Manhattan, Morse left Philadelphia after a shoot that dragged on until 4 a.m. He has to be back by late afternoon for another all-night session.
"They have good intentions," he says of the show's writers. "They're TRYING to find a way of telling a story where I don't have to be in every scene."
Now 49, Morse began his career on the stage and has appeared in numerous films including "Dancer in the Dark," "The Green Mile" and "Proof of Life."
"I was very happy doing movies," says Morse, a towering man of 6-foot-4 who speaks in hushed, confiding tones. But as a husband and father of a daughter and twin boys, he was ready to settle down in a series that would be shot in the city they call home.
This cozy urban setting also plays a vital role on Hack: Within its confines, Olshansky can't hide from his mistakes.
"Philadelphia is very different from New York," says Morse, glancing out the window of the Upper West Side restaurant. "Here, it's all so anonymous. And there are so many cabs. (In fact, 12,000 to Philadelphia's 1,600).
"Same thing with the police force: Here, it's like an army. (Some 37,800 strong, compared to 7,000 in Philadelphia.) It makes my character's predicament all the worse, because wherever he goes, he's recognized for what he did."
Meanwhile, Morse is finding recognition, too.
"For some scenes, we mount the cameras and lights right on the cab and I really get to drive through the city," he says. But it's getting more difficult. "I can't drive 15 feet without people yelling, 'Hack! Hack!' Kids are doing wheelies on bicycles outside the window, going, `Hey, man, we really like your show!'"
That's one problem even Olshansky hasn't dealt with.