Sunday, March 2, 2003
In Step With | David Morse
By James Brady
Last September, when CBS began promoting its new dramatic weekly series about a rogue cop named Olshansky who was reduced to driving a Philadelphia taxi for a living, I smelled a loser.
David Morse, the talented and towering (6 feet 4) actor at the core of Hack, proved me--and some critics--dead wrong. Hack's Friday night ratings are good, and the series has been greenlighted for 22 episodes.
Was David surprised that the show has done so well? "Not at first," he said, "but then it sank in that we'll get a full season." And since the show is set in Philadelphia, where David lives and where he insisted it had to be shot, he felt responsible. "There are so many people here to whom it has meaning," said Morse. "The city's welcome has been genuine. It's the first series filmed here, and it's important. After the first couple of shows, a cop told me the chief told them, 'You've got to watch this thing!' And cabbies recognize me, and most of them are really supportive--except for one guy, and he turned out to be an actor who was driving to pay the bills.
Morse actually drove a cab for a couple of months while on a theater job in Boston. And he continued to drive even after a scary chase one night to elude some holdup men. Why? Simple: He couldn't afford to quit.
More dramatic still, David and his wife, Susan, were living in Los Angeles when the big quake hit in 1994. They lost their house and had to come back East, settling on Philly, where Susan had family. "It worked out great for us," he told me.
A year or so ago, Vanity Fair coupled Morse and several other actors as "professional costars" who didn't quite rank as "stars." Did that hurt? "It's frustrating to hear people say, 'Oh yeah, he's great, but we're not going to finance a film with him as the lead,'" said Morse. "St. Elsewhere brought me movie offers, but they would not let me out of the contract, and by the time it ended, I was so identified with that character [Dr. Boomer Morrison], I couldn't get any other roles. And I need roles. Never mind the money, never mind the fame--it's the roles."