Posted on Wed, Jul. 17, 2002
Philadelphia Daily News
Morse is 'grateful' to be filming 'Hack' in Philly
PASADENA, Calif. - You might not guess it to look at him, but actor David Morse knows how to work a room.
The soft-spoken star of CBS' shot-in-Philadelphia drama, Hack, met yesterday with the Television Critics Association, one of the stops new TV shows make in an effort to stand out from what's always a crowded fall field.
Maybe it was Morse's reputation for being serious and a little publicity-shy, but the actor at first found himself ignored as reporters pelted his producers and creator David Koepp - whose recent screenwriting credits include Spider-Man and Panic Room - with questions about the tone and logistics of the show, in which Morse plays a disgraced cop who fights crime while driving a cab.
Or as Koepp put it, "I like to think of him as a superhero without super powers."
It was not clear to some critics who've seen the pilot how a cabbie who's often off the meter, fighting crime, will make a living.
Finally, Morse kind of leaned forward, and faced a questioner, his face serious.
"Did you think I'm stupid?" he asked, as the room erupted in laughter.
A few moments later, when a reporter asked if Morse's character would "ever lighten up," he leaned forward again, with an air of mock menace:
"Are you saying I'm not funny?"
Asked later if he'd been prepared to surprise the press with a side of him that's not often been seen, Morse paused.
"I don't feel like I have to do that," he said. "You know, I enjoy it. I don't get to do that in the roles that I do. Every comedy I ever went out for - American comedies, I just don't get it. They're all one kind of one joke. It's like they're glorified high school skits."
No one will be saying that about Hack, whose tone is definitely darker, but there does seem to be some connection between Morse's dry style and that of his character, Mike Olshansky.
"I couldn't have done it if I didn't see" some of himself in the character, Morse said. "It had to do more with the complications than with anything else, because I felt there I have something to do," he said.
Morse, whose film career began to take off shortly after he moved his family to Philadelphia in the mid-1990s, and who until then was best known for St. Elsewhere, was CBS CEO Leslie Moonves' first choice to play Olshansky, according to executive producer Gavin Polone. And it was Morse's insistence that he would only do it if it were filmed in Philadelphia that got the show moved from New York, a move Polone estimates is costing the production an extra $250,000 an episode.
For Morse, though, the cost of working in New York would have been just too high. "I did a play in New York for six months. I saw my kids for one night a week. I thought, I'm never going to see my family if this is shot in New York."
Having worked locally on Diary of a City Priest and Twelve Monkeys, "I knew there were a lot of talented people there. I just didn't know how many and how much it would mean to them to actually go home at night to their own beds. You know, Teamsters were thanking me," he said.
"That feels good, but I'm grateful they're there, and talented, so that we can do that there, do it in Philadelphia."
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