|Scott Cohen is versatile enough to jump from playing a fairy-tale man-wolf ("The 10th Kingdom") to a charming prep-school teacher ("Gilmore Girls") any woman would love to take home to meet Mom.|
So, with a range like that, why does this guy keep playing cops?
Right now, he's adding a lot of Y-chromosome intensity to NBC's Friday drama "Law & Order: Trial by Jury," where on Saturday, May 6, his Detective Chris Ravell completes a crossover story line begun on the Tuesday, May 3, episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
The casual viewer might surmise this recurring theme on Cohen's worksheet -- which includes a boozing detective on "NYPD Blue," a tortured parole officer on Showtime's "Street Time" and yet another detective on a 2000 CBS TV movie about the JonBenet Ramsey murder -- simply reflects the current TV glut of legal procedural dramas. That's part of it, but by no means the main reason, Cohen explains.
"I gravitate toward characters in conflict anyway," Cohen says. "You could take the main character on 'House' -- which I really love, by the way -- and make him a lawyer or a cop or a paramedic. There's conflict in the guy. People see me as a two-sided person, someone who can be both good and bad, which is great for an actor. Doctors, lawyers, cops -- stories about them have drama built into them. You don't have to figure out how to put it in."
"Law & Order" fans may assume the Bronx-born actor was rushed into the fledgling "Trial by Jury"when the show lost a key performer with the passing of Jerry Orbach just after Christmas.
That's not true, says Cohen, whose character had been planned for recurring appearances before anyone realized how ill Orbach was. "I'm sure Dick Wolf and the other producers knew, but most of us didn't," the actor says.
"By my second episode, they were giving me scenes that Jerry was supposed to do but couldn't because he was ill, in addition to the stuff they were writing for me," Cohen says. "The producers were very careful, because they didn't want to step on what was happening with my character. But at the same time, they wanted to be very respectful in terms of somebody `replacing Jerry,' which was not what they wanted it to look like at all."
In one respect, Cohen picking up Orbach's scenes got a little head-spinning, because Ravell was planned to have a little unspoken "thing" going on with Assistant District Attorney Kelly Gaffney (Amy Carlson). Unfortunately, most of the Orbach pickup scenes were with Gaffney's office mate, Assistant DA Tracey Kibre (Bebe Neuwirth), leading viewers to wonder whether Ravell was, as it were, keeping his sexual options open.
"It was a little like 'Street Time,'" Cohen says with a laugh, referring to his morally challenged character on that series.
If you're like most Cohen fans, you probably noticed him first during the extraordinary trifecta he pulled off in February 2000, when he more or less simultaneously had major roles on all of the big three networks: ABC's "NYPD Blue," NBC's fantasy miniseries "The 10th Kingdom" and the CBS movie "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder."
Many TV critics understandably expressed shock when Cohen, assumed to be a lock for an Emmy nod either for "Blue" or "Kingdom," was passed over by that award committee, as well as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
It was an oversight that stung, Cohen admits. "Emmy nominations are kind of hard [to snag], because I wasn't very well-known and 'The 10th Kingdom' didn't get the audience response I wish it had had," Cohen says. "But I was disappointed about the SAG Awards. It's hard to say with any credibility, 'Oh, well, I deserved that' but I definitely think of that.
"My wife always says, 'It's not about the recognition; it's about the work, and when the time comes for you to be recognized, you'll be recognized.' I don't know the Emmy voters at all -- I've never bothered to become one -- but I especially wish the SAG Awards would be a little bit more open about who they nominate. Like everybody else, they have to nominate stars to draw a TV audience to their awards specials.
"And the people who win in the guest-star categories are scary. I mean, look, how could they not give an award to Annabella Sciorra for her work on 'The Sopranos'? I just don't get it."
Cohen earned new fans as Max Medina, the prep-school teacher of Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel) on The WB Network's "Gilmore Girls." He nearly became Rory's stepdad as well, until commitment-shy mom Lorelai broke their engagement, and Max's heart in the bargain.
The actor says he relished his time on the show, even though the hours were grueling. "Those scripts are 75 pages long, all dialogue,"he says. "I cannot believe Lauren has been doing this for five years. She's utterly amazing.
"I was doing that show when 9/11 happened, and they did everything in their power to get me home," he adds. "I will never forget that. Amy (Sherman-Palladino, the show's creator) and the producers were constantly calling airlines and trying to arrange tickets, making sure I had been able to talk to my family. They were just amazing. I kept begging her to bring me back."
These days, he wishes Ravell had a front-burner story line every week on "Trial by Jury," although he realizes that's not going to happen on an ensemble series, which is why he has started optioning outside projects on his own.
Still, being able to live with his family in New York and go to work each day in that city is compensation enough, he says.
"A few months ago, I shot a scene in the snow with an actor I've known for years and years and years, a really well-written scene, and part of me is thinking, 'Wow, you just cannot get better than this,'" Cohen says. "New York City, 12th and Broadway, great scene with this guy I know, and it's snowing. I mean, wow."