|Mike Logan is not hip. The Law & Order detective with the American flag pin in his lapel and the penchant for plaid neckties is a cop and the son of a cop, with a dark outlook on most of human nature. He loves New York, though; he understands that the city's many different neighborhoods are essentially independent universes connected by a subway system. He's something of a loner. And he's easily angered by murder and lies and the indignities often suffered by working stiffs just trying to live a decent life in a crazy town. What's hip is that actor Chris Noth can convey all this about Mike Logan without viewers' even once visiting Logan's apartment or seeing him off duty: On Law & Order-the NBC drama that in two seasons has built a must-tape following for its superior scripts, style, and ensemble acting-the cops and prosecutors stick to |
their work and let crime and punishment speak for themselves. ''What I like is that we reject melodrama and sentimentality,'' Noth says on a sunny afternoon in his dark Manhattan apartment-a loner's rumpled place made softer by cut flowers jammed into a vase on a shelf and the Indonesian artwork he has collected in the course of many trips there. ''I like to think that at our best we're The French Connection crossed with The Verdict.'' Noth is as capable of actor blab as the next guy. And, like the next guy, the 35-year-old actor, who grew up in New England, wanted to work in theater, film-anything but TV-when he graduated from Yale School of Drama in 1985. ''Oh, yeah, I was highfalutin,'' he agrees. But since probably the worst work he did was his only feature film, Jakarta (the 1986 role did, however, introduce him / to a country that remains, he says, his spiritual home), and since he first came to notice in a couple of episodes of Hill Street Blues, and since L&O has propelled him to do subtle work that casts light on facets of an otherwise opaque character, Noth has changed his tune. Now he knows about ratings and shares and hiatuses. Now he admits to loving Coach (which currently runs on ABC opposite his own show, and which, he swears with some cheek, he'd watch over L&O in a minute). And now he likens L&O to a sonnet, within whose strict limitations the creative possibilities are deeply satisfying: It was his idea, for example, to add the flag pin in his lapel (''I liked it because Logan's a young guy and you wouldn't think he'd do that'') and it was his idea to wear the plaid ties and leather jacket, both out of his own closet. Plus, he loves hanging out with real detectives as they do their work. And he enjoys worrying about whether L&O can keep from going too soft on tough issues now that the series is so popular. At the start of the last season, Logan lost his partner to a bullet (and to actor George Dzundza's dissatisfaction with the job). Logan now has a new partner, Phil Cerreta, played by Paul Sorvino. But viewers still know little about Logan's love life. And Noth-a TV camera favorite, with his dark, moodily handsome looks-is similarly single, although he recently began dating the model Beverly Johnson.
"Bev! Oh! I never thought there would be a woman who could get me to settle down!" says Noth, drifting off on his couch into a cloud of pride and giddiness and guy-in-love-ness that has very little to do with being hip or hunky or the actor of the moment in the TV drama of the season and everything to do with being in a swoon in springtime in New York, a crazy town. Which is also hip.