|Now that the third "Law & Order" spinoff has made its move to its new network on USA, "Criminal Intent" will be welcoming a new cast member - if only temporarily.|
Alicia Witt makes her first appearance on the crime show's seventh season this Thursday as Detective Nola Falacci, partner to the forceful Chris Noth as Detective Mike Logan. She'll be replacing actress Julianne Nicholson for six episodes while she spends time on maternity leave. And the short-term gig suits Witt just fine.
"I think that TV can be great, and it's right for some people," the 32-year-old actress said. "It has its advantages. You have stability, and you know exactly what you're doing for nine months out of the year...but for me, I often get bored doing the same character for too long and I like doing different things."
And as she describes Falacci, the character is anything but boring.
"She comes from Brooklyn North as a homicide detective, and she's very smart and very tough," Witt explained, adding that she is also married with two kids. "She's ... unconventional and doesn't really care about protocol."
In her premiere episode, Logan and Falacci look into a fertility doctor's brutal murder. But as Witt explains, we won't see just how Logan and his new partner meet until later in the season.
"We're going to see a different episode where they have worked together for a couple of cases," Witt said. "Then I think in November they'll show the episode where we meet for the first time. And we definitely butt heads and [Falacci] steps on a few toes."
Jumping into the role of a New York City police detective required a little preparation, said Witt, who has been acting since the age of seven, when she played Alia in David Lynch's "Dune."
"I went to the shooting range, and fired 100 rounds," she said. "I read a couple of books about detectives. And we have several great retired detectives who are on the set to make sure we don't do anything stupid."
The former cops check that the actors don't forget to wear their gloves at a crime scene, and ensure they conduct themselves properly as detectives, Witt explained. And while this wasn't the first time a role has required her to handle a gun, the part of Detective Falacci is a little more seasoned that any previous role.
"The other guns I've fired [in films] have been more as the damsel in distress, shakily grabbing a gun thinking 'oh my God, I'm going to kill someone,'" she said with a laugh.
No matter how interesting a character may be to play, it is nothing without a good partner to act with. And as Witt sees it, she and Noth work well together both on and off screen. "I think we play off each other really well," she said. "And I think his character has a wry, very dark sense of humor and sarcasm that is very similar to Falacci."
This isn't Witt's first television gig. She played Cybil Shepard's daughter, Zoey, in the late-1990s sitcom, "Cybil." She also made appearances on "The Sopranos" and "Ally McBeal." Witt has graced the big screen in films such as "Urban Legends" and "Mr. Holland's Opus."
In early 2008 she'll return to the movies opposite Al Pacino in the thriller, "88 Minutes." Pacino plays a forensic pathologist who receives a threatening phone call warning him that he has only 88 minutes to live, and Witt plays his friend and potential love interest.
"[Pacino] is one of my favorite actors of all time," Witt said. "So to work with him was more than I could have ever wished for."
Outside of acting, the classically trained pianist has started to write music, and this Wednesday will be performing one of her songs for the first time at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village.
"I'm very excited," said Witt, who has played piano since childhood and during her teens earned money doing it at the famous Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.