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Playing the Real Thing

June 17, 1989|DIANE HAITHMAN

At first, the creators of Headroom--star of a cable-TV talk show, Coca-Cola commercials and later ABC's short-lived, critically acclaimed "Max Headroom" series--wanted the public to believe that Max, an irreverent, staccato-voiced spokesman for the video generation, was actually a computer-generated image.

It didn't take long, however, for the public to discover that M-m-max was actually M-m-matt--Matt Frewer, 31, who portrayed both Max and Max's alter-ego, TV reporter Edison Carter, on the "Max Headroom" series, which satirized network TV.

"There was this ruse perpetuated that Max was a computer-generated person, not a guy in make-up," Frewer says. "I suppose it was difficult, for a time, to deal with: 'Oh, yeah, Max isn't real.' But it was a ruse we had to perpetuate during the shelf-life of the series, to keep people guessing. In retrospect, I guess it was a good thing."

And hiding behind Max Headroom has not hindered Frewer's career: the actor has reappeared not as a computer image, but as flesh-and-blood physician Mike Stratford in the CBS comedy series "Doctor, Doctor," which is running Monday at 10:30 p.m. Frewer also stars in the feature film "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids," which opens June 23.

Frewer, who describes Dr. Stratford as a crusading healer "in the Robert Young tradition," says he took the role because "Doctor, Doctor" creator Norman Steinberg allowed him free reign to improvise. "When I was playing Max (in the ABC series), there was not much opportunity for that," Frewer says. "The best vehicle for Max was probably the cable show, the talk show--that's when he can really go to town."

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