When Rif Hutton began work as Dr. Ron Welch on the ABC series "Doogie Howser, M.D.," his character existed to provide the script's technical jargon. Since then, the producers have capitalized on the actor's own sense of humor to turn Welch first into a joke-cracking womanizer and then a sensitive married man.
"It's been fun growing with the part," says Hutton, whose own wife, Pat, is an actress and stand-up comic. "It's a great show to be on. As an actor, you end up doing so many jobs for the money, it's nice to have one where you can genuinely say, 'This is a good show.' "
It is perhaps somewhat ironic then that, despite prime-time success, during which time he also appeared on daytime's top-rated "The Young and the Restless," Hutton is receiving his greatest viewer recognition from commercials. Since November, 1991, he has played KFC franchise owner Russ Beeler on nearly 70 television and radio spots for the fried chicken.
The Texas-born, New Jersey-raised actor seeks to be a role model to African-Americans off-screen as well as on, speaking to South-Central grade school students about career possibilities. He also helped distribute toys to Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles at Christmas, and is now preparing a Veterans Hospital party for next month's National Disabled Veterans Week.