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WITH AN EYE ON ... : Bill Campbell sees a good moon rising in ABC's 'Miami'

September 19, 1993|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bill Campbell doesn't mince words when asked why he's doing the new ABC one-hour series "Moon Over Miami," a romantic comedy in the "Moonlighting" and "Remington Steele" tradition.

"They offered me the job," says Campbell, who played the title role in the 1991 Disney film "The Rocketeer," and appeared last year in Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" as one of Lucy's suitors.

"The films weren't really going gangbusters for me," he says matter-of-factly. "I did two pretty neat films. But I wasn't getting a lot of offers or anything. Sometimes, you got to take a step in a different direction to get where you want to go. Undeniably, the prospect of being a lead in an entire show is kind of enticing."

In "Moon Over Miami," Campbell plays affable private investigator Walter Tatum, who operates a fairly successful office in the South Beach area and can reel off wisecracks and Shakespeare with ease. Ally Walker ("Universal Soldier") co-stars as Gwen Cross, an impetuous heiress who becomes Tatum's professional and verbal sparring partner and potential love interest.

Actually, Campbell isn't doing the series just because he was offered the job. He did admire creator and co-executive producer Harley Peyton's witty pilot script. And Campbell saw the series as a chance to play a character who is not "being a bully, shooting guns at people and making a lot of macho posing," explains the shy actor.

Not that Campbell can accurately compare "Moon Over Miami" to other TV series on the air, for the simple reason he doesn't watch the tube. "I watch the nature channels sometimes and that's about it," he states. "Is 'Seinfeld' ABC?"

No, it's NBC.

"I watch 'Seinfeld,' but I don't watch it religiously," he says. "I'm completely out of touch with television. I've no idea what's going on. I much prefer movies, but I'm not up to date on movies, either. I see a couple of movies a month. That's about it."

Shooting the "Moon Over Miami" pilot was a real challenge for the rangy Virginia native. "I can't get away with doing some of the work I have done in the past," he confesses. "I'm in the limelight and I can't get away with it."

Does that mean he used to phone in his performances?

"I really didn't pay much attention," Campbell acknowledges. "I used to go in and wing it a lot. This kind of stuff, I found out in the pilot, requires more than just a wing and prayer. It's quick. I've been able to sort of get away with it as far as having a career. I've been fortunate I have had a career."

As soon as he began working on the series, Campbell realized he was going to have to alter his work habits. "I'm looking forward to being in front of the cameras for a few solid months and making an effort," he says. "It will sort of be like acting boot camp."

Peyton says he's impressed with Campbell. He admits, though, when Campbell came in for the audition, "We didn't know what kind of a match it would be. But he blew everybody away."

Campbell's excited the series is shooting on location in trendy South Beach. "I lik e Miami," he quips. "I like the tropics. I like the beach. I like the ocean. I like strong weather. I like Cuban food. I like Cubans. I like the show. I like the producer. I like the network."

"Moon Over Miami" airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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