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The Long 'Renegade' Road

October 30, 1994|LIBBY SLATE | Libby Slate is a frequent contributor to TV Times and Calendar

The bounty hunter Lorenzo Lamas plays on the syndicated series "Renegade" rides a Harley across country as a framed cop seeking to clear his name.

In his own life, Lamas' name is nothing if not a steady source of encouragement to work at his craft. His parents--the late Fernando Lamas, an actor and director, and Arlene Dahl, an actress and author--provide good rode models, he says.

"My father gave me a great work ethic. He was very disciplined and prepared, as an actor and a director," Lamas says. "I saw the reverence his crews had for him. They respected the hell out of him. It's a constant image on my mind. I constantly strive to emulate that. He was a great man."

When it comes to TV fame, the "Renegade" role of Reno Raines is the second breakout part for Lamas, now in his third season on the action series. Lamas became a certified heartthrob in the 1981-1990 CBS prime-time soap "Falcon Crest" as playboy Lance Cumson, grandson of the Napa Valley wine matriarch portrayed by Jane Wyman.

Lamas, 36, has found syndication stardom to be "a double-edged sword." He explains: "The lights on the marquee are a little smaller. Executives in the television business look at us as the black sheep--we don't get all the print, mainly because there is no network to foot the bill for all the publicity, and we're difficult to advertise because we're in different time slots on different days all over the country.

"But there are very positive elements. You get a chance to really work on your character because you get 22 shows per season right off the bat." Created by the prolific Stephen J. Cannell, "Renegade" airs in 94% of the United States and in about 60 foreign countries. Lamas fit the bill as Raines, in part because he was well known overseas, thanks to "Falcon Crest," and partly because of his own flair for action. Lamas is a motorcyclist, auto racer and holder of a black belt in tournament karate.

"This role is right up my alley," says the actor, who had been co-producing direct-to-video features before Cannell beckoned. "There are things about the character I've always wanted to play--an upstanding kind of morally sound guy with a sense of fairness and integrity. It's a refreshing change from Lance, this 'yes' person who was a slave to money.

"And I wanted to do action, because I have that to offer. I think there's a certain viability that comes through. It helps to have something special to offer in this business, to create an image, which then garners work. It's turned out to be a real good career move."

Like his father before him, that career extends behind the camera. Lamas directed an episode of "Renegade" last season, a vote of confidence earned after Cannell saw a video film Lamas helmed two years ago, "CIA II: Target Alexa." He will direct two more episodes, and this year also receives a credit as producer.

Both of his parents, he says, taught him to be a good parent to his own three children: son Alvaro Joshua, 10, and daughter Shayne, 8, from his first marriage; and daughter Payton Lee, 6, from his relationship with "Falcon Crest" co-star Daphne Ashbrook. He recently divorced his third wife, "Renegade" co-star Kathleen Kinmont. "It wasn't a hateful divorce," he says. "We have respect for each other. I really enjoy working with her."

Looking ahead, Lamas hopes to direct and produce more, as well as do some acting on sitcoms. Feature films are on his mind too. "Midnight Man," an independent action-thriller in which he stars, is set for a spring release.

"Features are a definite desire. They're probably the closest thing to my heart right now. I want a shot."

"Renegade" airs Saturdays at 7 p.m. on KCBS and 11:30 p.m. on KGTV.

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