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Q & A

BRUCE GREENWOOD : Going Somewhere

October 15, 1995|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who can you trust?

In the case of photographer Thomas Veil, the protagonist of UPN's acclaimed psychological suspense drama "Nowhere Man," the answer is no one.

Bruce Greenwood, until now best known as the manipulative Dr. Seth Griffin on "St. Elsewhere," stars as the "Nowhere Man." In the course of one evening his entire identity is seemingly erased. His wife, his friends and even his beloved dog appear to be in cahoots with his adversaries--whoever they are. Veil must now stay one step ahead of the people who are chasing him as he pursues the truth.

Born in Quebec, Canada, Greenwood attended the University of British Columbia and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He recently appeared in the NBC drama "Naomi and Wynonna: Love Can Build a Bridge" and in the features "Wild Orchid" and "Passenger 57."

He also won favorable notices for his performance in Atom Egoyan's haunting "Exotica." In the film he portrays a tragic tax accountant who frequents a strip club in order to fill the empty space left by the deaths of his daughter and wife. "Exotica," which received the 1994 International Critics Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, is scheduled to be released Oct. 24 by Miramax Home Video.

Times Staff Writer Susan King caught up with the affable actor over the phone from Portland, Ore., during a rare break in the production of "Nowhere Man."

Since you are the "Nowhere Man" and in practically every scene, you must have an exhaustive shooting schedule.

I had no idea what I was in for (laughs). For the first five or six weeks, we were averaging at least 14 hours [a day] and going 16, 18 or 20. Then it just beat everybody up so badly. People were just dropping like flies. I was one of the first to fall. I basically went down the fifth week. The doctor diagnosed me with exhaustion, so we shut down the show for a couple of days and took a four-day weekend. We sort of cut it down to a 12, and sometimes a 14-hour day. ... This is part of the gig (laughs again).

****

The series is so unusual and complex. Are those two of the reasons why you did the series?

Yeah, it's so rich with possibilities for the exploration of what happens to somebody when he becomes completely disenfranchised and alone. Currently, we are spinning it in a fanciful way and making it a bit extreme in terms of the guys who are after me. It's pretty edgy and I do a lot of escaping. But I think it may spin slightly differently later in the season when it just becomes those simple stories of a guy with no money, no job, no home, just trying to get along and what that means. Of course, you can ladle in the "Nowhere Man"-ish aspect by having things that appear innocent and innocuous be sinister to me because I am so paranoid.

****

Thomas Veil is desperate to trust somebody--anybody.

I think there are parallels [in the series] for my life and your life and for anybody. Who do you trust? If you want to take it that one step further, when I fill in my tax return and all of that stuff, how much do they know? What does that little magnetic strip on the back of my driver's license mean? What information do they have there?

This weird little "Nowhere Man"-ish thing happened to me. After I got sick on the show, they took me for a chest X-ray because we had been [shooting] with a a lot of smoke, so they X-rayed my chest and that was fine. I had taken my shirt off and they X-rayed me standing up, but I had my trousers on. The next day was Friday, the day I had off, and I wanted to go to the bank and get money to get some food. I went to the Versateller and put in my card and it rejected it. Somebody else came up and it took their card. So I said to myself, "This is way too Veil. This is my day off, don't Veil me." So I went into the bank and they ran it through and said it has lost its magnetism and I said, "That's bizarre, can you advance me some money on my credit cards?" They put the credit cards through and they also had been vaporized. I guess when they took the X-rays, some part of the machine cranked up and zapped them.

****

'Exotica" is coming out next week on video.

I was very sad during that movie. [My character] was so sick with grief. It really loaded me up with a lot of sadness. I sort of played against that between takes by being my regular, doltish, goofish self, but I didn't realize until the movie was over how much [sadness] I really was carrying. I mean when the movie was over I didn't shake it off.

****

Besides acting, you also play the guitar and write music. What type of music do you compose and perform?

Some R&B and blues-based rock. I also write a lot of children's music because I have a friend who has a children's deal. I generally get a couple or three cuts on his albums. We have some videos running on the Disney Channel right now. One is called "The Man Who Ran Away With the Moon." It's a great outlet for me.

"Nowhere Man" airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on UPN. (This week the series is preempted).

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