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WITH AN EYE ON . . . : Ted Raimi, 'seaQuest 2032's' nerdy computer genius, looks to grow into leading-man roles

November 05, 1995|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ted Raimi won't don a pocket protector again.

The "seaQuest 2032" star says his current role as ship's navigator is his "last as computer geek. Hopefully, I'm getting too old to play the nerdy whiz kid," Raimi says from the Victorian-era home he rents in downtown Orlando, Fla., where "seaQuest" shoots.

Raimi's "played leading man twice and really enjoyed it. That's what I'd like to be doing next. Character roles are thankless. I'm tired of being the one who things happen to. I want to be the guy who makes things happen."

The actor's made enough happen to be one of three remaining original cast members in the futuristic show.

On this third and new season, with a new captain at the helm (Michael Ironside), Raimi plays computer genius O'Neill, the reluctant sailor with a penchant for languages. He's still his introverted, sensitive self, but he's 10 years older. And like other cast members still looks youthful. "It's due to being in outer space," Raimi explains.

The show's "fun in a repertoire way and there's a real professionalism to the new cast members, though I miss my friends" who are no longer on the show, Raimi says.

The Detroit native and son of retail barons--mom's in lingerie, now-retired dad was in furniture--Raimi, 29, the youngest of five, felt pressure to take over the family business. "It's a very Midwestern thing," Raimi explains. "None of my older brothers or sister were interested."

Much younger than his siblings, Raimi "was basically like an only child," with his childhood experiences forming his concept of his on-screen nerd. "I was a very awkward-looking kid, with thick braces and head gear and thick glasses," Raimi recalls. Two bullies "threw me up on the lockers every day and said, 'Raimi, we're gonna beat you up, dude,' and then, just in time for the school bell to ring, they'd throw my books to the end of the hall."

The weak kid grew up to be "a not unimposing" 6 1/2 ft. tall and 178 lbs., "but I still get hunched over and feel like that harassed kid. But, fortunately, my parents were very supportive."

Raimi "never bemoaned" his life, never had many close friends and, until quite recently, never many girlfriends. "Deep inside you still have that . . . negative system," he says. "So you focus on other things, those anti-social things, like acting and writing."

Studying drama at Michigan State University was like "studying theater in the Himalayas," he says. He moved to the University of Detroit, where his experience with the school's drama company solidified his interest in acting.

Raimi dropped out in 1989 "when I realized there was nothing more to learn." He headed to L.A. where older brother Sam had established a career as a director ("Army of Darkness," "Evil Dead," TV's "Hercules" and "Xena").

Raimi lived with Sam for two years, landing roles in "Shocker," "Clear and Present Danger," "Hard Target," "Born Yesterday," "Lunatics: A Love Story" and the horror films "Candyman" and "Darkman" along with guest roles on TV.

Now, Raimi and girlfriend, model and artist Alexa Motley, find that living in the hurricane zone can be daunting. "But it's a great house and Alexa is going through room by room painting murals on the walls."

While "seaQuest" has a grueling schedule, Raimi finds time to write--he penned last season's episode on the lost city of Atlantis. He hopes eventually to direct and produce. But but "right now, writing--the mechanics of it are most important."

He's gotten his castmates to star in an 8 mm, 10-minute comedy he penned about a Vietnam vet. The concept, the director says, is "it's cheesy fun. All those movies, 'the soldier --he came back,' and it's like, so what? It's not a response to the actual war, but to the deluge of movies about them." His goal for the little film, is "to use it as an excuse to get together and have a party to show it."

But now, "I sit in that ['seaQuest'] chair all day long. I never get out it. Chair acting is the hardest friggin' thing, when you move around you can motivate yourself through action. This is all about your eyes. For my next role, I want one where I get out of the chair and walk around."

"seaQuest 2032" airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.

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