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Say, Isn't That . . . ?

Through the years and several series, producer Steven Bochco has built up a stock company of actors he knows he can count on. In his two new series, some of the faces are indeed familiar.

September 14, 1997|Susan King | Susan King is a Times staff writer

When fans of writer-producer Steven Bochco tune into his two new TV series this season, they'll see a lot of familiar faces.

The gritty police drama "Brooklyn South," which premieres on CBS Sept. 22, features six actors in its ensemble cast who have appeared in other Bochco series. Ditto 11 of the guest stars on the first episode.

On "Total Security," another ensemble drama set in a high-tech Los Angeles security firm, which starts on ABC Sept. 27, four of the leads and five of the guest stars are Bochco veterans.

"The people we use over and over are usually people who just on their own have that special something," says Junie Lowry-Johnson, who has been casting Bochco's series since 1990's "Cop Rock." She also has cast such feature films as "Liar, Liar."

"[Producers] are much less open about that on other shows," Lowry-Johnson adds. "It's like if you have used them before, they don't want to repeat them. Steven doesn't think actors should be punished because they have done his shows before."

So "NYPD Blue" is the fourth Bochco series for Dennis Franz, who has won two Emmy Awards as Det. Andy Sipowicz. Franz also starred on Bochco's "Bay City Blues," "Hill Street Blues" and "Beverly Hills Buntz."

"Brooklyn South" will be the third Bochco series for James B. Sikking, who played Lt. Howard Hunter on "Hill Street Blues" and the father of "Doogie Howser, M.D."

Bochco's estranged wife, Barbara Bosson, was a regular on "Richie Brockelman, Private Eye," "Hill Street Blues," "Hooperman," "Cop Rock" and "Murder One."

Winner of 10 Emmy Awards, Bochco is one of television's most prolific and successful writer-producers.

Since 1981, he's co-created and executive produced "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law," "Bay City Blues," "Hooperman," "NYPD Blue," "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Cop Rock," "Capitol Critters," "Murder One" and "Public Morals" and served as executive producer on "Civil Wars" and "The Byrds of Paradise."

Bochco says it's simply easier working with people he knows and respects.

"When you you write a role for an actor over a long period of time, you really get to know what that actor can do," he explains. "In the shorthand of television, that is an enormous advantage. When you bring an actor into a new environment and you have worked with that actor in the past, you just save so much time because you know that person."

What sets Bochco apart from other producers, says Lowry-Johnson, is that he's "comfortable with what he does. He's totally clear on the story and therefore he's very clear on the character. Through time you get to know who his tastes are and who aren't. He's always excited about new people, new faces."

If Bochco likes an actor, Lowry-Johnson relates, "he'll say, 'Keep this guy in mind for future stuff.' His expression is 'Put a pin in this guy.' Sometimes he'll let me know that he really liked the performance of somebody and I'll keep a mental note."

"A guest-starring role is a testing ground," says Michael DeLuise, who plays Officer Phil Roussakoff on "Brooklyn South" but is better known to "NYPD Blue" followers as Andy Sipowicz Jr. "When you hire someone, you want to see what they're like on a long-term basis."

Bochco, says Lowry-Johnson, gives her a lot of freedom when it comes to casting. "He doesn't make you hire TV names or TV stars," she says. "That's never a requirement on his shows and that's a huge freedom. He makes stars. He doesn't hire stars."

In the case of "Murder One," Bochco specifically was looking for actors with stage experience. "A courtroom is a theater," he says. "You really have to have a flamboyancy and tremendous craft because you have to take the stage. You have to own the courtroom. So there in particular you want actors with a real theatrical background."

Sikking goes back almost 30 years with Bochco. The actor was a guest on "The Name of the Game," when Bochco was a story editor on the NBC series. The two became best buddies more than 20 years ago when their daughters met in kindergarten. He also was a regular on the 1979 NBC comedy "Turnabout," on which Bochco was a writer.

Hiring friends is nothing new for Bochco. Charles Haid, who was a regular on Bochco's "Delvecchio" and played Officer Andy Renko on "Hill Street Blues," attended Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh with Bochco.

"[Bochco is] just the best," Sikking says. "You can look back at the people who were on 'Hill Street Blues' who became big stars and directors. To tell you once again about Steven's loyalty, the firstprofessional directing jobs in TV that Betty Thomas and Charlie Haid got were directing 'Doogie Howser.' "

Now Sikking's son, Andrew, is set to guest star this fall on "NYPD Blue."

"He went in and read for them," his father says. "I didn't even know about it."

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