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Downey's Future on 'McBeal' Uncertain After Latest Arrest

Television * The actor, who was released on $15,000 bail, is expected to return to the set this week.

November 28, 2000|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The future of Robert Downey Jr.'s recurring role on Fox's "Ally McBeal" remained uncertain Monday after the actor's Saturday arrest in Palm Springs on charges of cocaine and methamphetamine possession.

Downey, who was released on $15,000 bail Sunday, was expected to appear in the episode that is currently in production, but executives with the show said they did not know what days this week he was scheduled to film. He had not been expected Monday on the Manhattan Beach set where the legal comedy-drama is filmed.

The actor had originally signed to appear in eight episodes of the series, in which his character, also a lawyer, becomes romantically involved with the title character, played by Calista Flockhart. Those episodes have already been completed and will run until late January or early February. The network did not plan to reschedule any episodes that feature Downey, including a holiday-themed show, which was to air Monday night.

Because of the chemistry between Downey and Flockhart, Downey had been asked and recently agreed to appear in two additional episodes of the series. Executives would not disclose the direction of the relationship, although in recent episodes the two characters have become increasingly romantically involved.

David E. Kelley, the executive producer of "Ally McBeal," declined comment on Downey and the arrest.

The series, one of Fox's top-rated shows, has an average viewership this season of almost 13 million viewers, which is a bit lower than its audience this time last year.

Downey, who has had continuing substance abuse problems for several years, was cast in "Ally McBeal" just a week after being released in August from Corcoran State Prison, where he had served a yearlong sentence for cocaine possession and subsequent violations of his probation.

The actor was arrested at a Palm Springs resort after a tip from an anonymous caller to 911 informing police that a guest had drugs and guns in his room. Police did not find any weapons.

Beyond his television stint on "Ally McBeal," Downey was also scheduled to appear next year in a stage production of "Hamlet" to be directed by Mel Gibson.

That production, initially targeted for January, had already been delayed until at least the summer due to Downey's film commitments, said the actor's publicist, Alan Nierob.

Nierob also said that the actor had "never stopped going" to rehab and had been doing well.

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