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Broadway's Okay, but No 'Law & Order'

Kevin Kline, brilliant actor, came to Summer TV Press Tour 2008 Sunday to take questions about PBS's upcoming broadcast of "Great Performances: 'Cyrano de Bergerac.'" The show is the sold out limited-engagement Broadway production of Edmond Rostand's romantic story about a lawyer-poet with a gimongous proboscis who is in love with his beautiful but, you have to admit, dim cousin Roxane. In a wonderful bit of typecasting, "Alias," "Catch and Release," "Kingdom" and "Juno" hottie Jennifer Garner plays Rox to Kline's Cyrano.

"Kevin is a celestial actor, but where is Jennifer?" asks one TV critic, demonstrating how TV critics get such a bad name.

"It seemed like a kind of funny casting trick: Let's get a big audience: We will put on the star from 'Alias' from TV who, you know, is a spy that runs around in tight clothing.

"Can you talk about how it was to act with her?" the critic finally got around to asking Kline.

Kline insisted Garner came "in full blossom" as a stage actress though, judging by the clip shown to the critics beforehand, he was being kind-ish. (On the other hand, the New York Times reviewer seemed smitten by her, too, saying she "radiates megawatt beauty," speaks the "peppery rhymed translation with unaffected sprightliness" and "when she arrives at the siege of Arras bearing baskets of food for the soldiers, you feel like singing, 'Hello, Dolly.'" Strange as it may seem, we're pretty sure that was supposed to be a compliment.)

One TV critic wonders why Kline has so few TV credits:

"Do you avoid TV? Have you been asked to do series? What's your thinking?"

To his credit, Kline -- who has played Hamlet, King Lear, Richard II (and Jeffrey Anderson, the washed-up actor reduced to playing Willy Loman in a dinner theater in Opa-Locka, in "Soapdish") -- neither laughs nor spits at the critic.

"I've been asked to do TV," he acknowledges, adding his response has always been, "You mean, play the same role week after week after week?' ...

"Not just to avoid being pigeonholed, but just the tedium of doing the same character didn't appeal to me. So I started avoiding television early on and I guess it just became a habit," he says.

"Others relish the idea of being stuck for seven or 14 or however many years. It's not for me."

You'd think that would have put an end to it. But TV critics don't give up without a fight:
"'Law & Order' has never come knocking for you?" one critic asks, incredulously.

"Everyone I know in New York -- all the New York actors are on -- is it 'Law & Order'? -- is that Sam Waterston?" Kline asks.

Jaws drop.

"I think they may have knocked once or twice," Kline continues. "They stopped calling from 'Law & Order' ... but I hope they'll call again -- so I can say 'no.'"

By Rose Jacobius  |  July 14, 2008; 6:35 PM ET
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Comments

That's a little snobbish of Kline. My partner and I go to Broadway several times a year. Our running joke is checking the Playbill to see how many of the actors list Law & Order in their credits. Answer: tons of them.

We joke that no Broadway actor can be credible if he/she hasn't done L&O.

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