Yahoo! TV Q&A: 'SVU' guest star Scott Bakula talks about complicated characters

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Scott Bakula - "Law & Order: SVU"
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Scott Bakula guest stars on "Law & Order: SVU"

WARNING: This article may contain casting or plot spoilers. If you don't want to know anything about this week's "Law & Order: SVU," please stop reading now.

You'll probably always think of "Quantum Leap" when you think of Scott Bakula. But since Bakula's time-jumping days ended almost two decades ago, he's played everything from a starship captain ("Star Trek: Enterprise") and a spy/nerd's father (his recurring role as Bartowski Sr. on "Chuck") to a struggling actor and aging playboy on "Men of a Certain Age."

Bakula's back on TV this week, playing a law professor and imperfect husband on "Law & Order: SVU" -- which completes the trifecta of "Men of a Certain Age" stars returning to TV, if only temporarily. (Andre Braugher is headlining "Last Resort," and Ray Romano has become a fixture on "Parenthood.")

[Related: 'Last Resort' stars Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman tell us about their new military thriller]

Yahoo! TV spoke with Bakula earlier this week about what it's like to guest on a long-running series, whether he'd have become a lieutenant on "Law & Order: Mothership", and when he'll put on a scuba suit to re-team with Braugher.

Again: the interview may contain casting or plot spoilers. If you're concerned about knowing too much, please stop reading now!


So, you're finally on a "Law & Order" episode!

Yes!

Welcome to the club! How's it feel?

It's funny, because I've known ["Law & Order" creator] Dick Wolf for years and years and years, and we talked about other shows, we talked about replacing, you know, when people have left, we talked about all kinds of different things. And here I am -- it's 11 years into "SVU," and, what, 25 years into the franchise? I'm finally on it.

Who were you guys talking about you replacing? We have a guess...

I can't even remember; I don't know if it was on "SVU," or if it was on "Law & Order." But we had one of those, you know, "It's Christmas Eve! Dick Wolf wants to have a drink with you at the Polo Lounge!" "I'm on my way!"

We would have guessed you for a lieutenant on "Criminal Intent."

…No, I don't think it was "Criminal Intent."

Well, what do we know.

What do I know, I didn't get it, so…

Their loss.

I was happy to be on it; I'm a big fan of "SVU," and I've known Mariska [Hargitay, who plays Olivia Benson] for years and years, and never worked with her, so it was great fun.

We were going to ask if you'd worked with any of the cast before.

No, none of them. And what a great group, and they're still all there, focused, trying to make the show as good as they can, keep it goin', and she drives that. And you've gotta have somebody like that when you've got a show on for that many years, that really cares, and wants it to be good, and wants everybody to be showing up and really being on their game and ready to work, so I tip my hat to her for that. And she's a doll; she's just the greatest.

Coming into a well-oiled-machine-type show like that, is that intimidating? Or is that relaxing, because it kind of is its own thing?

The intimidating factor was, I'd never shot anything in New York. So I was really excited about that; I was so curious to see how the New York shooting things worked, having lived in New York for a long time and understanding New York pretty well -- just the notion of figuring out where the trucks get parked, how you get into people's apartments and out, and equipment up and down and everything. I've shot in a lot of crazy places, but that part was a really well-oiled machine and very easily done, and I'm sure a lot of planning goes into it, but that part was simple, and I just jumped in.

I had a good part -- you know, guesting is always a challenge, but if you have a good part, and I had really good guests to work with. Bijou Phillips was great, Jessica Hecht was great, and so we had fun, and the story was wonderful, twisted, appropriately confusing, and hopefully satisfying for the audience.

Can you tell us a little more about your character?

Law professor; big New York City family; dad's on the Supreme Court, he's probably going to be headed to the Supreme Court; wife who's terminally ill but still up and around, now on a cane -- that's Jessica Hecht -- and then a young teenage daughter, a young actress actually, from Michigan or Wisconsin or somewhere, [this was] her first TV show, which is kinda cool. Abby Jackman is her name.

And this law professor that I'm playing…appears to have strayed, and had a little moment with Bijou Phillips's character, and the episode starts with a baby being snatched from a city park, and we find out later that the person who steals the baby actually is the baby's mother, and is claiming that my character is the father, of course which I deny, deny, deny, and she shows up at my house and is upsetting my wife and my daughter tremendously, and of course one thing leads to another, and…

I can spoil it for you if you want to be spoiled, but if you think… there's some prominent figures in the news that have similar stories recently. I think you can fill in those gaps.

What is your favorite kind of character to play? Is it this flawed man of privilege? Is it easier to play a guy who's straight-up bad? What did you really dig about this character that let you get into it?

I love any character that has something to do, you know, because quite often, they show up and there's nothing to do, so those you just kind of say, "Thank you, but no." But anybody that's got something you can dig into, that's a little twisted, that's not straight ahead, that has some secrets and has some problems, problems are always great. This guy has all of those, all of the above, and he's trying to be a good guy on top of it all, but he's made some poor choices, and I think anything like that, that is more a real person, and we all have flaws…

I've come close to playing a few kind of superheroes, if you will, just in terms of their goals and aspirations; it's fun to do. I've played the straight-ahead bad guy, "killed a teenage girl in a field" guy, once before too, and that was really, that was no fun, ever. I mean, I was glad that I'd done it, but it was just dark and dreary, going to that place every day, so -- anything with dimension, I love comedy and I love drama, so when you can mix 'em up together, that's also a lot of fun.

So now all the "Men of a Certain Age" are back on TV. Any chance that you and Ray Romano are gonna show up as Navy SEALs on "Last Resort"?

[Laughs] All you gotta do is call me! They're shooting over there in Hawaii, I feel so bad for Andre. I should go over there.

[Related: 'Parenthood' Q&A: Lauren Graham and Ray Romano on their romance]

Yeah, it's tough.

I think he needs someone to come over and help him appreciate life. I think that's probably what I could do, and help out in that way, so: I'm sitting by the phone.

Watch last week's "SVU," "Friending Emily," right here:


"Law & Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 9 PM on NBC.

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