Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Complex character draws Woods to new waters

Saturday, May 19, 2007
Washington Post

James Woods has portrayed a mayor of New York, a serial killer, a journalist, a rocket scientist and Watergate conspirator H.R. Haldeman.

Now he's a brassy Los Angeles lawyer in "Shark," CBS' legal drama that has drawn critical praise and respectable ratings.

The show revolves around Sebastian Stark, a former defense lawyer for Hollywood's biggest names who switched sides and now prosecutes crimes. The show's cast includes Sophina Brown, Sarah Carter, Alexis Cruz and Sam Page as ambitious lawyers looking to the ego-driven Stark for leadership that's often a lesson in street justice.

"I am the hero and people disabuse me of my narcissism - and in the end, we get the bad guy," said Woods, whose character's tactics usually include "some very clever manipulation, a slight ethical compromise for a greater moral good."

Stark navigates legal labyrinths, working for former nemesis Jessica Devlin (Jeri Ryan) while trying to earn the respect of his teenage daughter, Julie (Danielle Panabaker). Julie's choice to live with him instead of her mother creates mixed emotions. Their relationship is sometimes stormy and complex, much like the cases Stark handles.

For Woods, 60, appearing in a TV series initially held no appeal. But in 2005, reflecting on available film roles, Woods saw that there was "not a lot being offered in the world of features except as the head of evil oil corporations - and that [story] can be told in 4.5 seconds."

When he read the script for "Shark," Woods likened it to "the old days when I got to play this morally complex, witty hero who does the right thing - a tarnished, slightly anti-heroic hero."