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November 18, 1987 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1987-11-18

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Two Familiar Faces
Shine in the Spotlight
Dabney Coleman and Blair Brown act naturally

Dabney Coleman is not
Slap Maxwell. Blair
Brown is not Molly
Dodd. But these two actors
are so effective, and so natu-
ral, that the fine line between
person and persona often ap-
pears seamless. That's how
Jay Tarses, the creator of Slap
and Molly, wants it. "I like to
sneak into their reality as,
close as possible," says Tarses.
"I hear Dabney's and Blair's
voices when I write the words.
If it doesn't sound like it
would come out of their
mouths, I change it." If screen
acting can be divided into two
major camps-those who fill
their roles with themselves
and those who fill themselves
with their roles-Coleman
and Brown occupy the rar-

efied territory in between.
They're character actors with
enough charisma to play lead-
ing roles.
Yet, for whatever unfortu-
nate reasons, Coleman, 55,
and Brown, 39, have seldom
been cast in the spotlight.
Coleman first gained promi-
nence in 1976 as Merle
Jeeter, the larcenous mayor
of Fernwood, on "Mary Hart-
man, Mary Hartman." Since
then he's played a series of
unpalatable characters, from
the despicable boss in the
movie "Nine to Five" (1980)
to the lecherous soap-opera
director in the film "Toot-
sie" (1982) to the nasty talk-
show host on TV's "Buffalo
Bill" (1983-84). Brown, mean-
while, has brought subtle
intelligence and wit
to a number of perfor-
mances. On film she's
been the concerned
wife of William Hurt
in "Altered States"
(1980) and the natu-
ralist in "Continental
Divide" (1981) who
loves John Belushi.
On TV she was a
striking Jackie Ken-
nedy in 1983's "Ken-
nedy" and a trou-
bled district attorney
in this year's "Hands
of a Stranger." De-
spite the high quality
of their work, how-
ever, Coleman and
Brown remain famil-
iar faces more than
household. words.
Dabney Coleman
was 26 when he met
the man who changed
his life. A ne'er-do-
well law student at
the University of Tex-
ORMAN as in his native Aus-
man tin, Coleman was in-

troduced to Zachary
Scott, a successful cin-
ematic actor. "I was
struck by his whole
.personality," remem-
bers Coleman. "He
was the personifica-
tion of what an actor
can be." The next day
Coleman took a plane
to New York to study
acting. After school,
he worked a little on
Broadway and a lot in Acting
commercials and as a
guest star on various televi-
sion shows. He even had
a supporting role for the
first year (1966-67) of "That
Girl" with Marlo Thomas.
But it was "Mary Hartman,
Mary Hartman" that sparked
his career.
Impressed enough to wait:
Even though Jay Tarses was
one of the creators and execu-
tive producers of "Buffalo
Bill," Coleman says they
didn't work together directly
that much. Still, Coleman
was impressed enough with
Tarses to wait more than a
year for the writer-producer
to become available. "I like
his dry sense of humor,"
says Coleman. "I'm happy
with good, and I think that
'"Slap"' is good."
Blair Brown was a college
sophomore when she chose a'
career in theater. The daugh-
ter of a CIA employee, Brown
grew up in the Washington,
D.C., area. She attended ju-
nior college for two years
before transferring to the Na-
tional Theater School of Can-
ada in Montreal. After gradu-
ation she worked extensively
on the stage, including the
New York Shakespeare Festi-
val. In the mid-'70s, she began
to work on a variety of mini-
series, including "Eleanor

and Franklin: The White
House Years" (1977), "Cap-
tains and the Kings" (1976)
and "Wheels" (1978). In the
early '80s, Brown had a burst
of movie work, including "Al-
tered States" and "Continen-
tal Divide."
It was hard for Brown when
she considered taking on a TV
series. "I was being a snob
about television," she says.
But her first experience-a
Tarses pilot called "The
Faculty" (1985) that never
aired-was a good experi-
ence. And "Molly Dodd" has
been even better. "It's not
something you see in tradi-
tional half-hour or even hour
shows," says Brown. Part of
the reason "Molly" works so
well, says Brown, is the rap-
port between her and Tarses.
"Our styles of humor are very
much the same. A lot of the
time I can hear it the way he
hears it."
Don't forget, though:
Brown isn't Molly and Cole-
man isn't Slap. "Sure, you
keep the characters in the
range of what you think Blair
and Dabney are capable of
playing," says Tarses. "But
they wouldn't be interested in
the characters if they had to
play themselves."
R. G.



A string f nasty characters: Cole



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