James McDaniel back on TV in ‘Detroit 1-8-7’

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service | Boulder Weekly

Actor James McDaniel says he thinks he’s as much a politician as he is an artist. The actor who played the memorable Lt. Arthur Fancy in “NYPD Blue” for eight years says, “I’m a black man and a lot of my
stuff comes from being a black man and the way I present myself, the
things I do, the things I say. I have control over what the perception
of what a black man is and what a black man can be.”

He insists he has to play both the good and the bad because his obligation is to the truth, “not just keeping a good image.”

That said, TV audiences know him best as military
authorities or tough police officers — figures like Gen. Maynard from
“Stargate SG-1,” Gen. Beers on “Taken,” Detective Johnson from “The
Good Wife.” But on stage he’s been a bi-sexual jazz musician, a doctor
dying of consumption, a slave returning from war.

And he’ll be back on the beat Sept. 21 when he co-stars in ABC’s gritty new cop series, “Detroit 1-8-7.”

The show’s producers have decided to remove the
invasive documentary style they applied to the pilot. That doesn’t
bother McDaniel. “I’ve been doing this for so long the brain shifts
gears much quicker now,” he says.

“When somebody says, ‘You don’t have a job,’ it
might’ve crushed me for about a month when I was younger. But now it
takes on the average one-and-a-half, two minutes. You’ve been crushed
so many times you expect to be crushed coming out of the gate, so it
doesn’t matter. It took me a second to redirect my brain.”

He’s redirected his brain in more ways than one.
He’s finally reached the point where he doesn’t second-guess himself.
“With every project I’m getting closer to not caring at all what you
think about me. It’s a journey. It’s a fortunate place that I’m in in
my life. It’s 30 years of doing this. It’s really where you should be.
And it’s almost like I’m giving away a secret, where my acting has
evolved to. Now my work has gotten to a point where I don’t care what
anybody thinks. I perform it the way my character would under those
circumstances, and I walk away from it. And I never look back.”

He earned that confidence, he says. “Having gotten
through my life, raised my kids and they’re OK, having a lot of support
at home, having achieved a certain degree of financial success, having
lived 52 years and said to myself, ‘Wait a second, I’m 52 years old.
It’s not what somebody else thinks about this planet, it’s what I think
about this planet. Mine is the one that counts and nobody can dissuade
me from what I believe it’s really about. I can’t be tricked anymore.
I’ve seen too many high school football stars and prom queens get
married and 10 years down the line he’s selling insurance and she wants
to get a divorce.'”

He’s happily married to Hannelore, who is a
multi-media artist. They have two sons, 19 and 22. “I was 24 when I
decided to marry her,” he recalls.

“She just opened a whole world up to me. She was
just the finest person I’d ever met. I was so fortunate. I wouldn’t
have anything if it wasn’t for her. She’s such a great mother. You meet
someone who is totally selfless and that make you selfless. It allows
you to be who you are. Everybody loves her. My good friends when they
meet her, they like her better than they like me,” he laughs.

He credits his mother, who reared him alone, with teaching him values. “My mother died my first year in New York when I came to New York
to be an actor, so she never saw me act. She was my person. She was my
No. 1. I lost the No. 1 person in my life at a young age. That was the
most profound change in my life.”

Never before, but in the last three years McDaniel
confesses he’s contemplated quitting. “I’ve never been a fan of the way
the industry has changed. I find that I was having less and less fun
doing it. I looked at my friends and people were doing it, but nobody
was having fun like in the old days. I played with the idea (of
quitting) and — being the kind of man who likes to make up his mind — I
decided hey, if you think about quitting and I’m not quitting yet, then
do what you want to do. So I’m at that point now where I only work with
people I like.”

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Runway model Roshumba Williams will join the other
judges on TVLand’s “She’s Got the Look,” which returns to the telly on
Wednesday. This show, unlike “America’s Next Top Model,” features the
over-35 would-be model. It’s not just long legs and flawless cheek
bones that win in the end, says Williams. “Some people have an X-factor
whether they’re 15 or 500. It doesn’t really matter. It’s kind of like
that’s something you can’t quite put your finger on, but when it walks
in the room, honey, you KNOW it.”

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That goofy “Cat in the Hat” by Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) coaxed a generation of kids to learn to read without them
realizing it. Now, with the cooperation of Geisel’s publisher, Random
House, and his widow, Audrey, PBS Kids will present a new series, “The
Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” premiering Sept. 6.

Kate Klimo, executive director of development for Random House Children’s Entertainment and V.P. and publisher of Random House Children’s Books,
explains, “Its immodest aim is to instill in kids a love of science
without boring them senseless. We knew we were on the right track when
the experts — a small army of experts we marshaled to help us from
across the country from museums, aquaria — I love that word —
planetaria, botanical gardens and the great research institutions fell
all over themselves to help us. They were thrilled that the Cat was
going to sell science to kids as once he had sold reading. Some of them
even tried their hand at rhyming, which the less said about that, the
better.”

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The dreamy Jonas Brothers will rock with Demi Lovato when “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam,” a full-on musical, lands on the Disney Channel on Sept. 3. The brothers have enjoyed an avalanche of fame but insist that whatever comes along, they stick to a “life plan.”

“We are a band first, and whatever we do on the side
or divert, we always come back to being a brother band and just make
sure who the Jonas Brothers are,” says Kevin, the oldest. “For us it’s
exciting that we can be and do so many different things.”

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