Sun, Mar 18, 2018 02:32 PM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
2004-01-21 life & times
Tuning In
A conversation with Eric Close

Eric Close
"Without a Trace" | CBS Thursdays

CBS has renewed "Without a Trace" for another full season. The series focuses on the Missing Persons Squad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This special task force uses the most advanced psychological profiling techniques in the search for the people who go missing every year. In each case, the process starts by setting up a "Day of Disappearance" timeline that details every moment of the 24 hours prior to the disappearance. Layers are peeled back as the agents probe the life of the missing person as they follow the one operative rule: "Find out WHO he or she is, and you're likely to find WHERE he or she might be."

"Without a Trace" stars Australian-born actor Anthony LaPaglia (Tony winner for Broadway's "A View From the Bridge" and former "Murder One" star) as the team's leader, Jack Malone; La Paglia's fellow Australian Poppy Montgomery ("Blonde") as Agent Samantha ("No one calls her Sam except Jack") Spade; Marianne Jean-Baptiste ("Secrets and Lies") as Agent Vivian Johnson; Enrique Murciano ("Traffic," the movie) as Agent Danny Taylor; and Eric Close ("Taken," "Now and Again") as Agent Martin Fitzgerald.

* * *

In the show's first year, Agent Martin Fitzgerald was the new kid on the team and, like all newcomers, had a lot to learn. He also seemed to be more affected by the emotional aspects of his cases. As much as he may have tried to be the stoic cop going about his duties as defined by his FBI training, it seemed difficult for him not to show a sympathetic reaction whenever he had to interview someone close to the missing person. But while some may feel this could be a problem for a by-the-book agent, Close does not. He believes the fact that Fitzgerald is able to react to another human being's fears or sorrow is a good thing:

"I think it makes it easier for the man or woman he's interviewing to talk to him about the missing person, possibly giving Martin a better insight into how and why that person vanished."

Close also says the image of the "stoic" cop may be more stereotypical than actual.

"The FBI has been very cooperative with the show," he says. "They had us all see how real agents work, and I found they're very much aware that they're dealing with human beings who are hurting.

"One more thing," Close says. "When you said Martin had a lot to learn when he was new on the job, he still does. Everyone does. The learning process never stops when you're with the FBI."

While not everyone who vanishes is found, Close says, "The FBI never gives up, never closes a case until the person is located, hopefully alive, or, sadly, dead."

And if one gets a tip on Judge Crater, the subject of a famous disappearance case who vanished in 1930 after leaving a Broadway show?

"Contact the FBI," Close says. "That file is still open."

The New York-born actor and his wife, Kerri, have two daughters. And like the father of another actor named Close Glenn Close Eric's dad is also a physician. As a matter of fact, Glenn Close once reportedly said that doctoring is a family tradition. So the question must be asked: Is Eric Close kin to Glenn Close?

"I'm told that we are distantly related," he says. "And someday I'll find out how distant ... or (chuckle) how close."

IN FOCUS: For Whoopi Goldberg, the renewal of her NBC series, "Whoopi," is a validation of a personal concept she once shared with me. "I believe," she said, "that humor provides the best way to get the truth to the people. ... Regardless of what kind of haters or bigots are out there racial, religious, whatever humor exposes them and what they do." And, since its debut last fall, her show has proved her point even in dealing with sexual biases. On "Whoopi," whichever gender tries to assert herself or himself as "naturally superior" gets the look-how-ridiculous-that-is treatment tout de suite.

DIAL TONES: On Feb. 3 and 4 (check local listings) PBS airs "America Beyond the Color Line with Henry Louis Gates." The program focuses on Prof. Gates' travels to four regions of the United States to learn how much things have (or have not) changed for African-Americans in the 35 years following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Along the way he interviews a number of people, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, Quincy Jones, Maya Angelou, Morgan Freeman, Alicia Keys and Chris Tucker.

Michael J. Fox will do a two-episode guest stint on NBC's "Scrubs" airing Feb. 5 and Feb. 12. ... Angela Lansbury ("Murder, She Wrote") and Dianne Wiest ("Law and Order") co-star in a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Black Water Lightship," airing Feb. 4 on CBS. The story deals with how a family reacts to the news that a beloved son and grandson is dying of AIDS. The film includes some hauntingly beautiful scenes of the Irish coast where the young man comes to spend his final days.

(c) 2004 King Features Synd., Inc.

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