FAVORITE ACTOR: Jean-Paul Belmondo
NEXT PROJECT: “At this point, episode five of ‘The Guardian.’ ”
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF 10 YEARS FROM NOW?: “I have absolutely no idea but I am going to put every bit of energy into enjoying getting there.”
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ACTOR?: “I have been a lot of things. Acting just stuck. It felt right.”
Simon Baker’s character on the new CBS drama “The Guardian” is caught between two worlds. He’s a high-powered corporate attorney who is forced also to work for a child advocacy office to fulfill community service requirements after being busted for drugs.
In real life, Baker found himself caught between the worlds of film and television. While he had hoped to stick to roles in features and spare himself and his family the grind of working in series television, he couldn’t resist the role of “Guardian’s” Nick Fallin after reading the pilot.
“I really hadn’t looked to doing TV,” says Baker, an Australian native. “For some reason, this year I said to my agent, ‘Show me some stuff, but don’t start selling me to the television networks. I just want to see.’ I got the sense that TV was on the verge of changing.”
Despite relishing the part of Fallin (“I remember sitting in our bedroom talking to my wife and saying, ‘This is a great fucking character.'”) the job did not materialize immediately. In an unrelated meeting with CBS topper Les Moonves, the topic of “The Guardian” happened to come up, and Baker’s eagerness for the role and Moonves’ search worked out perfectly.
“Simon had done a project for CBS a number of years ago,” explains Nina Tassler, CBS’ head of drama development, referring to the 1996 pilot “The Last Best Place.” “Les has been tracking him every since.”
Baker, who will be seen this fall in “Affair of the Necklace” opposite Hilary Swank, has been acting for about 10 years. His first professional gig was on an Oz television show called “E Street.” From there, he spent time in drama school, worked in theater, short films and various TV.
“Australia’s a tough place to have a career as an actor,” he says, “because there’s a lot of really good actors and not a lot of good material. You can do really good work and then be unemployed for six months to a year.”
So Baker set off for Los Angeles with his wife and family. His first Hollywood film role came in “L.A. Confidential,” in which he played a hunky young actor/hustler named Matt Reynolds.
“My very first meeting in L.A. was for that,” he says. “I read for Guy Pearce’s role with Curtis Hanson.”
Although he has been working somewhat steadily ever since, the experience of “L.A. Confidential” whet his appetite for quality material. He thinks he may finally be sated with “The Guardian.”
“This character is a lot more complex than most of the feature film scripts I kept getting,” he says. “He’s an asshole but he has a good heart. I liked the ambiguity of that.”