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Emmy performers: Craig T. Nelson

High-rent 'District' suits him just fine

Even though he’s been acting professionally for more than 30 years and has appeared in over 50 productions, Craig T. Nelson is known best as goofy Hayden Fox on the long-running sitcom “Coach.”

It’s a testament to his acting, however, that TV viewers are now taking him much more seriously as Washington police chief Jack Mannion in CBS’ Saturday night hit “The District.”

“He’s very, very good at what he does professionally,” Nelson says of his character, “but socially he’s a complete misfit, and his personal relationships suffer a great deal.”

Nelson hasn’t always tackled such hard-hitting subject matter as fighting crime. His background, and first love, is comedy. His first gigs in the late 1960s were as part of a standup act with director Barry Levinson and in variety shows with Tim Conway.

After several years away from showbiz, working as a logger and doing odd jobs in the ’70s, Nelson returned to Hollywood in the ’80s for dozens of TV movies and feature films, including “And Justice for All” and “Poltergeist,” which led him to “Coach” for a nine-year run.

” ‘Coach’ was a tremendous learning experience,” Nelson recalls. “We were doing comedy, exchanging ideas rapidly. I love that: the pressure of being under pressure.”

Nelson’s work on “District” offers different kinds of challenges. Nelson leads the cast, takes on producing responsibilities and plans to direct the first episode next season.

Always looking for new material, Nelson’s Family Tree Prods. — which includes son Noah — has several feature and TV projects in development.

“It’s fun,” Nelson says of both acting, producing and running a production company. “We just do what needs to be done.”

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