Larroquette’s moment

Thesp drawn to the macabre, flawed characters

It hadn’t been since the mid-1980s and shows like “Dallas” and “Remington Steele” — certainly before his career-defining role as crass defense attorney Dan Fielding on the NBC sitcom “Night Court” — that John Larroquette had done a guest spot on an hourlong drama. That’s why the call from “The Practice” creator David E. Kelley was so perplexing.

“I remember saying, ‘Who do you think I am, David?’ when he told me what he had in mind,” Larroquette says of his entree to the role that would win him his fifth Emmy, and first in a dramatic role.

Indeed, Larroquette’s portrayal of the erudite Joey Heric, who can’t keep from killing his homosexual lovers, was to be the first in “Practice’s” three consecutive Emmys for guest actor in a dramatic series.

Larroquette had followed Kelley’s work on “L.A. Law” and “Picket Fences,” and says he was drawn to the writer’s great sense of the macabre and totally flawed characters. A dinner with director Thomas Schlamme sealed the deal, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Or is it? While many believe they’ve seen the last of Heric, Larroquette — who maintains the possibility of his character’s innocence — has another scenario in mind.

“It was left open in a weird kind of way,” Larroquette says. “Joey walks out of his jail cell, brushes close to Helen Gamble and announces offhandedly, ‘It’s time I started dating again.’ I see an episode where suddenly Helen’s boyfriends start turning up dead. See, it’s her he really loves.”