James Woods says he has known CBS honcho Leslie Moonves “since I was 20 years old. He was in an acting class with my then-girlfriend.” Woods recently turned 60.

Yet Woods had never done a TV series before CBS’ “Shark” came along. He’s made television appearances here and there, but had never signed on to be a regular.

That wasn’t because Moonves failed to try. “Les has been gracious enough to offer me parts during his tenure at CBS,” Woods explains. “I just wasn’t interested in doing a series. I always read the scripts as a courtesy.”

But when the pilot for “Shark” arrived in the mail one day, Woods sat up in his chair. “I wasn’t that interested in working, to be honest,” he says. “But to read this unusual story that portrayed a middle-aged white male as a hero rather than an idiot … We’re always playing the fool in these things.

“It’s fun playing a hero. Plus, he’s a fast-talking, ethically compromised hero, an antihero hero. This is the first time in 10 years I read anything that had a really exciting, edgy character who fits my description.”

“Shark,” which centers on a former defense attorney-turned-prosecutor who sometimes engages in less-than-admirable methods to nail criminals, has caused Woods some severe mixed feelings.

He says he isn’t pleased 20th Century Fox failed, in his opinion, to do more to promote the show in its frosh season, especially after it became clear it was going to be a hit.

But he also says he loves the show itself and the people he works with.

“It is satisfying. I put my heart and soul into it,” he says. “The people are so good in the show, the cast and crew, the writers. I don’t look at it as ‘TV doesn’t count.’ I work as hard as anything I’ve done that I’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for.”

Favorite scene: “The final confrontation in jail with the serial killer.”

Where you’d like to see your character go next season: “I’d like to see the character face his own mortality in the sense that his daughter will start to grow older, he’ll realize he’ll be alone in life.”

TV guilty pleasure: ” ’48 Hours.’ I love that show. The acting is so great in the sense that real people try to lie to the cops. You couldn’t act as well as this. Lying criminals are such bad actors.”