|HBO subscribers probably know him best as tortured inmate Miguel Alvarez on the violent prison drama "Oz," but NBC viewers will get a completely different, more law-abiding perspective on Kirk Acevedo in his new role as District Attorney's Investigator Hector Salazar in "Law & Order: Trial by Jury."|
During a recent production break, the Bronx-born actor took some time to talk about his new series, which previews Thursday, March 3, before moving into its regular Friday time period on March 4.
Zap2it: The various "Law & Order" shows emphasize storytelling, with revelations about the series characters unfolding slowly over time. What can you tell us now about your character, Hector Salazar?
Kirk Acevedo: Well, he was a homicide detective who was shot in the line of duty. He's working now for the D.A.'s office as an investigator. In some upcoming episodes you'll see a little tension, a little jealousy, toward the other officers about how he handles the job.
Zap2it: Your association with executive producer Dick Wolf goes way back. You did a guest shot on "Law & Order" eight years ago, then played a variety of roles on his "New York Undercover." Had you ever talked about a series before?
Acevedo: No, never. I think it was simply a matter of a show coming along that I was right for. I had met Dick through ("Oz" creator) Tom Fontana, but that was pretty much it.
Zap2it: You barely had started work on "Trial by Jury" when your castmate Jerry Orbach died. What was it like working with him? After all, you're the last on-screen partner Lennie Briscoe ever had.
Acevedo: It's been a real privilege to work with him, but actually, my heart just goes out to his family. I had the opportunity to work with him for about two months. He was a trouper. That sounds like a cliche, but he was working to the last, pretty much. That's what drove him: He loved work, and it kept him alive.
The first day I met Jerry was at the table read for the first episode. Jerry was sitting there when I sauntered in, the second to arrive, and he goes, "You're early." I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "You from the theater?" I go, "Yes." He says, "Ah, that's why you're early." I'll always remember that.
Zap2it: You were heartbreaking, and a little scary, as Miguel Alvarez in "Oz." Did you wonder how you could ever follow that role?
Acevedo: Tom's a fabulous writer, but every job is different. The experiences I had on "Oz" can't be duplicated. The same is true of "Law & Order," and if I sit around waiting for a piece that will match that intensity, you just can't. It's kind of difficult, every day, reaching the intensity of a grand opera. It's tiring, and when we filmed ["Oz"], we started before dawn, and by the time we left it was night. We never saw the sun outside. I think Tom planned things like that to intensify the experience, so it would feel like a real prison.
Zap2it: You're a member of the so-called Purchase Mafia, the group of actors who graduated from Purchase College, including your "Oz" castmates Edie Falco, Robert Clohessy and Seth Gilliam. Why did you pick that school?
Acevedo: I have to tell you this. I had a high-school buddy who went to Purchase, one of my best friends, and I went to visit him. I went with him to the dining hall and he said, "Just take whatever you want." I said, "Are you serious?" He said, "Yeah, they let us have seconds." So basically I went to college to get the free meals. That's actually a true story. I mean, I got pretty serious about my studies, but I honestly think it's a mistake to go to college right after high school because I don't think you fully appreciate the experience, the opportunities, that it presents. You waste a lot of it.
Zap2it: Did you watch a lot of television growing up?
Acevedo: I lived in front of the TV, basically, when I was little. My mom had to work from 9 to 5, so my older brother took care of me, which meant pretty much that we watched TV. That's when I think I fell in love with the whole medium. Being the child of a single mother, you have to find a way to let out your feelings and express yourself, and I think I've found the perfect way to do that, in acting. It was a way for me to get the attention I missed by not having two parents.
Zap2it: Did you regard any actors as role models?
Acevedo: Not really. I guess as I got older, in high school and college, I started having favorite actors, like Daniel Day-Lewis and the obvious De Niro and Pacino, but not a role model, no.
Zap2it: Was your upbringing fairly stable, or did you go through a time when you could have been "at risk" like some of your characters?
Acevedo: It wasn't a Rockwell painting, I can tell you that. We grew up hard. There wasn't much money, and we moved around, like, 10 times in nine years. My brother is a federal agent serving in Iraq right now, and I'm here doing what I'm doing, so we basically adapted to all of that.
Zap2it: You've said that theater, where you started out, is the most demanding and rewarding medium you have worked in, in many respects. Do you have any plans to do more of that anytime soon?
Acevedo: Sadly, I haven't done a play in about 10 years. Actually, I was in rehearsals to do "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea" when "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" came along. I wish I could have done both, but I had to choose. And I'm confident I made the right decision.