|Although he hasn't done it in a while, Chris Noth is ready to uphold "Law & Order" again.|
After his "Sex and the City" run as Mr. Big, the actor is reprising his role from the earliest years of the New York-set NBC crime-drama franchise by joining the second spinoff series, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
He returned as Detective Mike Logan in the season premiere, and his first full episode airs Sunday, Oct. 2, with Annabella Sciorra as new partner Carolyn Barek. They'll alternate with the existing "Criminal Intent" duo, Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe as investigators Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames.
Last season, Noth guest-starred on the show while D'Onofrio reported medical problems. If the new split between them is seen as a solution, Noth doesn't dismiss that. "Let me be honest," he says, "I could never do a series the way Vince has done this for four years. He's been carrying an hour every week, and it's too grueling. I'm not 29 anymore, so what we're doing here is giving each other a break. It's a very civilized way to do a series."
After leaving the original "Law & Order" in 1995, Noth brought Logan back in the 1998 TV movie "Exiled," for which he helped devise the story. He says the film "provided a lot more room to explore the character than a series does. An odd thing happened, and it's called 'creative freedom.' It's usually very tightly controlled at 'Law & Order,' so the movie was a lot of fun for me."
Noth admits bringing Logan back weekly is a different story. "I had to think about it long and hard," he says. "I still think about it. When I first did 'Law & Order,' it was the most innovative cop drama around. Now you've got 10 shows on the air that have the same style. Everybody sort of acts the same, and I think that's wrong. At the time we did it, it was the new game in town. No one had explored what it was like to get inside a New York detective's head in solving a crime or getting a criminal, without going into his personal life. Now it's old-hat."
Adding something fresh is the dilemma for Noth, "and I don't know if I've solved it. Vince has established [Goren] as a sort of super-detective, a modern Sherlock Holmes, and Logan is emphatically not that. I think that with Annabella Sciorra's character, he's getting back to what you saw in the first five years of 'Law & Order.' They're also slowly filling in the details of who Logan is 10 years later."
If viewers expect echoes of Mr. Big, they may be in for a letdown. Despite his added fame as Carrie's (Sarah Jessica Parker) on-and-off suitor on "Sex and the City," Noth claims such a strong identification is "troublesome to me as an actor. It's just a part. If people want to pretend that's the real you when you're walking down the street or doing anything else, there's nothing I can do about that. 'Sex and the City' was such a huge event, it's mind-blowing how it stuck in people's consciousness. They've come at me in various ways about that character, which really startles me."
As he gets back into the "Law & Order" world, Noth vows to be vigilant about the quality level for which the franchise has long been known. "So many other franchises mimic it," he says, "and I think that's the problem with TV today. Good stuff gets mimicked by mediocre stuff, and the audience sees it all as the same. You wonder if anyone notices the distinction. And that's a little scary."