|It’s time to see how much this modern Sherlock Holmes can handle.|
"Endgame," last season’s finale of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," led Detective Robert Goren to the shocking discovery that convicted serial killer Mark Ford Brody (Roy Scheider) was his father. He found this out just before his mother, Frances Goren, (Rita Moreno) died and just days before the killer was executed.
There’s no emotional relief in sight for Goren. This season viewers will learn more about him and his difficult past.
"There will be an intense test of his mental health," said Vincent D’Onofrio, who stars as Goren.
But as the season begins at 10 p.m. Thursday, the emphasis will remain on the crimes, D’Onofrio said. "It’s the same ‘Law & Order’ approach."
The NBC series is moving Thursday to sister network USA, and D’Onofrio, a 48-year-old Brooklyn native, said he appreciates the change. "We’re getting a lot of attention. They’re treating it like it’s a new show."
During the six seasons on NBC, Goren stood out as an avant-garde New York police detective who observes major and minor details and uses all of them to solve cases. His partner at the New York police major cases squad is Detective Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe). D’Onofrio and Erbe alternate episodes with another pair of actors — Alicia Witt and Chris Noth, who play detectives Nola Falacci and Mike Logan.
Back to the character
The Holmes angle has been emphasized heavily for Goren, but D’Onofrio said he didn’t want to repeat himself. "After three seasons, I pulled back on the character. Now in the seventh season, we’re going to bring some of his back story. Like Sherlock Holmes, he has his personal stuff. We’ll learn a lot about his childhood."
D’Onofrio said he likes the fact his character is complex.
"I don’t think of him as a cop," D’Onofrio said. "I rarely take my gun out."
Instead, Goren becomes someone whom witnesses and suspects feel they can confide in, and the murderers lead Goren to their guilt.
"He (Goren) has a lot of kinetic energy," D’Onofrio said.
D’Onofrio, who studied at the Actors Studio and the American Stanislavski Theatre, has a reputation as a "method’ actor. The method is the style in which an actor becomes a character internally and externally.
"The show wouldn’t be the show it is without method acting," D’Onofrio said.
Like other "Law & Order" shows, "Criminal Intent" is filmed in New York City. D’Onofrio said areas where episodes are shot on location, such as Staten Island, Queens or Manhattan, have contributed to the show’s quality, and he added he likes being out on the streets. He also likes the atmosphere on the show’s set.
"The crew and I are Italian; we’re very much like a dysfunctional family. We’re very close. The set is comfortable," D’Onofrio said. "You can be too comfortable. You have to watch yourself (if visitors come by)."
D’Onofrio lives in the New York area and has a daughter, Leila George D’Onofrio, 15, from his marriage with ex-wife Greta Scacchi, and a son, Elias Gene D’Onofrio, 7, from his marriage with ex-wife Carin van der Donk.
The phone interview took place Sept. 11, but D’Onofrio, talking at his home, didn’t discuss how he might observe the sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy.
"I don’t know. I like to keep that stuff private. I don’t like to talk about it," he said softly.
D’Onofrio was more willing to talk about his long TV and movie career.
His films have varied from "The Player" to "Ed Wood" and included "Mystic Pizza," "Stuart Saves His Family," "Men in Black," "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" and Oliver Stone’s "JFK." He was nominated for an Emmy in 1998 for his guest appearance on "Homicide: Life on the Street."
His next theatrical movie role is that of Vinny Manadoro, the father in "The Narrows," set for a 2008 release. It’s the story of Mike Manadoro (Kevin Zegers), a 19-year-old Brooklyn boy torn between two worlds.
One of D’Onofrio’s memorable roles came in "Full Metal Jacket," in which he played an unstable Vietnam War recruit. "(Director) Stanley Kubrick was a very intense guy," D’Onofrio said.
He noted Kubrick allowed actors a lot of freedom. "He depended on us to create the characters."