Former Homicide: Life on the Street Emmy winner Andre Braugher was reluctant to return to primetime TV, in the ABC medical drama Gideon's Crossing, debuting Oct. 10 (10 pm/ET). So reluctant, executive producer Paul Attanasio didn't think he'd be interested.

"There wasn't really any opportunity to get him for this," offers Attanasio, who was behind the 1997 hit mob movie Donnie Brasco, "because he had told everyone he would never do series television again." Luckily, Braugher read Attanasio's script and was blown away. "I just think there's nobody who's as fun to write for," admits the auteur, who wrote the pilot with Braugher in mind. "He's my favorite actor."

In his latest TV role, Braugher plays a doctor overseeing residents (played by Eric Dane, Russell Hornsby, Ravi Kapoor, Sophie Keller, Hamish Linklater and Rhona Mitra) at a teaching hospital. The series, explains Attanasio, focuses on "how the experience of illness changes people's lives, and how a doctor, because of his intimate relationship with his patients, finds his own life changed by those experiences."

Comparisons to ER are inevitable, but Braugher's co-stars insist Gideon's Crossing will be taking a more thoughtful approach. "I think ER, as wonderful a show as it is, is just sort of slanted toward the fast action," Linklater observes. "And this is more traditional, more character-driven, story-driven. Also, the shows are based on true stories." Dane adds that "not a lot of the show takes place in the ER. This is not about the ailment; this is about the person behind it."

Linklater also says that his character, Dr. Bruce Cherry, can be counted on to provide some comic relief. "He is the worst doctor in the hospital," he says. "Everybody else saves people; he ends up not saving people. I saved one patient in the first three episodes I've seen so far, and that was a dog." Does Linklater find it frustrating to play such an incompetent character? "It's wicked hard," he quips. "But I'm a really well-trained actor, so I can make it up