Courtney B. Vance, Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Most actors would kill for a regular role on a series — particularly any piece of the criminally successful Law & Order
franchise. But initially, Courtney B. Vance
was skeptical when L&O
creator Dick Wolf
offered him the part of Assistant District Attorney Ron Carver on Law & Order: Criminal Intent
(on NBC, Sundays at 9 pm/ET) back in 2001. Not only was Vance reluctant to tie himself down to one project, he didn't like the idea of leaving his wife, Angela Bassett
, back in Los Angeles while he shot the show in New York City. Eventually Vance signed on, and this past January, L&O: CI
reached a major milestone: 100 episodes. The residuals alone could put a kid through college, which is a good thing considering Vance and Bassett welcomed twins via a surrogate seven weeks ago.
TVGuide.com: First off, how the hell do you do it all?
Courtney B. Vance: [Laughs] I honestly don't know. I've got baby brain, I'm jet-lagged, and I don't know when I'll get my rest today because we're doing a rebuild on our garage and I'm dealing with contractors.
TVGuide.com: It must be tough balancing your professional and personal lives.
Vance: Taking the role [of Carver] was a major family decision. Angela and I live in L.A. so I knew I would be flying back and forth across the country a lot since we don't go longer than three weeks without seeing each other. And we're always on the phone, every night and a couple of times a day, touching base.
TVGuide.com: Aww, you guys sound like newlyweds! Didn't you two meet back when you both attended the Yale School of Drama?
Vance: We knew of each other then, but I was coming in as she was going out. After school [in the late '80s] we were in contact because we were both doing August Wilson plays on Broadway. She was in Joe Turner's Come and Gone and I was in Fences.
TVGuide.com: Is that when you hooked up?
Vance: We went on one date around that time but it didn't work out because we were both intensely shy. We got together years later in Los Angeles.
TVGuide.com: Although you've done plenty of guest appearances and TV-movies, CI is your first regular small-screen gig. Were you reluctant to join a series?
Vance: A series is a whole thing. All of a sudden you're a "TV actor," and I'd been doing films. So it had to be a project I really wanted to do. I had done a couple of episodes [of the original L&O], so we go back, the show and I.
TVGuide.com: Didn't you play that Wall Street trader who killed his boss?
Vance: Yup. The episode was called "Rage."
TVGuide.com: That one was classic! How did Wolf ultimately convince you to join CI?
Vance: He just said it would be something that we would all be pretty proud of — and here we are five years later. It's been a wonderful ride. The people working on the show are really extraordinary.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of the people on the show, what was it like getting two news ones — Chris Noth and Annabella Sciorra — earlier this season?
Vance: Doing a one-hour series is a lot of work — it's like making a little film every eight days. And it's not like you do one episode and then start another. You're prepping the second one while you're filming the first. It was four years before Chris and Annabella came on to give Kathryn [Erbe] and Vincent [D'Onofrio] a break. It was grueling for those two, because they were in just about every scene. Now they've got a few days off to actually breathe and then come back rejuvenated. It has worked out really, really well. Chris has a wonderful energy. He likes to have fun and joke around. He and Annabella love each other, too. The seamlessness of the transition [between the two sets of leads] speaks right to the genius of Dick Wolf.
TVGuide.com: Got any dirt on Olivia d'Abo's devious recurring character, Nicole Wallace? Will she be back any time soon?
Vance: Honestly, I don't know anything and I don't want to know until I've opened a script. I've got plenty of other stuff to do.
TVGuide.com: You started your career in theater and earned two Tony nominations for your work on Broadway. Is there a return to the stage in your future?
Vance: Actually, my wife and I did a play together last summer at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis called His Girl Friday, adapted from the movie [of the same name]. It was an incredible romp filled with physical comedy. Angela was a force of nature. We'd never worked together before — we were both in the movie Panther but didn't have any scenes together. It was an amazing opportunity and the perfect environment for us to get our feet wet. She hadn't been on stage since she did Macbeth with Alec Baldwin at the Public Theater [in New York] about five years ago, and I hadn't done theater since Six Degrees of Separation at Lincoln Center [in 1990]. It was magical for me to actually watch Angela acting and think, "Wait a minute, I'm on stage with her, and we're doing this together, and that's my wife!"
TVGuide.com: You guys did that show at the right time. Now that you're parents, you'll never have a spare moment again.
Vance: That may be true, but we'll take the kids any day. We'd been trying for a number of years to have children and the fact that we got two, a boy and a girl... well, not only are we ecstatic, but our entire families — especially our mothers — are over the moon.
What's the real reason viewers love crime shows like Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Get a clue.