After the cancellation of this fall's New Orleans-set cop show K-Ville, Anthony Anderson headed north to join NBC's venerable Law & Order (Wednesdays at 10 pm/ET, NBC). The formerly funny actor (Kangaroo Jack, anyone?) plays Detective Kevin Bernard, who will replace Ed Green (the departing Jesse L. Martin) and partner up with Cyrus Lupo (Jeremy Sisto). Tonight marks Anderson's first episode — and Martin's last.
TVGuide.com: What was your first week on the Law & Order set like?
Anthony Anderson: It was great. I stepped into a well-oiled machine that has been running for the last 18 years, and they just welcomed me with open arms.
TVGuide.com: How often do you pinch yourself to see if you've really become a cast member on one of TV's most iconic series?
Anderson: It's crazy. Every waking moment I walk this earth I'm blessed. Growing up in Compton there were only three things I wanted to do: Play football for the Dallas Cowboys, be a lawyer and be an actor. At 9 I realized that if I became an actor I could be all three of those things.
TVGuide.com: Did you have any role models around the neighborhood?
Anderson: My parents. I looked at what was going on around me in my community, and I realized that wasn't the life for me because I saw what that got you — you'd either be dead or in prison. I had bigger dreams and aspirations.
TVGuide.com: Have you been a Law & Order fan over the years?
Anderson: I've been a fan of the entire franchise. I played a detective on SVU in '06, who temporarily partnered up with Stabler. [Creator] Dick Wolf was very pleased with what I did on that episode, and I thought I might have been back. I ended up getting my own show on Fox (K-Ville), which was a casualty of the writers' strike, but then Dick Wolf gave me a call, and here we are.
TVGuide.com: Was there a party for Jesse during his last week?
Anderson: We all got together at a watering hole near the Chelsea studios and had drinks after his last day. I appreciated the invite because I'd been a fan of Jesse's for years. When he first came onto the show, I was like, "That's a great brother right there, a great actor." I told him that and we just drank and ate and laughed.
TVGuide.com: Was he emotional or cool?
Anderson: Oh, pretty cool and upbeat. He's moving on, and he's really close to getting the biopic of Marvin Gaye made. I asked him what he was going to do now that he's off work, and he said, "I'm going to sleep and travel."
TVGuide.com: So who's Kevin Bernard?
Anderson: He's IAB, internal affairs.
TVGuide.com: The rat squad?
Anderson: Yeah, but he was forced into it. All Bernard really wanted to do was become a homicide detective, and they told him, "OK, you'll get that chance after you serve two years in IAB." So I'm investigating a shooting where a suspect died, and it looks as if it may have been a vengeful act by Green. He has some things to hide, so he's not forthcoming with information. It's a great departing episode for Jesse and a great introduction of Detective Bernard.
TVGuide.com: Lupo can't be thrilled with a partner from internal affairs.
Anderson: With any new relationship there are trust issues, but especially with a new partner who was part of internal affairs. He's trying to figure me out, and I'm trying to shake the stench of the rat squad off my back.
TVGuide.com: What's the major difference between Green and Bernard?
Anderson: They're very similar. Bernard is a real together detective, he is smooth. But there are some cracks in his exterior that will be exposed throughout the season.
TVGuide.com: Was it special filming K-Ville in post-Katrina New Orleans?
Anderson: Just shining the light on conditions there and having a crew that had been displaced was special. Our show was enabling them to come home again. That's the part that was disheartening for me — that we weren't going to be there doing what we were doing for the community.
TVGuide.com: What did you mean when you said "I'm gonna be the black Robin Williams"?
Anderson: [Laughs] I think I said "I am the black Robin Williams minus the cocaine." You look at what some of these comic guys have done with their careers.... Robin's dramatic turn started with Good Morning, Vietnam and then Dead Poets Society, so that's what that was in reference to. I'm such of a fan of Robin Williams' and I believe we have some of the same sensibilities in terms of comedy and tone and just the energy we bring to these characters.
TVGuide.com: After your share of comic films, you've become the go-to cop or, as on The Shield, the go-to thug. Was that your goal?
Anderson: Comedy is something that just comes second nature to me. I was able to work with some of the best: Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Bernie Mac and Jim Carrey. The films were hugely successful, but I didn't want to be typecast as the funny guy. I wanted to show a different side. It was a calculated plan. The difficult part was getting the opportunity to portray these characters because all I had been known for was my comedy. The character of Antoine Mitchell on The Shield wasn't given to me — I fought for that.
TVGuide.com: Any plans to make us laugh again?
Anderson: Of course. It's just that I was so busy trying to show what else I can do that people think I've forsaken the comedic world. That's still who I am, and that's what I want to do. I just haven't had the opportunity lately to do it.
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