Country crooner Billy Ray Cyrus initially felt like belting out another chorus of his hit "Achy Breaky Heart" when he took a break from singing to star in his own TV series, Doc (airing Sundays at 8 pm/ET on PAX). "The first thing they did is fire the acting coach I'd hired," Cyrus laughs. "They just wanted me to be myself. Then I discovered that playing a character is like making music: Every scene has a rhythm that you have to find, just like a song."
Cyrus feels a certain kinship with his Clint Cassidy character, an earnest country doctor struggling to begin anew at a Big Apple hospital. "The doc lives the way I've always tried to live my life," he suggests. "You abide by the laws of what's right and wrong; you base your life on the Ten Commandments. I'm also naive and trusting just like he is."
He's also proud of the fact that Doc has found ratings success without any hype. "I have not been on Leno, Letterman, Rosie, Oprah or Regis," he says. "We're getting the numbers without that kind of promotion. I think the series is popular because it's offering people something positive in a very dark world. There's a lot of stuff out there a family can't sit down and watch together."
With 13 episodes under his belt, Cyrus feels more confident about his acting but not his medical expertise. "The hardest part for me is the doctoring," he chuckles. "If I'm looking in somebody's ear or throwing around medical terms, I'm very uncomfortable. But my own doctor in Nashville has been watching the show, and he's giving me good reviews. He thinks I'm doing OK."
Sounds like Cyrus is also trying not to take his image as a hunky country star too seriously. "In the first episode," he recalls, "they had 'Achy Breaky Heart' playing in the background of a scene and they wanted me say, 'I love that song.' I said, 'Why don't I say I hate it? That will be funnier.' And that's the line they used. So I'm learning to make fun of myself and enjoy it."