Just as a hung-over couple wonders what the fallout will be from their drunken vow-exchange at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel, the cast and crew of NBC's Las Vegas have to wonder what sort of impact several cast additions and subtractions, as well as glitzy new set-piece attractions, will have on the series' future. On board for Season 3 (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET): The Practice's Lara Flynn Boyle as Monica Mancuso, the newly renovated Montecito's savvy, sexy new owner; Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That) as Penny Posin, a potential new love interest for Josh Duhamel's Danny McCoy; and a massive (40,000 square-foot) new casino set as, well, a massive casino. Now missing from the action: original cast member Marsha Thomason, whose Nessa always seemed to get the short end of the screen-time stick.
"It feels like a new show almost — it is different — but the vibe on the set is great," Duhamel tells TVGuide.com, assaying the various changes made over the summer. "Lara Flynn has been a great addition, Rachael has been a great addition.... Of course it's sad to lose Marsha, but that kind of stuff happens, I guess. We're just trying to make the best of it.
"Everybody feels really good about the show," the actor continues, "and we're really happy with the first five scripts that we have done so far. We've done a pretty good job of finding the balance between funny and dramatic — especially since the second half of last year, when we really found our beat."
Duhamel insists that his Las Vegas run hasn't made him any sort of major "hero" when visiting the real-life gambling mecca. "I'm still a very small fish there compared to the big 'ballers," he humbly admits, but he adds, "I do get recognized a lot when I go there, probably more than I do in, say, Pittsburgh."
After all, it's not like the cast, which tapes the show on a Los Angeles soundstage, does their thing there on location, beneath the bright lights and bling-bling-blinging slots. "We get invited to a lot of events out there, but unfortunately, because of the schedule, we're not able to make a lot of them," he reports. "But we will be there on the 24th [of September] to celebrate our second-season DVD release, so that will be fun."
When Duhamel does get to hang in Vegas, you're not likely to find him at the tables. "I don't gamble much. I usually like to go for a boxing match or the shows, or to see some of my friends who live out there. And one of my favorite places for a quiet weekend is the Green Valley Ranch; that's always fun." As such, he maintains, "I don't have a lot of crazy stories" to share — or, rather, hide. (Judging by his tone, we do not entirely believe him.)
Until recently Duhamel was busy not eyeballing would-be cheats through an eye in the sky, but backpacking on location through a rather unglitzy Brazilian jungle for his role in the upcoming action-thriller Turistas. Sounds like a far cry from Win a Date with Tad Hamilton. "Yeah, it's quite a bit different," Duhamel agrees, laughing. "I mean, we'll be lucky to get the R rating. I'm really excited about it. It starts out a visually beautiful movie and then, about halfway through, it takes a turn that is... pretty disturbing."