It's been a lonely job playing divorced firefighter Jimmy Doherty on NBC's Third Watch, confesses portrayer Eddie Cibrian.

"It was tough in the beginning because my character didn't have a partner," the actor tells TV Guide Online. "I'm the only one on the show who doesn't have a partner. Everybody else gets to drive and talk, which is where you find out a lot about the characters."

The former soap star (The Young and the Restless, Sunset Beach) says he would have liked Jimmy to open up more in the first season, but realizes that his solitary alter-ego poses a challenge for the show's writers. "I was just looking forward to every script thinking, 'Okay, what are you going to do with me now?'"

Cibrian is also the first to admit that Jimmy has been a lousy ex-husband and father. "He was very immature, he had a gambling problem, he didn't really know what responsibility was as far as taking care of his kid," he says. But fans are wondering if Jimmy will change his ways after getting shot in last season's finale.

"As far as [him] getting back together with [ex-wife Kim, played by Kim Raver] or not, I don't know," he says. One thing is certain about the future of Third Watch, Cibrian points out. The show's cast and crew "worked out a lot of kinks last season and [executive producer] John Wells figured out what works and what doesn't."

Having real firefighters on the set has been a big help, Cibrian says. "On their time off they come and do the show," he says. "So [they give me advice] all the time: 'This is what we would do. This is what a cool fireman would do. This is what a not-so-cool fireman would do. Which one do you want to be?'"