While the CSIs and Without a Trace get all the glory, CBS' Numbers (Fridays at 10 pm/ET) has quietly tallied up an avid following of its own, as Rob Morrow's FBI agent cracks cases with the help of his mathematical-genius brother, played by David Krumholtz. Deservedly so, the show has drawn the attention of guest stars such as film vet Lou Diamond Phillips, who this week reprises his April 2005 guest-starring role of Agent Ian Edgerton — with the emphasis on "edge," he is quick to point out.
TVGuide.com: So, you're returning to Numbers as Agent Edgerton....
Lou Diamond Phillips: Edge-erton. I think they like having it as Edge-erton, that way whenever we spin off my series we can call it "Edge." Just joking!
TVGuide.com: Was this a case of you loving the show so much the first time... or vice versa?
Phillips: First of all, I love the show and was really thrilled to go on it. It was one of those "small world" things: Alex Gansa is the show runner, and he had been the show runner on [the short-lived supernatural series] Wolf Lake. And I'd actually done a film with Ken Sanzell called Lone Hero, and Ken basically created the character of Edgerton. [I'm a] big fan of Rob Morrow's, had known him in passing from over the years but never had a chance to work with him. Love David Krumholtz. I'm really impressed with the cast, so the first time I was on it, I was very excited and everybody was saying, "Hey, man, we'd love to have you back." But after that first episode, I was thinking, "Man, Edgerton's field of expertise [snipers] is so narrow, it might be hard. How are we going to integrate him into any other story lines?" When the call came a month or so ago, they said, "We found a way to do it." Strangely enough, I had worked with the director, Jefery Levy, before, so it's like old-home week.
TVGuide.com: They seem to like guest stars who ruffle the feathers of the regulars, like Krumholtz's Charlie.
Phillips: Exactly. And what's nice is they really wrote to Edgerton, they expanded his repertoire, gave him a bit of a backstory.... He seems to be this go-to guy in the Bureau, a jack-of-all-trades.
TVGuide.com: What is he helping Morrow's team with this time?
Phillips: What's really cool is that I'm actually on a case entirely unrelated to the one they're working on, and as they unravel the clues to this poisoner that they're trying to catch, it leads them to a fugitive that I'm tracking. We end up joining forces to either catch the poisoner who's trying to get to the fugitive, or find the fugitive who will lead them to their poisoner.
TVGuide.com: Does he clash with Charlie again?
Phillips: No, [in the April episode] I learned to respect him and his abilities and vice versa, so we actually start this episode fairly friendly, but there's still that "old-school" mentality where I track people using the broken-twigs and disturbed-earth method, while he comes up with a graph showing the probabilities of where the fugitive might show up next. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Is Numbers the type of show you like to watch?
Phillips: Oh, absolutely. It's not your typical cop show with chase scene, bad guy, shootout. It's mentally stimulating and interesting to see how each week they manage to integrate what might be a contrived setup. "How do we work this math whiz into solving a different kind of crime each week?" And yet they manage to do it, organically and creatively and smartly.
TVGuide.com: When you get pitched roles these days, is it usually the "loyal soldier" or the bad guy?
Phillips: Fortunately for me, I'm getting both.
TVGuide.com: Man, in Courage Under Fire you were evil personified.
Phillips: Yeah, well, you can't shoot America's sweetheart [Meg Ryan] and get away with it! [Laughs] It's nice because I get to play heartfelt and sincere characters, and every once in a while I get to be down and dirty. For television especially, I find out that I end up being the veteran cop, the guy with the rough exterior and the heart of gold.
TVGuide.com: In 24, you were in the Season 1/Dennis Hopper story line.
Phillips: Yeah, yeah. I've reached this point in my career where it's like, "You want to work with Rob Morrow and David Krumholtz on a show that has Judd Hirsch and Peter MacNicol?" Sight unseen, I'd say yes. That's what happened with 24. Kiefer [Sutherland] and I had done like five projects together. I got this phone call saying, "OK, there's no script yet but it's you, Kiefer and Dennis Hopper in a bunker for two episodes." I went, "I'm in!"
TVGuide.com: I remember that 24's first-season guest-casting sent the message that they meant business.
Phillips: And what I loved about it was that after two episodes, they shot me in the back. No one saw that coming. I have this miniseries with [writer-producer] Dean Devlin coming up, and Dean said that when he saw that episode, he knew the gloves were off on 24, that there were no rules and anyone could get wasted at any time.
TVGuide.com: Tell me more about that Sci Fi Channel miniseries, The Triangle.
Phillips: Man, it was such a huge undertaking by Dean and [writer-producer] Bryan Singer. Dean has been a dear friend for many years — I knew him back when he was an actor. He and Bryan came up with this story line about the Bermuda Triangle. Much like the two of them, it's this very smart and scientific and yet really trippy look at the phenomenon that occurs there.
TVGuide.com: Does the miniseries try to explain it?
Phillips: To a certain extent. That's part of the setup: Sam Neill plays a shipping magnate whose ships keep disappearing, so he puts together this team of experts, including Eric Stoltz, Catherine Bell, Bruce Davison and Michael E. Rogers, to uncover the root cause of what's going on. Meanwhile, in my story line, I'm a Greenpeace activist who is trying to save this whale in the middle of the Triangle when my boat goes down and I'm the only survivor. When I get back to shore, there are aspects of my life that I don't remember, and I think I'm losing my mind. It's very much like the Richard Dreyfuss character in Close Encounters, because I come out of the Triangle having been changed and I can't figure it out, yet everyone around me is like, "Dude, you're losing it." This guy just gets broken down psychologically until, eventually, the story line of the investigators intersects with mine.
TVGuide.com: Would you headline another TV series if the right one came along?
Phillips: Oh, in a heartbeat, man. In a heartbeat. I was joking earlier about the Numbers thing but I've made it no secret that that's the kind of cast I'd love to be involved with. If my 24 came along, I'd jump on it, as evidenced by Wolf Lake. For me, it obviously starts with the writing and the creative team, and one of the reasons I did Wolf Lake was because I didn't want to do your typical cop show or doctor show; I have too many friends with shows like that already, and I don't want to be compared to my buddy Noah Wyle or Kiefer or Matt LeBlanc. So when I'm looking at TV, I am trying to find something that is a little unique.
TVGuide.com: Let's flash back to 1987-88, a period during which you had La Bamba, Stand and Deliver and Young Guns all hit theaters. What do you remember about that time?
Phillips: That was like getting shot out of a rocket, man. I got discovered for La Bamba, and that and Stand and Deliver were these tiny little films that nobody blinks twice at — La Bamba was a $6-million indie, and Stand and Deliver was a million-dollar indie made originally for PBS. So I had no delusions of "I'm a Hollywood movie star now," I was just thrilled to be a working actor. But stepping on the set of Young Guns, that was a moment of arrival for me. When I got off the plane and there was Emilio [Estevez] and Kiefer and Charlie [Sheen], all these actors I had seen in major films — that's when I thought, "OK, now I've arrived. I'm part of a movement, if you will." I just didn't realize I'd be the ethnic member of the Brat Pack, but hey!