Wide-eyed actor Ethan Embry — who played Reese Witherspoon's gay best pal in Sweet Home Alabama — is back fighting crime on TV. On his last (short-lived) series, Fox's Freakylinks, he solved paranormal mysteries. Now, he's going back to basics, playing Det. Frank Smith on ABC's Dragnet remake (debuting Sunday at 10 pm/ET).
As exec producer Dick Wolf pointed out to reporters at the Television Critics Assoc. press tour in Hollywood: "Nobody under 35 has seen the original show, unless they're up at 3 in the morning, stoned or drinking, watching TV Land."
"Which is a surprise that I haven't seen it!" quipped the 24-year-old Embry.
Still, everyone's at least heard of Dragnet, which starred Jack Webb as no-nonsense Sgt. Joe Friday, and immortalized his signature tagline — "Just the facts, ma'am" — in American pop culture.
"I knew Joe Friday was the lead," Embry sheepishly said. "I knew his badge number was 714. I had heard the song a few times, but didn't tie it to Dragnet until I saw the first cut [of our show]. I'm like, 'Wait. That's the theme song? Dum-da-dum-dum. Are you kidding me? That's Dragnet? I thought it was, like, Mission: Impossible or something!'"
Embry was just glad to be reteamed with Married... With Children's Ed O'Neill, who plays the new Sgt. Friday. The duo had co-starred in 1991's Dutch, when he was a boy of 12. "He taught me everything," Embry grinned. "It's really easy to play somebody who looks up to him, coming from that."