"You know, kids, a wise man once said...." So started many an ill-spoken piece of advice from patriarch Mike to his brood in The Brady Bunch Movie and its sequels. Long before and ever since he sported that memorable perm, journeyman actor Gary Cole has tackled a wide range of TV and feature roles, even earning a cult following with his turn as boss man Bill Lumbergh in 1999's Office Space. Now Cole is breaking away from camp and satire — and packing serious heat — as Conrad Rose, the leader of an elite team of lawmen tracking Los Angeles' 100 most dangerous fugitives in Wanted, TNT's new crime drama (premiering Sunday at 10pm/ET).
TVGuide: You’ve got to be excited; this is your first badass role in a while, isn’t it?
Gary Cole: It’s the first ongoing dramatic thing I’ve done in a while, yeah. The West Wing [where he had a recurring run as semi-dim Vice President "Bingo" Bob Russell] was a drama, but my character was kind of humorous at times, or annoying. Whatever you want to call it.
TVGuide.com: Was landing Wanted a calculated move, to kind of dodge getting pigeonholed as family-man Mike Brady?
Cole: I don’t really do anything by design except make choices from whatever’s available. This came along, I liked the writer, I liked the writing, and from there it all worked out. But I wasn’t thinking, "I better do something to change perceptions" or something like that.
TVGuide.com: Do Brady Bunch fans stop you on the street and ask you to mangle a homily?
Cole: If I get spotted, it’s not usually for that, it’s for Office Space. Brady Bunch was a while ago and the hair is a big throw. I literally walked by my sister on the [Brady] set wearing the wig and she walked right past me.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think Office Space became such a cult hit?
Cole: I never worked in an office. All the jobs I had before were service jobs or at factories, or I was a bartender for a while, stuff like that. But that environment, the workspace, those cubicles, meetings, consultants, memos…that all exists. So as exaggerated as some of those characters may have been, people identified with them. [Writer/director] Mike [Judge] is just a really sharp writer and creator. He had a clear idea of what he wanted to do, and did it.
TVGuide.com: So you’ve never been in the type of job where you had a boss who was as clueless as Bill?
Cole: I don’t know how "clueless" Bill is as opposed to just, um, "moving in his own ZIP code." [Laughs] I kind of had somebody in my mind when I was doing it, but basically it all came from Mike because Lumbergh’s based on a cartoon.
Cole: You know, I didn’t [have expectations] because I was straight out of Chicago. I hadn't been to California since my parents brought us to Disneyland when I was 9. So I did the reading, went back home and didn’t think much about it.
TVGuide.com: Besides, in the end you got to play a lawman with a much smaller dry-cleaning bill.
Cole: I like what I’ve seen [on Wanted]. All the elements seem to be working. I like the writing; I like everybody in the cast and what they’ve done in post [-production] with the style of the show, the way it’s scored and everything else. But all you can do is do the show the best you can, then walk away and let the audience decide. They’ll either show up or they won’t, and we’ll get a good phone call or a bad phone call. I don’t invest much in expectations anymore.
TVGuide.com: After all, you've been pleasantly surprised with a lot of your projects.
Cole: "Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed," and then when something does happen, it’s gravy. Otherwise you risk becoming a deflated balloon.