"When will David James Elliott come back to television? I want to see more of him." E-mails like that come to TVGuide.com regularly, inquiring as to where and when people can again see the former star of JAG, the military/legal drama that ran for 10 seasons on two networks. Starting tonight at 9 pm, Elliott's many fans can enjoy him anew, as he joins the cast of CBS' Close to Home, now in its second season, as ADA James Conlon. The actor recently phoned us while hauling his kids to Disneyland.
TVGuide.com: Ever since I got here a little over a year ago, I get regular e-mails from readers asking, "What is David James Elliott up to?"
David James Elliott: And you thought I was a nobody. [Laughs] I was taking a break, man. I worked a little doing a great film called The Man Who Lost Himself....
TVGuide.com: And are now running a shuttle to Disneyland?
Elliott: And now I'm running the shuttle to Disneyland, exactly. Hey, I gotta earn a living.
TVGuide.com: I was excited to report to your fans back in January that you had a pilot in the works, Sixty Minute Man.
Elliott: Yeah, it was a good show, too. Jon Avnet (Up Close & Personal) directed it, it was a well-written Graham Yost/Chris Brancato project, everybody loved it, and for whatever reason, ABC decided not to pick it up.
TVGuide.com: What was the premise again?
Elliott: It was a guy who had an hour stolen from him every day. It takes him a while to clue into it, and it turns out that it's either our government or some evil faction that's behind it. They put a chip in his brain and for an hour each day, they put him on a mission, and he would come out of the experience not knowing what had happened. He was, like, superhuman for an hour.
TVGuide.com: And would he come back with bruises and cuts, not knowing what happened?
Elliott: Yeah, he'd be like, "What the hell...?!"
TVGuide.com: Instead, you're back spouting legal jargon on Close to Home.
Elliott: Yeah, they came to me and said, "Would you be interested in doing this?" It was under the [Jerry] Bruckheimer banner, which was interesting to me immediately, the character was rich, and I didn't have the burden of carrying the entire show. I was promised I would not be a scheduling casualty. Conlon creates a lot of conflict and animosity. He's a Manhattan DA who realizes that Manhattan may not be the fastest track to chasing down his political goals, so he transfers to Indiana, where he's second in command. But he brings with him his New York timetables and New York attitude, so he's immediately perceived as abrasive.
TVGuide.com: What's his initial dynamic with Jennifer Finnigan and Kimberly Elise's characters?
Elliott: They just don't know what to do with this guy, but he's their boss, so there's only so much they can say and do. They're quite flummoxed, and it takes them some time to realize how things are going to be done from now on.
TVGuide.com: Will the show be playing some sparks, ultimately, between Conlon and Annabeth?
Elliott: I don't know about that. You're going to have to ask them. So far, nothing. It's tender ground, since her husband was killed in the [season finale], so they probably don't want somebody jumping right in there immediately. Audiences tend to be sensitive to those kinds of things.
TVGuide.com: Fans are a little concerned that they've changed a lot of the things that were unique to Close to Home, by killing off the husband, bringing in new characters....
Elliott: Well, they needed to. From what I understand, the show was almost canceled, so they changed it to give it more of an ensemble feel. They brought in me as well as Jon Seda and Cress Williams, who'll be doing most of the police work. Last year, I believe, they had lawyers running in with guns, which was completely unrealistic. And they have a new headwriter, Eric Overmeyer (Law & Order), who's a very talented guy. I think it's a much better show all around, with the changes they have made.
TVGuide.com: How would you compare Conlon to JAG's Harm?
Elliott: Well, they're both highly driven, but Harm operated on more of a moral plane, he was more caught up in doing the right thing for the right reason. Conlon is caught up in doing the right thing, but he's....
TVGuide.com: More brash?
Elliott: Harm could be pretty brash, too, but Conlon is brash for different reasons. Harm would be up for maybe doing things someone else's way; with Conlon, we're going to do it his way. Conlon could be perceived as being more of an egomaniac. Harm had more humility.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think JAG was so resonant with its audience?
Elliott: I think the times speak to what's going on. When we started, we were under the Clinton administration, which was downsizing the military, so we teetered on the edge of disaster and certainly teetered on the edge of obscurity for a long time. We clawed our way up to the spot we eventually [achieved]. We were dumped from one network [NBC] and picked up as a mid-season replacement on CBS, and wound up with a 10-year total run. After 9/11, the show certainly spiked, as people realized, "Hey, the military is not defunct. It's pretty necessary." Before that, our fan base was probably largely people who had been in the military, or older veterans who remembered a time when a man in uniform was the greatest thing you could be. Plus, we dealt with relationships. That's what gets me tuning back in to a show, to see the relationships. That's something we didn't do initially, but I pushed the producers to deal with it. You've got to know about the characters.
TVGuide.com: Plus, Catherine Bell and yourself weren't entirely bad to look at, viewers probably found.
Elliott: Yeah, everybody found a little something that kept them coming back. We had some explosions and jets, a little bit of everything!
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