Stacy Keach, <EM>ER</EM> Stacy Keach, ER
Stacy Keach has had a long and idiosyncratic career. How many actors have starred in both a John Huston masterpiece (Fat City) and Cheech and Chong's

Up in Smoke? His TV résumé alone stretches from long-ago iconic Westerns like Sugarfoot and Cheyenne through The New Mike Hammer to Prison Break. Now Keach is adding to his credits with an arc on ER, a show known for gaining its guest stars batches of awards. Tonight at 10 pm/ET marks his second appearance as Mike Gates, the hard-drinking father of John Stamos' paramedic-turned-doc. Keach took some time out to talk to TVGuide.com.

TVGuide.com: It was great to see you again as former Warden Henry Pope in Prison Break not long ago.
Stacy Keach:
I love doing that show.

TVGuide.com: Despite helping the sort-of-good guys, Pope hasn't yet died. Could he pop up again?
Keach:
I called Matt Olmstead, one of the writer/producers, and asked him, "What's the future of Henry Pope?" He said, "As long as you are still breathing, we can bring you back for no other reason than to kill you." Now that I'm an accomplice, the chances are very good that my demise is forthcoming.

TVGuide.com: Once again, this time on ER, you're playing a less-than-ideal dad. We remember the hard-drinking Ken Titus fondly. Are you particularly suited for that role?
Keach:
For the less-than-ideal dad? I certainly hope not in life! But yes. That and nasty drunks. They want a nasty drunk, they go, "Get Keach." I think it probably stems back to my early days when I did a movie called Fat City. I was a washed-up boxer who drank. And actually my first film role was a drifter drunk — Jake Blount in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. There is a certain amount of trepidation in terms of typecasting here, but hey, I've got two beautiful teenagers, one is in college and the other is on the threshold, so I've got to keep working. [Laughs]

TVGuide.com: Clearly, Tony's father drinks a lot. Who else is he?
Keach:
He was a fireman. There was an event whereby I could have saved a young rookie who died in a fire and didn't. In "Light's Out," my third episode [airing April 26], Tony says, "You were a second-rate captain who got demoted because the other guys wouldn't go into a fire with you. You killed him. The only way Mom could escape you was to die herself."

TVGuide.com: That's pretty harsh, isn't it?
Keach:
Oh, yeah. Then they get into this huge fight, and he beats me up. Leaves me bleeding in the street. That's the last we see of Mike. I suspect they'll probably resuscitate him at some point in the future. They can't leave it there. Tony wouldn't have resolved that relationship.

TVGuide.com: What terrible thing does Mike do to make Tony so angry he assaults his own father?
Keach:
He's drunk while he's with Sarah, the young girl who lives with Tony. The question was, "Were they driving or did they walk around the corner to buy a video?" The implication from Tony is that he was driving.

TVGuide.com: You have a great deal of experience playing drunks. What's the trick to doing it right?
Keach:
You don't play it like this [slurring his words], that's the worst way to play a drunk. You're sober. You're absolutely fine! That's the trick in playing 'em. A lot of young actors go all slurry and wobbly. That's there, but then what you do is try to straighten it out. And that makes it all the drunker.

TVGuide.com: Have you been an ER fan over the years?
Keach:
Oh, yeah. Michael Crichton, who created the show, is an old buddy of mine. We go way back. I'm just thrilled that the show's such a success for him. 

TVGuide.com: It has sure lured a high-powered group of guest stars over the years, and won some of them Emmys.
Keach:
In the industry it has a reputation of being a safe haven for good acting.

TVGuide.com: Is that actually you in the fistfight with John Stamos, or do you use a stunt double?
Keach:
I did everything except for a fall to the pavement. Thank you, George [Keach's stunt double], for sparing me the taste of cement. Aside from a few bruised ribs, the fight went spectacularly well. In an earlier altercation, we were struggling over a thermos full of orange juice and probably some gin. In the struggle, the thermos accidentally popped up and hit me in the mouth and chipped my tooth! That's been repaired, but my ribs are still sore, especially when I breathe.

TVGuide.com: Was John duly apologetic?
Keach:
John very graciously asked if I was OK after he fell on top of me and heard something pop.

TVGuide.com: Have you been injured often on the job?
Keach:
Yes. My knees and my shoulders and so on. It's wanting to do all your own stunts when you're a young guy. When I did Mike Hammer and a lot of Westerns, it was, "I'll do this, I'll do that." You do that and you pay for it.

TVGuide.com: You've done a lot of Westerns starting with '50s TV shows. A favorite?
Keach:
My brother [James] and I produced and wrote — and acted in — The Long Riders. We got Walter Hill to direct it and it was everybody and his brother — literally. The Carradines, the Quaids, the Guest brothers playing the Fords.... I love that whole era. The James Younger Gang always held fascination for both my brother and me.

TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Keach:
I'm doing Honeydripper for John Sayles. That's coming out in the summer. I play a sheriff who might be regarded by some as a red-neck racist, but all he really wants is Danny Glover's wife's fried chicken! I have been asked to play Hickey in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh in [Los Angeles] next season. It's a character I've always wanted to play.

TVGuide.com: How about TV?
Keach: I've been working on playing Teddy Roosevelt in a project about a trip down the Amazon he took at the end of his life.

TVGuide.com: You're obviously taking good care of your kids.
Keach: [Laughs] Well, I have to. I don't have any choice.

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