It seems no matter what he does, Ed Begley Jr. can't escape that '80s show, St. Elsewhere. In the minds of classic TV aficionados, he'll always be Dr. Victor Erlich. And it's a good thing for him, 'cause he keeps on gettin' gigs playing MDs! Next up, he costars in ABC's 13-week miniseries Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital (debuting March 3). Is he enjoying the gig?
"It's a lot like St. Elsewhere, without all the distractions," he jokes. "You don't have Howie Mandelputting a [rubber] glove over his head or Denzel Washington becoming a matinee idol. Between those two things, I could barely remember my lines back in the '80s."
Diane Ladd and Andrew McCarthy also star in this American adaptation of Lars Von Trier's The Kingdom, about a haunted hospital. (Von Trier is a producer on this project.) "It's a great experience to work with Stephen King, whom I've long admired," Begley says, "and this fine cast. It's very different and wonderful."
Despite the name of his hospital administrator character — Dr. Jesse James — Begley isn't an outlaw. He's more like the clueless comic relief in the midst of Hospital's spooky goings on. "It's sadly not much of a stretch at all for me, but I won't go into that," he says with a grin. "[Dr. James] is the guy whose solution to everything is, if we could just brighten the colors in the hospital, everything will be wonderful. His general approach to medicine is to make people feel really happy, warm and fuzzy.
"He's kind of an ineffectual guy, but it's really funny stuff," Begley adds. "I've always thought Stephen King is really funny, and he certainly has delivered this time. There's some very scary stuff and some very funny stuff."