Dana Delany and Timothy Hutton, <EM>Kidnapped</EM> Dana Delany and Timothy Hutton, Kidnapped

What brings Timothy Hutton to Kidnapped, NBC's chilling serialized thriller about an abducted lad of privilege, premiering tonight at 10 pm/ET? Was the star of so many feature films, including Ordinary People (for which he won an Academy Award), Q&A and Kinsey, inspired by the successful small-screen crossovers of such peers as Kiefer Sutherland (24), Gary Sinise (CSI: NY) and James Spader (Boston Legal)? In a way, yes. "It was [about] seeing good programming," he tells TVGuide.com. "It was seeing good stories on television that could be movies. Really excellent material is being done on television, and that attracts actors who perhaps haven't done it before."

Kidnapped presents Hutton as Conrad Cain, the patriarch of a very well-to-do Manhattan family that on one seemingly ordinary day learns that teen son Leopold has been abducted via an elaborately orchestrated scheme. As Conrad and his wife, Ellie (Dana Delany), process the unthinkable, they turn to the services of not only the FBI (fronted by Ransom's Delroy Lindo), but a crafty, by-his-own-book P.I. (and former fed) named Knapp (Jeremy Sisto). The search for Leo Cain is the focus of this season and this season alone, a prospect that was icing on the cake for Hutton.

"[Committing to just one year] was very appealing and definitely played into my decision," says the actor, who on the other hand is glad to consider the Big Apple his workplace for a spell. "In the last two years, I have done seven films in places from the Czech Republic to Cape Town, South Africa... all wonderful places, but I have two kids and I was away all the time. To be in New York filming something of such great quality with an amazing cast felt pretty good."

In a TV season overcome with intense new dramas some serialized, some with similar themes, and one (ABC's The Nine) even airing opposite Kidnapped how might Sutton's series separate itself from the pack? "By getting better ratings," he answers with a smile. Turning serious, he says, "I've seen previews of some of these different shows, and it looks like there is some really good stuff coming out." Kidnapped's strong suit, he believes, "is a unique way of storytelling," as it segues from a whodunit and a where-is-he drama into a probing look at what might have brought about this horrific event from Conrad's seemingly humble beginnings.

"We've read the first eight scripts, and so far  and I'm sure it's going to continue this way  there are issues that are dealt with that are going on in all our lives, on the front pages, on the back pages, some things that are on the back pages but should be on the front pages...." Such as? Hutton, as with most actors on such dramas, is cautious to reveal too much. "Without getting into specifics, I can say this: Things are dealt with in the area of how we're programmed as kids, accepting other peoples' points of view, race relations, the education system.... These things are a huge part of the show."

"Wait until you see the show after the pilot," Hutton previews most proudly. "If anyone were to have any question or thought as to how this will sustain an audience's interest, [Episode 2] says it all. You realize, 'Wait a minute  this isn't just about a kidnapping. There's something else going on here.'"

At that point, he promises, "There's no turning back."

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