Reviewing John Turturro's canon of film characterizations — among which are a racially charged pizzeria employee in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, a wannabe pool hustler in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money and a geeky contestant in Robert Redford's Quiz Show — it's easy to imagine him in most any role.

Yet, picturing this curly-haired, affable actor as gravelly lawyer-turned-sportscaster Howard Cosell is, admittedly, difficult. Nonetheless, Turturro is preparing to bring the now-deceased broadcaster to life in Monday Night Mayhem, an upcoming TNT movie based on the Monday Night Football exposé co-authored by Bill Carter (The Late Shift).

"I'm very excited, because I 'grew up' with Howard," Turturro tells TV Guide Online, referring to the man who for 14 years lent his unique brand of controversy-stirring reporting to ABC's hallmark football program. "I feel like a distant relative of his!

"With Howard," he then explains, "you have to deal with the outer accoutrements of his personality — you can't just throw that away — and then find out what was going on inside of him. There is nobody like him any more. He was the first overtly ethnic big announcer... he had a deep need for the spotlight... he loved to provoke... and he really had something that was driving him. He felt this need to make everything into a crisis or debate about racial equality, the law or whatever. He loved to expose in a way that was quite intelligent."

As for adopting Cosell's look, Turturro is not quite sure what the hair and make-up people have planned. "My head will need to be shaved, I know that!" he laughs.

For now, Turturro can be seen chained to fellow prison escapees George Clooney and Timothy Blake Nelson in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (opening Friday). The film marks the fourth time that the actor has worked with brothers Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski). "They've never asked me to do a role that they have seen me do before, or similar to what I have done before with them," he notes. "They're like, 'Well, let's write something else and see what he can do in this role.' That's a big leap of faith."

Turturro, though, is always primed to take that leap. "I love to act, and I try to be challenged by what I do. 'What, is he going to do the same ol' thing?' I try not to."