The demands of playing polarizingly bizarro NYPD detective Robert Goren for the past four seasons finally caught up with D'Onofrio late last year; he collapsed on the set twice and had to be hospitalized for exhaustion.
Help is on the way. Next season, Chris Noth will reprise his L&O role as Det. Mike Logan in half of Criminal Intent's 22 episodes, relieving both D'Onofrio and equally weary costar Kathryn Erbe, who admits, "This is the season we cried uncle." (As reported in yesterday's Entertainment News, Annabella Sciorra will play Noth's new partner in his episodes.) Whether Noth can help the show's ratings against Desperate Housewives is a mystery even Goren might not solve. D'Onofrio shares some thoughts:TV Guide: How has it been going against Housewives?
Vincent D'Onofrio: We don't f---ing care. No. 2 is better than No. 1. The fact that our show holds up on Sunday — which is the biggest night — is amazing. You take Housewives off, we're No. 1. TVG: Do you look at Chris' joining as competition?
D'Onofrio: Oh, god, no. I actually can't imagine being in Chris' situation. I'm sure the pressure will be [intense] — he's coming into a show that's already successful. TVG: Any truth to the report that you collapsed on set because you were distraught over the presidential election?
D'Onofrio: I wasn't happy about Kerry not winning, but we all had a big laugh when that article came out. I ended up in the hospital because I was shooting this and I was working on a film I directed over the summer. I was exhausted. TVG: You've always said you wanted to be a character actor in films.
D'Onofrio: I never wanted to be a leading man. Look at me, for f---'s sake. I'm not a leading man. TVG: So why did you sign on to star in a TV series?
D'Onofrio: [Law & Order creator] Dick Wolf bamboozled me into it. He pitched a hell of a series. TVG: You're famous for doing the "Goren lean." How'd you come up with that move?
D'Onofrio: In the first episode, the guest actor wouldn't look up at me. So I just bent all the way over and found his eyes. I knew I was on to something because everybody said, "What did he just do? That's kinda weird." Dick was on set, and he was the only one who said, "This is gonna make the show!" TVG: Why do viewers either love or hate Goren?
D'Onofrio: I talk to people who just can't stand my character. They think he's awful — you know, with the bending and the weird way he talks and his emotional instability. But then the next person thinks he's the most intense guy on TV. So you've just got to go for it as an actor. You can't be afraid to make an ass of yourself.