A lot of people have the impression that Eric Bogosian is an angry guy. The perpetually black-clad, New York-based writer/performer forged that image with his ferocious solo shows Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Pounding Nails into the Floor with My Forehead and Talk Radio, which was made into a 1988 Oliver Stone film and his over-the-top turn as a Steven Seagal-taunting terrorist in Under Siege 2. On the right side of the law in his current role of Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Captain Danny Ross (Tuesdays at 9 pm/ET on NBC), he's still as intense and unsmiling as usual, though he insists it's all a put-on. In fact, due to his L&O gig and the star-studded revivals of two of his plays, this downtown rebel-turned-character-actor says he's happier than he's been in years.
TVGuide.com: Hello, Eric? The music's so loud I can barely hear you.
Sorry. Let me just turn the Mozart down.
TVGuide.com: I never would have pegged you as a classical fan.
Well, after the 7,000th listening of "Freebird" I knew every f--king note, so about two years ago I really started diving into classical music. I'm hooked on opera, of all things. The Metropolitan Opera was giving away $20 tickets the other night and I almost went.
TVGuide.com: Wow, Eric Bogosian: Bargain Hunter.
Always. I'm Armenian, so I'm totally fiscally oriented. I am ridiculously frugal. Yesterday I was poring over my Sprint bill trying to figure out why it was $10 more than usual. I spent an hour on it, and that's a complete waste of time, right?
TVGuide.com: It depends on how much your time is worth.
Currently it's worth a lot! It went up to a much higher level of worth because of my work on L&O.
TVGuide.com: Lets talk about that gig. I've always thought of you as this rebellious performance artist, so I was surprised that you accepted a series-regular role on commercial TV.
Oh, I'd been trying to get on L&O forever.Every year I would put out the word [to the producers] that if a new character was being created, I wanted to be considered. Finally last spring [writer-producer] Warren [Leight] asked me to come by the set to say hi to some people. [Series creator] Dick Wolfwas there and he said, "I heard that you don't want to do TV," and I said, "No, no, no, it depends on what TV." So he asked if I would consider coming on the show. I am so happy to be doing L&O. I'm totally f--king enthused.
TVGuide.com: Has acting always been your ultimate goal?
I originally came to New York in the '70s to be an actor, but I found the industry so overwhelming and intimidating that I quit and ended up working on the alternative-performance scene. The movie Talk Radio altered my whole relationship to the commercial-film industry, but over the years I let a lot of things get in my way. I was just unreliable. Even when I stopped all that, I was a hothead for a really long time. About five years ago, my film career started to peter out, so I made a bunch of changes. I decided I didn't want to do solo shows anymore because A) I didn't have anything more to say and B) I hated touring. I thought if I stopped doing my own shows I would be able to reenter the world of acting as a character actor, which is what I am. I felt like I had reached a point where I was ready to work.
TVGuide.com: And you've been working a lot lately, both as an actor and a writer. I just saw a revival of your play subUrbia with quite an up-and-coming cast: Kieran Culkin, Gaby Hoffman and Jessica Capshaw. And Liev Schreiber is doing Talk Radio on Broadway next year. I know you updated the subUrbia script. Are you tweaking Talk Radio as well?
I'm doing a lot of work on the text, but I'm hoping it doesn't show. It's tough to tinker with Talk Radio. It will be 20 years old when it goes up and the guy who wrote it is a different guy than me not only in terms of where I was at in my life, but a different sort of writer. I was bursting with ideas, but I didn't have the technique that I have now. Still, I don't want to go back and mess anything up.
TVGuide.com: Before L&O came along, you had a recurring role on the short-lived but much-beloved Love Monkey. How did that come about?
I did it as a favor to [series creator] Michael [Rauch], who did an internship with me back in the mid-'90s. He'd come down and hang out with me and we became very good friends. He directed me in the film In the Weeds, and he filmed my solo show Wake Up and Smell the Coffee.... There are so many guys working in TV right now Michael, Warren who are mensches to the heavens. I'm really lucky that they're in my life.