Harry Hamlin won't win any father-of-the-year awards as Logan's abusive, self-involved, temperamental movie-star papa on Veronica Mars. Fortunately, the actor's life does not imitate art. In fact, Hamlin and wife

Lisa Rinna — who also played his recently deceased spouse on Mars — spend far more time at home with their tots than hitting Hollywood hot spots. After his explosive performance in last Tuesday's episode — he whipped his daughter's vile boyfriend — TVGuide.com just had to call Hamlin to find out what makes him, and his TV alter ego, Aaron Echolls, tick like a time bomb. In this exclusive Q&A, the candid L.A. Law alumnus has much to reveal.

TVGuide.com: How did you prepare for that scary scene? It looked draining.
Harry Hamlin:
I went to the gym a lot and stretched out a lot so that I wouldn't get creamed, because it was physically very challenging. Emotionally, I suppose I just drew on that well of rage that we all have when we contemplate our children being beaten up by somebody.

TVG: So being a real-life father was helpful?
Absolutely. I'm saving that bit of tape to show my daughter's first boyfriend. I'm going to say, "Son, I just want you to look at this before you take my daughter out. I want her back by 9:30."

TVG: Was Aaron always planned to be such a big part on Mars?
I'll be in all the remaining episodes. I'm not sure whether it was always planned, but I think the chemistry between me and my son [played by Jason Dohring] worked out. We've had some great scenes together and I think they wanted to write more of those to create the father-son conflict. I have really had the best time; it has been a career highlight for me to do this show. The character I play is so, kind of, delicious.

TVG: Well, speaking of conflict, earlier in the season, they showed you hitting your son.
I'm not your model dad.

TVG: You also got to work with your wife, Lisa, which seems like it'd be fun.
But, obviously, I drove her first to drink and then to commit suicide! [Laughs.]

TVG: Is she upset that her character got bumped off?
I had a meeting with the head of the network at UPN [Dawn Ostroff]. I asked her what about Lisa, after [her Lynn Echolls character] had ostensibly jumped off the bridge. And she said, "Well, they never found the body." So I think there is a crack in the door open there.

TVG: What do you know about Aaron's backstory, since we mostly just see him as Logan's dad?
I don't know that they ever actually showed [Aaron's] study in detail, but the art department went to great lengths to show this egomaniacal actor's cocoon. Every single wall was covered with vanity posters of me from movies like Hair Trigger 1 and Hair Trigger 2 and Slash and Grab. The titles were unbelievable — and the odd thing is that I had all these action posters in the office, and then I also had three Emmys and two Academy Awards nestled behind my desk. So, somewhere along the line, I must have done something that got the respect of the Hollywood community. But most of the movies I had done were pretty awful, at least based on the titles. [Laughs]

TVG: So did you base your arrogant character on anyone in particular?
It is based on myself, I guess.

TVG: You're not really like that, are you?
[Laughs] Certainly, I've met actors before who have [vanity] rooms like that in their homes. I don't live that way myself, but the character is so multidimensional. He's a huge public figure, on the one hand. On the other hand, he's trying to have a family life and he can't control his impulses, and probably was raised by parents who beat him with a belt, so he feels it is OK to beat his kids with a belt.

TVG: Aaron quit acting to spend more time with his family. Have you ever thought about that?
Yes. In fact, I did that. I never announced it to anybody but, about four years ago, I took my son, who is now almost 25, on a trip to scuba dive near Belize. We spent about 10 hours in a car together driving through the jungle. After hour five of being cooped up in the car, it sort of all came out how I was gone when he was a kid and working so much in the '80s. This was new news to me. We'd never discussed it; he'd never revealed to me how painful it was not to have his dad around all the time. He was really traumatized by that. It was helpful for our relationship but I decided then and there that I wasn't going to do that with my new family. I have a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old [now], and basically, I bailed on Hollywood three years ago.

TVG: What made you come back for this show?
Most of the work I was doing, up until three years ago, was being done outside Los Angeles, in Canada and Australia. I decided to stay close to home and that, if I was going to work, it would be in L.A. — and only on things that really interested me and in ways that wouldn't impact on the family. Veronica Mars came up and I did eight episodes over five months. That doesn't take too much out of your family life.

TVG: Are you coming back to Mars next season?
Well, we've had some conversations about it, but the last time I actually spoke to any producers about it was before they had gotten their official pickup. So no one could say anything because they didn't know if they were even coming back. It would be fun to do. I had a great time doing it this season.

TVG: On a fun note, they recently made reference to Clash of the Titans within the show. What did you think of that?
I didn't see the episode, but they described it as Veronica [catching] a glimpse of it on TV in a motel room. I thought it was kind of a fun thing. A lot of actors have done toga movies in their lives, and most of those disappear without a trace. Somehow, Clash of the Titans has just kept on going.

Hungry for more candid Q&A? Read today's in-depth Insider interview with Gilmore Girl Alexis Bledel by clicking here.