James Woods, <EM>Shark</EM> James Woods, Shark

In a candid TV Guide interview, James Woods of CBS' Shark (Thursdays at 10 pm/ET) opens up about his first television series, his 20-year-old girlfriend, and his brother's recent and tragic death.

TV Guide: You've had a tough summer with a brief hospitalization, a rash of tabloid headlines and the loss of your 49-year-old brother, Michael, who died of a heart attack just three days after you began shooting the first episode of Shark. How are you holding up?
James Woods:
I am fried. I'm sort of dizzy all the time and I don't sleep. Since my father died when I was 12 and Michael was 3 I had never shed a tear. I've always been stoic about everything. I went through psychoanalysis and never cried. Then my brother died, and I have cried for weeks. If this unbelievable tragedy had not taken place, I was having the best year of my life.

TV Guide: You and Michael were close?
He was absolutely my best friend. We never had an argument. My mom, who is 80, said, "I would have made any deal with God if it could have been me instead of him." I said, "Me, too." Life will never be the same. I can't imagine smiling ever again.

TV Guide: When was the last time you saw him?
The last week of his life we took a trip across the country together. It was the greatest miracle of my life.

TV Guide: And then you had medical problems?
I came back to work about 10 days after the funeral. I thought, "I'm a man, I'm tough. I'll do it." But two-thirds of the way through the day I felt light-headed. My blood pressure was 209 over 113. They took me to the hospital and released me that night.

TV Guide: Why are you working so hard?
Shark came at a time when I didn't really need the work at all. I didn't take it for the money. I live a very modest life. I don't want a private jet. I'm just a nonmaterial guy.

TV Guide: How'd you get involved?
[CBS president] Les Moonves and I have been friends since we were 20 years old. We were both young actors together and played in a poker group. It was sort of a billionaires' game except for me and Dustin Hoffman.

TV Guide: You've certainly been in the tabloids a lot. The most recent story is about your alleged breakup with a younger woman. [Woods, 59, has been dating Ashley Madison, 20.] One of your friends described her as "The Antichrist." She reportedly showed up at your brother's funeral in a three-inch miniskirt and was chain-smoking. True?
It's a complete falsification. She wore a business suit and was there the entire time trying to help with the cooking. It is so unimaginable that people would say such harsh things at a time like this. She was devastated.

TV Guide: So you didn't break up with her?
I had dinner with her last night.

TV Guide: What drew you to play a lawyer on Shark?
It is simply this: We have all lived in shock watching these dream-team lawyers let patently guilty people go free by manipulating the system. This man who has lived as the most arrogant, rich, narcissistic, bachelor superstar defense lawyer suddenly switches sides and is working for the prosecutor [played by Jeri Ryan] with a team of young, inexperienced lawyers. He is also handed custody of his 16-year-old daughter. So now he's got to juggle his girlfriends around his daughter, who is only about five years younger than his girlfriends.

TV Guide: Do you identify with your character?
Unequivocally. I look back on my life and have to face the fact that I have been narcissistic and selfish.

TV Guide: How do you feel about Shark's chances for success?
It is hard to imagine a part as great as this brilliant writing, thought-provoking moral dilemmas, ethical issues. I am a total convert to television.

Send your comments on this Q&A to letters@tvguide.com.