Having played a thug in Point Break, inmate Tobias Beecher on HBO's Oz and a rapist in Monster (his character's brutal assault triggers Charlize Theron's killing spree), Lee Tergesen is glad to be living on the right side of the law as U.S. Marshal Eddie Drake on TNT's Wanted (Sundays at 10 pm/ET). Here he speaks with TVGuide.com about Weird fans, the deep fear he had working with Patrick Swayze and how he wishes he were more like Gary Cole.
TVGuide.com: Hey, you're the "I love you, man!" guy from the Wayne's World movies.
Lee Tergesen: Yeah, I would always say, "I love you, Wayne!" I was always telling everybody I loved them.
TVGuide.com: Is that something you get recognized for a lot?
Tergesen: No, it's mostly from Oz. Actually, people recently have been stopping me and talking about Wanted. And every once in a while somebody will actually stop me and say, "Oh my god, you were on [the mid-'90s series] Weird Science!" I was in an airport two weeks ago and these two teenage girls were like, "Hey, I know who you are!" I thought it was going to be the Oz thing, but they said, "You were Chet!" Wow, that's reaching back. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Well, you have enjoyed a wide variety of roles.
Tergesen: I've been pretty lucky. The funny thing is, when I first started working and did Wayne's World, a lot of comedy came my way. And then as soon as I got Oz, the things people thought of me for were a bit more intense. It's fine; that's how it goes.
TVGuide.com: Which is closer to the real Lee, the surly sorts or the goofballs?
Tergesen: The goofballs, totally.
TVGuide.com: Your Oz work got you the Monster role. When you were doing it, did you sense the film was going to be so acclaimed? [Theron went on to win both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award.]
Tergesen: No. Working with Charlize the couple days that I did, I couldn't tell if what she was doing was great or terrible. It was one of those things where you're like, "Wow, she is definitely walking a line, and it's either going to be great or it's going to be like, 'What is she doing?'"
TVGuide.com: She changed her look so much for the film. Did you have to keep reminding yourself "This is beautiful Charlize Theron"?
Tergesen: I kept asking God, "Why'd I have to [work with] the beat-up Charlize Theron? Why can't I get the Two Days in the Valley Charlize?" [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Point Break is one of those movies that, whenever I stumble across it on TV, I have to watch it.
Tergesen: It was a lot of fun. It was also terrifying. The first day I was driving to work I was like, "Wow, this is a big step for me" — it had like, a $70 million budget and I had been doing plays in New York. It wasn't a huge role, but I was like, "What if I can't do it? What if they're all like, 'Oh s---, this guy sucks'?"
TVGuide.com: Patrick Swayze told us last week that it's the cult hits, like Point Break, that make a career.
Tergesen: I ran into these guys a few years ago who said that when they were in college they used to watch Point Break every weekend. It's a really good action movie. I saw it just recently, too. Same as you just said, I was flipping around and all of a sudden I saw it and I watched it again.
TVGuide.com: What kind of action has your Wanted lawman been seeing?
Tergesen: Well, in one episode I had this really intense makeout scene with Traci Lords.
TVGuide.com: No. Way.
Tergesen: Yeah, dude. Unbelievable. Unbelievable. My god, it was incredible.
TVGuide.com: She must have some stories to tell in between takes, huh?
Tergesen: I actually worked on Homicide a little bit, and back then she was married to the prop master, but I guess they were just splitting up, so I sort of know her ex-in-laws. We had a lot of mutual things to talk about.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of procedurals, your very first acting gig was on original-flavor Law & Order.
Tergesen: It was actually the first episode that aired, and I had like, two or three lines in a hospital. I'm actually doing an episode right now, playing a lawyer. I'm not cutting my hair, but I'm wearing great suits. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: Has Wanted been as much fun as you had hoped?
Tergesen: Yeah. It was a good bunch of people to work with, and it's a lot of fun doing an action show. What's cool about it is my character is intense and tough, but he's funny. We finished [shooting] a week and a half ago.
TVGuide.com: Has it been picked up yet?
Tergesen: It's looking good, but we won't know, I don't think, for another week or so.
TVGuide.com: Gary Cole's attitude about that is, "Expect nothing and you won't be disappointed."
Tergesen: I wish that was more the way I was about it. Of course, it's a little easier for him to be like that about it because he lives [in Los Angeles], but I need to know if I should keep my place for the next couple months because we're going to shoot again. I would like to see it go again.