Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman: the pioneers of entertainment's Aussie invasion. Yet Simon Baker, one peer from their homeland and the star of the new CBS drama The Guardian (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET), insists that American actors need not feel threatened by the influx of Down Underlings.
"It's just a coincidence," says Baker. "There have always been many Australians attempting to succeed on the world stage. It's just that, at the moment, a few more than usual are succeeding.
"But the ones from Down Under who speak a bit weirder," he adds with a smile, "haven't always been so prominent."
American TV audiences may have reason not to immediately cozy up like a koala to Baker. After all, in The Guardian, he plays a somewhat unsympathetic reprobate sentenced to community service at a child-advocacy organization. And boy, is the actor glad about that. "One of the first things I asked of [executive producer] David [Hollander]," says Baker, "was, 'Please don't make my character a one-dimensional, likable guy. What drew me to this show is the fact that this guy is flawed and conflicted."Perhaps helping to soften Baker's on-screen edges will be the children with whom his character occasionally must interact as part of his penance. The actor, though, is not concerned with the lil' ones upstaging him. "I'm more worried about that with Dabney Coleman," he chuckles, referring to the TV/film vet who plays his father. "I'm a huge fan. Tootsie is one of my favorite movies!"