Yahoo! TV Q&A: Dennis Quaid takes a gamble on TV in ‘Vegas’: ‘I had been looking for something to do in television’
Dennis Quaid has had a long and successful career in film, tickling the ivories as Jerry Lee Lewis in "Great Balls of Fire!," taking flight as astronaut Gordon Cooper in "The Right Stuff," landing a spot on the major league roster as pro baller Jimmy Morris, and, yes, even playing Lindsay Lohan's dad in "The Parent Trap." Now 58, the Houston native is trying something new: television.
The project Quaid selected -- "Vegas" -- debuts tonight on CBS and tells the story of Sin City in the 1960s -- when cowboy country was taken over by neon, feathers, and mobsters. The actor plays Ralph Lamb, who was the real-life sheriff of Las Vegas, and he takes on the gangsters overrunning his Nevada city. Rounding out the cast on the hour-long drama are some other heavies, including Michael Chiklis, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jason O'Mara, and James Russo. Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote "Casino" (both the book and the screenplay for the Martin Scorsese film), is an executive producer.
Yahoo! TV caught up with Quaid -- who has 4-year-old twins with wife Kimberly Buffington, and a 20-year-old son, Jack, with ex-wife Meg Ryan -- on the eve of his premiere. Describing himself as "a little nervous, but very excited," Quaid talked about his new show.
You've had a long, successful career as a movie star. Why do TV now?
The last couple of years, I had been looking for something to do in television because I really love the direction television has taken over the last few years. The content on TV is really good -- there is great writing, and writers have migrated to television -- and there are a lot of interesting shows that I would rather watch than go to the movies, for the most part. So when "Vegas" came up, it had the pedigree of Nick Pileggi, who created and wrote "Casino" and "Goodfellas"; it had a great group of people surrounding it, so I wanted to be part of it.
Some film actors worry about taking a TV role because you are playing the same character for possibly years. Was that a concern?
Not really. I think it would be great to unfold a character over years -- hopefully several years. I enjoy watching characters evolve in shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Boardwalk Empire" -- not just the characters, but the story unfolding.
Your character, Ralph Lamb, is based on a real-life sheriff. What's it like playing a real person?
Well, I've played a lot of real-life people before -- from Bill Clinton ("The Special Relationship") to Doc Holliday ("Wyatt Earp"), Gordon Cooper ("The Right Stuff"), and Jimmy Morris in "The Rookie." I like playing real-life people, especially the living (laughs). It's actually less work because they can give you their story. It makes it a little bit more interesting for me -- and for the audience, as well. I didn't know about Ralph Lamb when I took this role. Getting to know him was a major impetus in taking it. He is certainly a colorful figure, and he was sheriff of Las Vegas at a time which I think was the most interesting period in Las Vegas.
What kind of feedback has the real Ralph Lamb given you so far?
He's pretty thrilled about it so far. We've met several times. He's been to the set. He's opened up his life to me. We're becoming good friends.
Will the show be a crime-of-the-week type of procedural, or will it place more emphasis on season-long story arcs?