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Living Large

From “Law and Order’s” Detective Mike Logan to “Sex and the City’s” Mr. Big, Chris Noth keeps stretching the boundaries of his acting career.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Chris Noth, May/June 2010

(continued from page 4)

Noth remembers one college play in particular, a production of Edward Albee's "The Zoo Story," that fixed his goals for the future.

"We did it for one night-but we rehearsed for two months," he says. "It was electrifying. It was like a shock, almost, going out on stage.

"After that, all my acting dreams had to do with the stage because of that visceral feeling I had-that feeling of moving an audience with a story and taking them on that journey. I loved it so much because it was this great experience. Theater was all I wanted to do-I never thought about movies."

His brain afire after reading about Sir Laurence Olivier and the flowering of the British theater, he moved to New York to study with acting gurus Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner: "For better or worse, I never felt confident until I studied with one of the great masters," he says. "I was just fascinated by the whole world of New York. You saw a life in the theater and what it meant. I got hungry to do a lot of plays. And where they were doing that was Yale. So then I went to Yale Drama School for graduate school-and believe me, they eat, breathe and shit theater there. And I was very happy to be doing that."

He left grad school and launched his career, working in theater while landing small parts on TV and in films-until he was cast as Detective Mike Logan in "Law & Order," the long-running police procedural drama he joined at its inception. He shot the pilot in 1988, then waited for NBC to put it on the air, eventually starring in 111 episodes during the show's first five seasons, 1990-1995.

"That was heaven," Noth says. "When I started, the cast was all men and this was a different city. It was a show that was always concerned with complicated and ethical questions, more than just a dead body: terrorism, abortion, racism. It went places TV had never gone.

"And it was the only thing going on in New York City at the time. This was when New York City was not one boutique after another. The city still had a depth of neighborhoods, a lot of different neighborhoods. The show was exploring the city in a way it had not been explored before, before everything became franchised.

"We shot the pilot on 16mm film, handheld. It was an exciting time to be doing TV, at a point when TV was considered off-limits if you wanted to have a movie career. But I could see the writing on the wall in 1995, after five years on the show. It was before the show spawned all those franchises."

Noth is referring to the growth industry "Law & Order" eventually became, giving birth to spin-offs such as "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."

"It's almost a corporate thing, all those franchises-like Coke Light to real Coke," Noth says. "You wonder what gets lost in that, because it's just so derivative."

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