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TV's Hottest Cop

As David Caruso savors the global success of "CSI: Miami," the former star of "NYPD Blue" won't forget the lessons he's learned, or the cigars he loves.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
David Caruso, Jan/Feb 2007

(continued from page 4)

A root beer commercial does not an instant star make, but it was the turning point for Caruso. With that lone credit to his name, along with an actual agent, he was able to snag a few additional acting jobs, and then, with $1,000 in his pocket, he made his way to Hollywood.

By the early 1980s Caruso was getting regular roles on television shows such as "CHiPs," "T. J. Hooker," "For Love and Honor" and, ultimately, Steven Bochco's "Hill Street Blues." Caruso, who'd married actress Cheri Maugans not long after arriving in Los Angeles, divorced in 1984 and quickly got married again, to another actress, Rachel Ticotin. Caruso and Ticotin had a daughter, Greta, before divorcing three years later.

Caruso's career continued on a steady pace, a mix of television shows such as "Crime Story" and small parts in big-screen features such as King of New York, Hudson Hawk and Mad Dog and Glory before landing the role of Detective John Kelly in "NYPD Blue."

For the first time in his career, Caruso had real fame—the kind of fame that had fans flooding the network with letters and people on the street begging for autographs—and if Caruso's decision to leave the show backfired on him, Caruso couldn't, he said at the time, do much about it. "I went from a guy, kind of a working actor, a supporting player, to magazine covers and being offered the studio picture really quickly. Nobody was comfortable with it. I wasn't really comfortable with it," Caruso said in an interview years after leaving. "I was a guy who abandoned a TV show. I didn't care about people. They didn't want to see good things happen to me."

But, not unlike a Rocky-style Hollywood movie script that has a battered fighter pushing his way back up to champ status, good things did happen to Caruso during the period when, as he put it, "I went from starring in a Paramount movie to unemployment for two years. Literally, I couldn't get a job for almost two years."

Caruso had remarried in 1996—he and Margaret Buckley divorced nine years later—and, ultimately, a couple of feature movie roles came his way, as well as the lead role in the short-lived television series "Michael Hayes." In the middle of it all, Caruso says, he got offered a role that, in hindsight, helped predict the happiness and success that was to come his way many years later. That role was in a TV movie called Gold Coast.

A Showtime cable production directed by Peter Weller, a good friend of Caruso's, the movie was set in Miami Beach, and Caruso's female costar was Marg Helgenberger, now the female lead of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

When Gold Coast was being shot, in 1997, neither Caruso nor Helgenberger could possibly have had an inkling of their future successes on "CSI," but everyone on the set could see a definite sizzle between the two red-headed actors.

"There's a chemistry between [us]," Caruso explains, "but what really makes this all interesting is that I had never been to Florida before we began filming [Gold Coast] and we flew into Jacksonville and kind of made our way down the coast of Florida and ended up in Miami. So the interesting thing is that I discovered Miami with Marg," Caruso says, "and while we were there we ran into Jerry Bruckheimer one night when we were out to dinner.

"Now, we all knew Jerry from other projects, but what you have to remember," Caruso explains excitedly, "is that this was 1997, 1998 and 'CSI' didn't exist yet, not for Marg and certainly not for me. When I look back it was a very interesting foreshadowing for a lot of what was to happen to me, including the whole Miami chapter of my life. I moved to Miami way before I ever got the job, and when I think back on that night at dinner there was a lot of foreshadowing."

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