Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Croatian fills NBC’s prescription

Newcomer Goran Visnjic is the doctor to see on ‘ER

October 31, 2000

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— The doctor wears a crisp white coat, has gentle hands and beautiful midnight-blue eyes.

Forget Dr. Ross. This is Dr. Kovac.

With George Clooney's departure from "ER," the glamour mantle falls on Goran Visnjic.

At the end of last season, nurse Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) chose Clooney's Doug Ross over Visnjic's Luka Kovac. This left the field wide open for other women to make the handsome physician's heart beat faster.

At the time of this interview, Visnjic said he didn't know what course the good doctor's life would take on the NBC series (Thursdays, 9 p.m.). And that's the way he likes it.

"I don't want to guess. I don't want to know what will happen too much in advance because it will become boring. You get a script. You read it. You go, 'Wow, this is great stuff.' Then you shoot it," says the easygoing Croatian actor in his increasingly fluent English.

"He will become involved with someone, definitely," the 28-year-old actor admits. But he notes that no single character's story line will dominate "because there are lots of us, lots of us what's the word? Everyday cast? What's the word? Regulars! Yeah, lots of regulars. ... Things are changing always."

Visnjic is more comfortable with the complex medical jargon of a typical "ER" script than he is with English slang, says Dr. Jon Fong, the show's technical adviser.

"He knows what pericardiocentesis is and how to pronounce it correctly, but the other day, he asked what 'perky' meant," Fong says.

That's what the cast and crew love about Visnjic.

But they seem to love everything about him.

"He's a pleasure. A total delight. Absolutely genuine," says Jonathan Kaplan, the director in charge of the episode Visnjic is filming this day at Warner Bros. Studios.

"You can read what he's feeling in his face. He's a very honest actor who displays such empathy in the emotional scenes with patients," says co-executive producer Neal Baer. "He can play dark, brooding sensitive stuff, but he has such charm and a wonderful sense of humor, and you are definitely going to see that aspect of him this season."

The 6-foot-4-inch Visnjic joined the critically acclaimed show last season to play Kovac, a Croatian who is emotionally scarred by the warfare in his homeland and the loss of his family in the conflict.

He describes Kovac as someone who is cautious about getting romantically involved but believes it's time for him to "discover more happiness."

Visnjic, too, feels he's talked enough about his country's tough times, the focus of many interviews he gave after American audiences first noticed him in the 1997 film "Welcome to Sarajevo."

It's time to stress the positive, he says, speaking with affection and admiration for his homeland, where he won praise as Hamlet in the prestigious Dubrovnik Summer Festival. He returned there this past summer to tackle Shakespeare's anti-hero for the seventh time.

His goal is to "work in English, better and better," but never to lose touch with the culture that formed him.

"He had rather a loose grasp (of English) when I met him," says dialect coach Julie Adams, who first worked with Visnjic on the 1998 film "Practical Magic." He played a bad spirit from Transylvania who seduces Nicole Kidman.

Now Adams is helping him "lighten up" his accent for "ER," a show where "everyone speaks about two times as fast as normal."

Visnjic and his wife, Ivana, who is a sculptor, stay in close touch with family and friends back home. When "ER" is in production, they live in Los Angeles, where they enjoy exploring the surrounding mountains and desert. In the off-season, they often travel to Croatia, along with their pug, Bugsy.

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