Archive for Friday, February 9, 2001

Lt. Fancy bids ‘Blue’ adieu

James McDaniel leaving popular cop series after eight years on the beat

February 9, 2001


We already know there's no crying in baseball.

But "NYPD Blue" star James McDaniel decided there'd be no weeping at the cop shop during his last day of filming scenes as Lt. Arthur Fancy on the popular, long-running police drama.

"That was my acting assignment. I swore I wouldn't cry and I managed not to. I got misty a couple of times, though," says McDaniel, who is leaving the ABC series after eight seasons of portraying the serious-minded boss of the 15th Precinct's homicide squad.

Though Wednesday was McDaniel's final day on the "NYPD Blue" set at 20th Century Fox studios in Los Angeles, Lt. Fancy's farewell episode airs in early April.

Instead of bittersweet teardrops, there were miles of smiles with Dennis Franz, Kim Delaney and the rest of the colleagues during McDaniel's final day of filming.

"It was like a lovefest. We had a lot of fun. They had a lunch for me and there was a lot of silliness," McDaniel, 42, recalled during a phone interview the day after his acting life as Fancy had ended.

Some of the biggest silliness was perpetrated by McDaniel, who in contrast to Fancy has a mischievous side to his personality.

"Far and away, I'm the class clown on the set," he says. "That's a big surprise to most people because of the character I play. It's like night and day."

Yes, you would probably never see the lieutenant sticking up a Krispy Kreme doughnut truck. But McDaniel, that tickled his fancy.

"I pulled out my rubber revolver and held up the Krispy Kreme truck that was on the lot," he says, describing the spontaneous joke he uncorked on his final day with the "Blue" crew. "The truck driver was a bit awestruck at first. He looked like, 'Whoa, I'm being held up by Lieutenant Fancy.' And then he started laughing."

After eight seasons of very long hours on "NYPD Blue" some of them involving memorably intense scenes in which Fancy tangled with Dennis Franz's volatile Andy Sipowicz McDaniel says he's looking forward to spending more time with wife, Hannelore, and their two sons, 14-year-old Dorian and 10-year-old Evan.

But this week, McDaniel visited Detroit to host a Black History Month film event Thursday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The evening included a screening of "Body and Soul," a 1925 silent film starring Paul Robeson and directed by pioneering African-American filmmaker Oscar Micheaux.

McDaniel, a longtime fan of Micheaux's work, is developing a movie biography of the filmmaker for HBO that he may star in or direct or both. Another project: playing the coach of a Navajo girls' basketball team from New Mexico in a fact-based cable movie for Showtime.

During the past two decades, the native of Washington, D.C., who got his start in show business on the New York stage in the late 1970s, has enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with "NYPD Blue" producer Steven Bochco. One of McDaniel's first television roles was as a militant cop on Bochco's seminal 1980s police drama, "Hill Street Blues." He also made appearances on Bochco's "L.A. Law," "Cop Rock" and "Civil Wars."

At times, McDaniel's frustration over the limited screen time for Fancy has tempered his joy. "That was always pretty much my personal struggle. It's like you're a thoroughbred but you've been given quarter-horse status. It's something I had to learn to deal with over the years."

But the experience helped McDaniel grow as an actor, he says. "If you're only given two minutes to make your point, instead of a whole hour, you've got to be ready."

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