Recurring role-- Former 'Law and Order' star knows way around courtroom

By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

Detroit native Courtney B. Vance isn't a lawyer--he's just played numerous attorneys and federal agents on television.

"It's the nature of the business: once they see you do one thing, they think it's all you can do," said Vance, an alumnus of Detroit Country Day High School. "It's the way it goes. Sometimes, you just have to break it up and say 'no' to the role they want you in and go in a new direction and redefine yourself. It's human nature. We like predictability."

Vance, a graduate of Harvard University and the Yale School of Drama, is arguably best known as Ron Carver, the assistant district attorney, on NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" from 2001-06. He played Stanford Wedeck, the head of the FBI's Los Angeles bureau on ABC's "FlashForward" from 2009-10. Currently, he plays high-powered criminal attorney Benjamin Brooks on the hit ABC drama "Revenge," which was voted Favorite New TV Drama at the 2012 People's Choice Awards.

His "Criminal Intent" character--named after George Washington Carver - had an unyielding, no-nonsense interpretation of the law and no sympathy for those who broke it, regardless of the circumstances.

"I was talking with (creator) Dick Wolf and there was not a lot of other things happening at the time," said the 52-year-old Vance, who currently lives outside of Los Angeles with his wife, Oscar-nominated actress Angela Bassett and their two children. "Dick and I talked about the ability to do things in L.A. while shooting the series in New York. It gave me an opportunity to be flexible. My wife and I were newly married and we had to learn how to carry on a long-distance relationship for five years. We spent a lot of time on the phone. This was before Skype and Facebook."

After 111 episodes--the longest as an ADA on "Criminal Intent" and the second longest in the entire "Law & Order" franchise (Diane Neal's ADA Casey Novak on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" holds the record at 113--Vance left the series.

"Our twins came and I needed to be home," he explained of his reason for leaving.

Vance's Benjamin Brooks is a recurring character on "Revenge," whose season finale is Wednesday, May 23. It is a modern-day retelling of Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo."

The overall plot has Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp, TV's "Brothers & Sisters") renting a home next door to the powerful and affluent Grayson family in the Hamptons.

However, Emily's real name is Amanda Clarke, whose father (James Tupper, TV's "Mercy") was framed by the Graysons 20 years ago for a crime he didn't commit--colluding with a terrorist group he bankrolled to bring down an airplane - and was sent to prison for life, where he died. It was recently revealed that the Graysons masterminded his murder.

Now an adult, whom the Graysons don't remember, Emily has put in motion a complex plan to get revenge on all those who conspired against her father and ruined their lives. On the top of that list is Victoria Grayson (Oscar nominee Madeleine Stowe, "The Last of the Mohicans," who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her "Revenge" role). Victoria was having an affair with Emily's father and betrayed him in the end--something she regrets terribly as seen in her private moments.

Manipulating her way into the Hamptons' high society, Emily becomes engaged to Victoria's son, Daniel, as a way to really destroy the family from within. However, she does have feelings for Daniel, who was on trial for murdering his frenemy Tyler Barrol (Ashton Holmes, "The Divide")--the big mystery of this season--with Vance's Brooks serving as his attorney.

"It's another opportunity to expand onto another big show and be seen by a wider audience. It wasn't a lot of commitment in terms of time on my part, I said, 'Sure why not?' It's a great show. While we're waiting for a series to come along, something comes up like that where you can do an episode or two on another big show. We like doing that --it's fun," said Vance.

He has nothing but high praise for Stowe and VanCamp, Revenge's lead actresses.

"(Stowe is) a sweetheart. I've been a fan of hers since 'The Last of the Mohicans.' When I (was cast), I just had to go up to her and hold her hands and just thank her. Actually, I had to go see the movie again - that's one of my favorite movies of all time. The way she went from being a spoiled little rich girl to witnessing all kinds of atrocities and being the wife of the last of the Mohicans--I mean, what a transformation. I also remember when she didn't get the Oscar that year--I was very upset," he recalled.

Vance also called VanCamp a sweetheart.

"It's hard for a guest star to come in a show with a rhythm--the actors don't have to be giving," he said. "They can just shut you out; she didn't... I deeply appreciated her."

Vance was originally committed to three episodes but it was increased to four. He is tentatively scheduled to return for a second season should the series get renewed.

Asked what's happening on the finale, Vance answered: "I can tell you nothing because I know nothing. I won't be on the finale."

Published: Mon, May 14, 2012