When it comes to his acting roles, Scott Bakula wants characters who are interesting and vibrant.
The actor is currently portraying Dwayne “King” Pride on the newly-launched NCIS: New Orleans.
“I’m hugely grateful for the chance and we have the dream in terms of bringing eyes to the television set thanks to NCIS being the No. 1 show on the planet,” said Bakula. “But the bar is very high and we still have to make the show and make it a good one because of the world we live in now. If people don’t like it, they will leave.
“Our challenge is to give audiences something familiar that also feels unique. It is still about solving crimes and finding dead bodies, but we’re going about that kind of business with this New Orleans flair.”
When Bakula gets involved with a long-running television series, he wants characters who are “interesting and vibrant and you can imagine going into all kinds of different areas.” Pride fills the bill for Bakula. “Originally part of the New Orleans police department, he knows everything about the city – the characters, council men, police chiefs and everybody in the parishes. He has a great passion for the city but he’s also got a lot of problems. His daughter is going to college and he loves his job a little bit more than his wife, so his marriage is on the rocks. He doesn’t necessarily play by the rules and pushes up against the suits in [Washington] D.C. a little bit.”
Filming in New Orleans is both fascinating and heartbreaking for Bakula. “New Orleans has a unique history as a great melting pot of all kinds of cultures and that manifests itself now through the food, the music and the kinds of people who live there,” he said. “Our show is full of local musicians, food references and eating and a bit of crime solving.”
Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the city is never far from everyone’s mind, even nine years later. “There’s tons of work being done,” said Bakula. “We’ve been shooting in some places outside the city and locals would say, ‘Yeah, this was 20 feet underwater’. We recently shot at a local parish which at one stage was nine feet underwater and they had bodies from 1812 floating up in the cemetery – horrific stuff – and yet they’ve put it all back together again.”
But Bakula can see that progress had been made. “It’s just inspirational how they’ve picked themselves up and the city feels very much in revival right now,” he said. “I shot a movie here a couple of years ago, Else and Fred, and it has exploded since then with new restaurants and new areas having opened up.”
Grateful for his role, Bakula realizes that nothing is forever in television, particularly these days. “It is very corporate now and the creative vision is driven by marketing and other issues,” he said. “TV shows are being treated like movies now – you’ve got to get out of the gate strong and the fingers pulling the plug are a lot quicker…So, if this works, great, but if they say ‘look, we tried it and it doesn’t work’, then I’ll go back to the unemployment line and go look for another job.”
NCIS: New Orleans airs on CBS on Tuesdays at 9 PM Eastern Time.