He is all over the American Southwest playing bad guy Butch Cavendish in "The Lone Ranger," opening Wednesday. And he is all over Paris, Nice and Prague as the star of the new crime drama "Crossing Lines," airing Sundays at 10 p.m. on NBC. But for actor William Fichtner, no matter where he goes, part of him stays on Long Island.
"I have relatives from one end of the Island to the other," he says, giving shout-outs to his Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Charlene Lannigan in East Islip and his Uncle Butch Keegan in Commack. "I was born at what used to be Mitchel Air Force Base, and I went to Farmingdale [State College] for my first two years of college." Though he now lives in Los Angeles, "I'm an Island guy and I love it. As soon as I break out over the water, over the Robert Moses Causeway, and I'm heading out to the lighthouse and you do that little hop and a skip over Captree, where the fishing boats are, and come over that last bridge and down to the lighthouse. . . ." His voice trails. "Man, I just love to walk that beach. It's a place of peace for me."
It's a testament to his talent just how little this sounds like anything most of his characters would say, whether it's the haunted, drug-popping FBI agent Alex Mahone in "Prison Break," harried producer Phil Yagoda in "Entourage" or his various driven or taciturn men in "Heat," "Armageddon," "The Perfect Storm" and other films.
This holds true with his "Crossing Lines" character, Carl Hickman -- a disgraced or perhaps backstabbed former NYPD detective whose disfigured right hand leaves him unable to write a report or hold a gun, and in enough pain that he requires morphine patches. Working a menial job under the radar in Amsterdam, he balks at first when Det. Major Louis Daniel (Marc Lavoine) of the French police recruits him for a team of cross-border cops under the auspices of The Hague-based International Criminal Court.
"Through circumstances and hard times, he's lost everything," Fichtner, 56, says of his character. "And it's really affected his mind. He's trying to recover from that and what's helping his recovery is trying to find who's responsible for doing this to him. That's the undercurrent of the whole first season" of 10 episodes, which premiered in Europe just before airing here.
Given the darkness of many of his characters -- and Butch Cavendish does some truly heinous things -- Fichtner says he is fortunately "not one of those guys who takes it home at the end of the day and takes it out on the dog. When I get home, I clean out the garage and play ball with my son. That's it. There's always a sense of playfulness in terms of what I do for a living," he says, even when playing evil or broken. "That's what makes it fun."