John de Lancie likes to look for parts that has "Q" in them - that is, roles with quality.
"As actors, we read a lot of scripts," said de Lancie in a telephone interview from Arizona where he's filming the series "Legend" for United Paramount Network. "Only 10 percent of them are really good.
"The first thing I noticed was how literate it was. As (co-executive producer) Bill Dial says, the characters talk in full sentences. I read maybe three pages and it was `wow, this is great'."
When the actor came to the appearance of his character - eccentric European scientist/inventor Janos Bartok - de Lancie knew he was hooked.
"It was a full-blown character," said de Lancie, whose portrayal of the omnipotent Q in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" earned him millions of fans. "Both Q and this character are pretty full-blown. What I like about these characters, they're not restrained. They're very directed and very focused. You can play the hell out of them."
"Legend" stars Richard Dean Anderson ("MacGyver") as Ernett[sic] Pratt, an ink-stained wretched of a dime novelist who reluctantly assumes the role of his fictitious literary hero, Nicodemus Legend. Bartok (de Lancie) admires Pratt's novels and encourages him to assume the role of Legend.
"This character is pretty much the engine of the play," said de Lancie about his role. "I'm the one who sees the world in black and white - in noral terms. I have absolutely no continence in soliciting the help of my friend - my reluctant friend - to help solve these problems."
To help illustrate his point further, de Lancie used a recent taping[sic] to explain.
"Last night, we shot a scene where a man stumbles into camp with a dinosaur bone and then dies," said de Lancie. "The sheriff takes the body away and I'm at full tilt, all sails up. I think the dinosaur bone could be the greatest discovery on the North American continent.
"I turn to Pratt and say, `shall we proceed?' And he tells me `no'. My response is `we shall proceed.' The next shot we see is of him driving me through the wilds looking for the remains. And he's bemoaning the fact that it's hot."
Or to put it simply, de Lancie says the characters are "extraordinary people doing extraordinary things in a historical time that was extraordinary."
Filming in Tucson and Mescal, Arizona, aids the Western feel of the series but de Lancie has some reservations.
"When it's 102 degrees outside and you're walking very gingerly to avoid the rattlesnakes who are sunning themselves, you tell yourself there's no reason why I couldn't act this out on a studio set," laughed de Lancie. "No question, though, that getting a shot here adds to the look."
A for his co-star, Richard Dean Anderson, de Lancie has nothing but positive things to say.
"I think we get along well," said de Lancie about Anderson, who also serves as executive producer of the series. "Very few actors have the understanding of cameras and production that he has. He follows in the footsteps of great actor/managers who have produced their own shows in England and here.
"He's of the stature and knowledge to do it (producing) . . . it's not a hollow title. I, on the other hand, have a great deal to learn in the production area."
Besides "Legend," de Lancie is keeping a full schedule.
"I'm trying to do a lot of shows for the radio," said de lancie. "But it's very difficult trying to arrange a schedule. Leonard Nimoy and I are working together to release classic science fiction works for audio.
"I wil also be doing the Aspen Music Festival again this year. I will be narrating - I think, "Fidelio" - and a new piece that uses an Edgar Allen Poe poem for narration."
As for "Legend," de Lancie says there are several good episodes still coming up.
"One that I'm very prominent in features an evangelist who comes to town and uses the Bible and religion as weapons against science," said de Lancie. "There's a scent in the show that's reminiscient of the crowd scene `Frankenstein' where the angry mob atorms the castle with torches. In the show, the crowd converges on my lab with intent to burn it down."
"Legend" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on UPN, which is carried locally by WUAB-TV Channel 43.
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