By David Bauder
AP Television Writer
A decade after Dr. Mark Greene hung up his white lab coat for good on “ER,” Anthony Edwards is back as the star of a new TV series.
He plays Hank Galliston, a magazine publisher wrapped up in a historical mystery after his wife is kidnapped on ABC’s “Zero Hour,” which premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. The action thriller requires an audience to concentrate as the story unfolds layer by layer.
The road back to series television took Edwards many miles to travel — literally thousands upon thousands.
Edwards’ character Greene was the heart of what was then television’s most-popular drama before the actor bowed out after eight years.
While fellow actors George Clooney and Julianna Margulies left “ER” quickly to try other things, Edwards committed himself to a four-year contract. At the time, the commitment seemed huge — four years seems a lot longer at 36 than it does now, when he’s 50 — but the decision set him up financially for life.
He didn’t leave the business. Edwards was always comfortable behind the scenes, and had been close to leaving acting for directing before getting the “ER” job. He has his own production company, Grand Central Entertainment, and was an executive producer of HBO’s “Temple Grandin.” He did some film acting, in “Zodiac” and the memorable flop “Motherhood.”
Showtime’s loss proved ABC’s gain. Grand Central developed a series about a high-end public-relations firm that Edwards had planned to act in and when Showtime passed, he found himself with free time. Edwards started looking at other scripts and found “Zero Hour” to be “a total page-turner.”
Zack Estrin, one of the show’s four executive producers, couldn’t believe his luck.
Having a well-known actor attach himself to your project has its obvious benefits, and Estrin hopes some viewers try out “Zero Hour” just to see what Edwards is doing. The danger is that television has its cases of actors being so defined by an over- whelmingly successful role that viewers have a hard time seeing them do something else. Edwards believes the characters he has chosen guard against that.
In many ways, Mark Greene was designed to be a person that viewers can relate to. Same thing with Galliston. The show needs a character to steady the boat, Estrin said.
“That’s what Anthony is,” he said. “He’s somebody who’s solid and dependable, somebody the audience can trust. On a show where you don’t know who you can trust and who you can believe, it’s important to have somebody at the center you know you can.”