What actor Theo James found irresistible about Golden Boy, a new cop show on CBS, was "the opportunity to play two different characters in one."Now don't get the wrong idea about this show.Golden Boy, which premieres Tuesday, doesn't have a farfetched Jekyll-and-Hyde premise like NBC's recently canceled Do No Harm did.The two characters James refers to are young and older versions of the same man, Walter William Clark Jr.Most of the time, we will see this 28-year-old English actor, a relative newcomer to the States, portraying a young New York homicide detective.But we also will see moments in every episode of Clark as he'll be seven years from now, as the youngest police commissioner in the history of New York City.It's fascinating to see how much he'll change."The seven years is more like 20 in terms of his experiences and the damage he has suffered," James points out.Indeed, you see it in the lines on his face, the premature gray in his hair, the limp in his walk."He is physically and emotionally damaged," James says. "He has lost most of the important people in his life."And that, being able to play Walter Clark as a young, kind of cocksure, naive, hungry, ambitious guy and then as a man who is grounded, authoritative, but very closed off as a result of everything he has been through over the last seven years, that is very intriguing to me as an actor."That makes Golden Boy very different from most TV cop shows.It's certainly more ambitious.With most cop shows, when the hour is over and a crime is solved, that's generally the last we'll ever see of that case. What's missing is any long-term take on a crime, the effect it has on victims and their loved ones, for example.But by leaping seven years into the future, Golden Boy has the potential to take the story deeper."I like the possibilities that it opens up," James says. "Being able to see how people have changed, how they've developed, if they've healed or if they've died."Meanwhile, with William Clark, there's a forever question: When and how exactly did the Golden Boy lose so much during his meteoric rise to power?"Friends of mine have said, 'If you know the end of the story, which is Clark seven years in the future, will people bother to see this through?'" James says."But I think, when you have the juxtaposition between a young guy with everything at his feet and then this commissioner at the height of power but all broken and worn by it, you will want to know the middle section. You will want to know how it happened."Actually, we'll know soon enough if viewers feel the same way. All it will take is a few weeks of Nielsen ratings to see if a TV audience sees it the way the lead actor does.James, who starred alongside Kate Beckinsale last year in Underworld: Awakening, prepared for his Golden Boy role by shadowing a New York City cold-case detective."This very cool guy had solved some very high-profile cases," James says. "Very smart, but also very streetwise. We would look at his cold-case files and he would conduct interviews and I would sit in on them, wearing a suit and vaguely trying to pass myself off as some kind of law enforcement."I like to think that it melded into my performance."James also believes that if he were driven to a real crime scene, given his prop gun and badge and instructed to fake it, he could fool people into thinking he's the real deal."At least I would like to think I could pull it off," he says. "Of course, if you talk to the detective I followed, or our technical adviser, they'd probably laugh in my face."
9 p.m. Tuesday
(moves to 8 p.m. Friday on March 8)