Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood run through the crowd at Los Angeles International Airport, seeking a woman who has mysteriously gone missing.
But wait! Stop the action!
Do people in charge of major airports really look like these glamorous stars of “LAX”?
“I’ve seen no similarities at all,” laughs Kim Dey, interim executive director of the real LAX. “They certainly redefined a dress code.”
Dey may not rush around like Locklear in a plunging V-necked suit and high-heeled boots looking for fugitives, but she thinks the various issues she and her staff face each day are portrayed well on the stylish new series.
“Both Blair and Heather have really impressed us with their depth of questioning about what we do, about what we feel, and what we think,” Dey says. “They have tried very hard to try to understand the pressure, the responsibility ... the sense of public service. I don’t want to make it sound as though it was surprising, but in a way it was.”
The show had been airing 10 p.m. on Mondays, but because the ratings seem to be stuck on the tarmac, NBC has cleared it for 8 p.m. ET on Wednesdays beginning Oct. 27.
Besides Underwood and Locklear, the big star of “LAX” is, well, LAX. Most of the locations you see on the show are the real deal, despite the security now in force at LAX.
Making aviation more glamorous
After 9/11, the sprawling, city-owned airport stopped allowing film shoots. But Mayor James Hahn’s initiative to keep movie and TV production in Los Angeles has prompted renewed cooperation between LAX and Hollywood.
“One of the things we really like about this show is that the combination of Blair and Heather is helping to make aviation glamorous again,” says LAX Deputy Executive Director Paul Haney. “We’d lost that over the last couple of decades. It’s gone from being a glamorous business to a more mundane business.”
LAX officials are happy to provide technical advice and suggestions about how features of the airport, such as the mobile decontamination unit, can be used in “LAX” plots.
“The show has a little bit of outrageousness in clothing and maybe in personal relationships, and it has some fun and it has some chaos, but they continue to resolve the issues with a responsible staff at the end of every program,” says Dey. “We think that will indeed help people to continue to be comfortable.”
With LAX officials’ help, Locklear certainly knows more about how LAX works. “It’s not so big and scary now,” she says as she’s chauffeured back to her trailer.
She plays Harley Random, in charge of the runaways. Underwood’s Roger De Souza is in charge of the terminals. Both want to move up to become overall airport director.
Drawn 'into the boys' kind of toys'The 43-year-old star, the former co-star of “T.J. Hooker,” “Melrose Place” and “Spin City,” was attracted to the role because Random’s “into the boys’ kind of toys.” She also was lured to it by observing how her character’s real-life counterparts “don’t get rattled.”
Despite the presence of actors, camera equipment, crew and numerous extras, filming merges seamlessly into the everyday hustle and bustle of arriving and departing passengers — maybe too seamlessly.
This day, while inside the terminal waiting for her cue to start another one of those running sequences, Locklear was asked for directions by a woman who couldn’t find her ticket counter.
A few weeks ago, returning from a wedding anniversary trip to Mexico, Underwood exited customs and walked right onto an “LAX” set. “It was one of those strange, surreal moments of art imitating life,” says the 40-year-old actor.
Underwood, who rose to fame as attorney Jonathan Rollins in “L.A. Law,” describes his character as “smooth, manipulative, political, aggressive.”
He particularly enjoys playing the friction (“professional, sexual and otherwise”) which spices up his relationship with rival Random. And he’s also intrigued by his character’s inner demons, which include an addiction to gambling.