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Miguel Ferrer fired up about ‘Crossing Jordan’

His character may get fired, but the actor isn't looking for work
/ Source: The Associated Press

Miguel Ferrer sounds pleased with an upcoming surprise on NBC’s “Crossing Jordan” — even though it entails his character getting fired.

“The producer said ‘I want you to hear — before you hear from everyone else — the last episode you get fired. You leave the morgue ... Don’t worry, you come back!”’ recalls Ferrer, who plays Garret Macy, mentor to medical examiner Jordan Cavanaugh (Jill Hennessy).

All he can reveal is: “Some borderline impropriety from a long time ago comes back to haunt Dr. Macy.”

He isn’t divulging details why Macy gets the boot and what personal crisis he has to overcome before he returns to duty when the show begins its fifth season. (The fourth-season finale airs 10 p.m. ET May 15.)

Series creator Tim Kring offers some insight, though, into why it’s a good move to put one of the series’ lynchpin characters through this plot twist. When first introduced, Macy was clearly in a midlife crisis. But Ferrer’s confident handling of the role nudged the character toward greater stability, said Kring.

“Miguel carries with him a tremendous amount of dignity and quiet strength, so the idea of a man falling apart didn’t fit quite as well,” says Kring, describing how Macy quickly evolved into someone with personal and professional authority.

But now, “It’s time to see some cracks in the armor and to sort of let him get a bit less heroic ... to see some of his demons rise up, to reveal that this infallible character is obviously fallible,” Kring explains. (He adds that a “real taskmaster, hated by everyone,” played by Henry Winkler, gets Macy’s job for the time being.)

While Macy has a few months off worrying about whether he’ll get his job back, Ferrer will spend his hiatus feeling happy he still has a job “with pretty few minuses.”

Ferrer came late to actingThe 50-year-old Ferrer, the eldest of singer Rosemary Clooney and actor Jose Ferrer’s five children, planned to be a musician rather than an actor and began playing drums when he was about 8.

“I was drawn to it much to my father’s dismay. He wanted me to be a pianist like he was, but I had coarser tastes — like that old joke: What do you call a guy who hangs around with musicians? A drummer,” he chuckles.

He played on Keith Moon’s 1975 album “Both Sides of the Moon,” and tried for “so long to be as good as I could.” These days he just plays for fun with friends, because “I’m way too old for that stuff now.”

He says he “came to acting pretty late. It looked wonderful, but I guess I was intimidated by my father. I look a bit like him and he was so much bigger than life and so great it took me a bit longer than most people to have enough confidence in myself.”

Now that confidence often has Ferrer cast in roles of authority — on both sides of the law.

Recently he played Col. Garret in the 2004 remake of the political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate.” In 2000, he was a drug dealer in the critically acclaimed “Traffic,” and he played an FBI agent in the quirky TV series “Twin Peaks” in 1990.

The success of forensic shows has created pressure on “Crossing Jordan” to be more graphic, but the producers of the character-driven series have resisted going too far in that direction.

“Clearly there is a tolerance level that has gone up, but the funny thing is that none of us at the top of this show have a whole lot of stomach for that,” says Kring.

And Ferrer certainly doesn’t.

When the show started, it was suggested everyone take a trip to the Los Angeles County morgue. “I think I was the only one who refused and everyone who went regrets it,” says the actor, who is happy to rely on the show’s technical advisers to tell him what to do during autopsy scenes.

One big lesson Ferrer had to learn was to be tougher in his handling of the show’s prop corpses. “They kept telling me I was being too delicate and that I shouldn’t be delicate because (in reality) they just really throw ’em around and hack ’em open and do what they gotta do.”