PTR Senior Staff Writer
We here at PTR like the good guys.
The upstanding guys.
The decent guys.
The honorable, handsome, smart, funny, charming, easy-going and loving guys.
We pride ourselves on consistently proving they do still exist and are not just figments of our imagination or fictional characters in enchanted worlds of make believe.
Welcome to the list Teddy Sears, who not only is quite the gem himself but also plays one on TV - the truly upstanding Public Defender Richard Patrick Woolsley IV (or Rich, as everyone calls him for short) on TNT's hit legal series, Raising the Bar, which begins its second season Monday, June 8th at 10 p.m.
And in our ongoing pursuit of the good guys of the world, I recently caught up with Teddy on one of his days off to discuss all-things Rich. He is wonderfully charming to speak with, and his energy for the job that he does radiates right through the phone. I'm pretty sure I could've talked to him for three hours - especially considering he had just come in from a late morning surf session to which I was, I confess, insanely jealous seeing as a) I surf; and b) wish I could do so within walking distance of my house.
What can I say, it's a surfer thing.
"That’s why I live out here [in Southern California]. It keeps me so happy and actually allows me to continue to have an athletic outlet. I have to be careful now that I'm on the show, so I’m obviously safe in my surfing. Can’t show up with a black eye or something because the board came back and dinged me," Teddy says with a laugh. "So, I back off just a little bit and do a lot of other stuff. But, I have to be by that water."
Believe you-me, I can relate.
And relating to Rich's good guy demeanor is one of the things that appealed most to Teddy about taking on the role.
"You know what I really liked about Rich is that he’s a good guy," says Teddy. "A lot of the guest stars I’ve played, I end up being Mr. Perfect who turns out to be a total douche bag, or just a total [jerk]. And this is not who this character is. He’s really selfless, and he’s really a good, honest decent guy. I just haven’t been able to live in that as a job, and that’s what makes [this] fun – because it's close to my heart, too."
I'm not sure how TNT lucked out in having both Jon Tenney's Special Agent Fritz Howard and Teddy's Rich Woolsley on their network, but I'm thinking they might want to add a new tag line.
TNT: We know good guys.
And it would seem viewers appreciate it.
They also appreciate the show's fresh look at courtroom drama from both sides of the aisle. That is, from the public defender's (PDs) point of view as well as the district attorney (DAs) - which, let's face it, is predominantly how we've all grown up understanding the television version of the legal system. There are the cops and the DAs, and there are the bad guys repped by the PDs.
But it isn't always so cut and dry on Raising the Bar. The show likes to operate in a certain gray area of what might be right or wrong, and it takes a much more personal look at what the lawyers - on both sides - must do to represent their respective clients to try and win a fair legal judgment.
"I think the great thing about the show is that it brings up real issues that are occurring in real time that are very gray and worthy of being debated," says Teddy. "I think that’s what makes it worth tuning into. If you knew the outcome going into every episode, I think it would lose its luster. And because none of the lawyers [are there to witness any of the crimes], we just have to piece it together as best we can and try to paint this picture of what actually happened. I think that exposes, in a microcosm, exactly how lawyers have to operate. They simply have to try and go on what they see to be the most relevant pieces of information whether it’s fact or not; it's all they have. And, even when I'm reading the script, up until the last minute I don’t know if the guy’s guilty or not – I have no idea which way the jury’s going to come back. Ultimately, I think that's worth tuning into."
Also worth tuning in for is Teddy's portrayal of Rich - a genuine article of decency and good spirit, who forgoes his well-to-do upbringing and sure-thing career as a high-powered attorney at a high-powered law firm to serve the needs of those less fortunate as a public defender. When he auditioned for the role, Teddy's own upbringing allowed him to have certain family familiarity with the character.
Says Teddy: "I grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I went to an all boys school for 10 years. My parents were members of a country club. So, growing up in that environment, I soaked up things along the way that I think made it easier for me to want to play a character like this. I remember getting the audition, and I thought, 'Oh, I know this guy – I went to school with these guys.' Even though [Rich's backstory wasn't exactly the same as] my upbringing, there were elements to it that I was around, and [the role] innately felt right. I read twice with [creator and executive producer] Steven Bochco and his wife Dayna, and Jesse Bochco. It was a family affair. I remember walking in and feeling instantly at ease. I’m one of four kids - my dad’s got three siblings, my mom’s got four siblings - and I just sort of felt that family energy – for lack of a better term. It sort of went from there. Steven gave me the nod, and very luckily, here we are a couple years later."
Make that almost exactly two years later as the series begins its second go around. And for Teddy, this season feels like another chance to make an already good impression.
"I feel like with first seasons, you just don’t know how it’s going to be received," he says. "You're really performing in a vacuum. So, knowing that [we were] on the right track in the first season lends a real relaxedness to doing the second season. It gives us a great breadth of confidence. And, I think we have all the elements of a nice strong run – the writing, the acting, the stories and the support of TNT; they've given us a big promotional push and have a lot of faith in us."
In listening to Teddy, it's hard to believe this is a guy who self admits he stumbled into acting.
"Truth be told, I fell ass backwards into acting in New York City," he says with a laugh. "I had not taken an acting class. I wasn’t harboring any conscious, secret desire to get into it. But, I was raised on Caddyshack and Animal House and Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live. So, that sort of silly, funny, performance aspect of things is something that I always enjoyed but didn’t know I wanted to do."
"Really?" I ask, not entirely convinced given he talks with such genuine enthusiasm for the profession, and someone well-seasoned beyond his 32 years.
"In fact," he continues, "I was priming for a Wall Street existence. I went to the University of Virginia, and I got into this really select two-year undergraduate business program - sort of that Type A businessman route. But, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after college, and [somewhere inside] I knew I didn’t want to go work for a big company. I was just restless. I thought I wanted something by the water, something very quiet. So, I lived in Hawaii for about six months after graduation - worked on a snorkeling boat on the Big Island, lived in Kona. But, it just wasn’t working for me. So, I moved back East, and I went to New York City to visit some friends and thought ‘THIS is where I have to be!’ It was the total opposite of Hawaii, but the pace, the excitement and the energy of New York City really matched what was going on in my head. It was apparent that’s where I needed to be. So, I moved.
"I auditioned for the role of a bartender on the One Life to Live soap opera in 2000," Teddy continues. "I went because I thought when I have grandkids, it would be a funny story I could tell them - that I once auditioned for a soap opera. I had no acting training, I had no headshot, [but the role] just made sense to me. The kind of acting I hate is the kind of acting that looks ‘acted.’ So, I just thought I’d go there, I would pretend that I was actually in the situation, and I would be normal. Well, it was enough to get hired. And what was supposed to be a few days turned into two years. So, I really fell ass backwards into acting. I remember showing up the first day of work terrified, scared, just had no idea what I was doing. But, it just seemed like so much fun. And, once I started to get the words out of my mouth, it just began to feel really good."
Still, Teddy didn't commit to the idea of being an actor for while thereafter. It didn't quite seem like a real job, and nearly everyone in his sphere of influence were all business oriented individuals.
"It took me years to commit to it for a number of reasons," says Teddy. "No one from my town is an actor. I don’t know anyone’s father who does anything except business. So, [it was a question of] can I make this work? Can I face these people who - when I come home - keep asking me when I’m going to get a real job? But once I did, and I followed the courage of my convictions, I really think that’s when things began to take off."
So what does he consider the most important element when considering a project? It's a recurring theme we hear quite often here at PTR from our interviewees: the writing.
"For me, it starts with the writing," says Teddy. "It’s the story. It’s the world that’s created by these scripts - the little world I can occupy within the story. I know it when I’m reading it; I just get excited. I start to itch to do it. It captivates and grabs me in a way, and it’s something that when I put it down, I keep thinking about. But, it would be disingenuous to say that the people involved have nothing to do with it. It matters hugely who’s directing it, who’s interested, who’s putting together, what they’ve done in the past. I think, for me, I’d like to continue to be in league with great writers, great directors, great actors. If the story is there, then it’ll attract all the right elements."
When I ask Teddy whether he has a knack for wanting to portray characters in which he shares similarities, or he prefers to take on roles that are completely opposite from his own persona, he confesses he does - at least at this point in his career - lean toward the former for one important reason: he can relate to the character on an emotional level.
"I’m a young actor. And I mean that in I haven’t been doing this for even 10 years, yet. I think, as I get older, I’ll know which one I prefer more. But, I do like having similarities and things in common with [my characters] - like Richard. It helps make my job easier because I can relate to it emotionally. It’s not just a concept in my head that I’m trying to absorb. And I mean that specifically in that Richard is a good man, cares greatly about other people, he works tirelessly on their behalf - all of which I can relate to. Now, I can’t relate to being so rich that all of my shirts are custom made as well as my suits," says Teddy with a laugh. "But, I can relate to wanting to blaze my own trail, and taking the best of my upbringing and applying it to life. Like Richard, I've taken the lessons that my dad taught me - the manners, the morals, the family ties - and ultimately blazed my own trail. That is something I share with Richard."
Custom suits and shirts aside, one could say this role was tailor made for Teddy. And not surprisingly, it has been quite a rewarding one - both personally and professionally.
Says Teddy: "Professionally, this is the best writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of being assigned. And I think in the world of acting, consistency is the greatest gift one can receive. So, simply being on a show of this caliber with these actors, it’s a thrill for me to be in the ring with these guys and have the opportunity to grow and to learn. That comes down to repetition and consistency. Personally, it’s a thrill to be in league with these people, and professionally I can only get better because of it."
You might say Teddy is well on his way to giving us his best yet. We here at PTR will most definitely be watching.
After all, we like the good guys.
Teddy’s PTR Quicktakes …
I’m most comfortable when I’m … on the beach.
The best part of my day is when … the sun comes up.
If I wasn't an actor I'd be … on the ocean.
Last book I read was … Falconer by John Cheever
The oldest thing in my closet is … and I keep it because … a Harris Tweed blazer because I secretly want to be a college professor.
The best piece of advice ever given to me was … and he or she said … my father said never doubt yourself.
The last time I laughed so hard I cried was when … it was the first five minute of Tropic Thunder. I had no idea what was coming, and I was doubled-over.
I’m most inspired when I’m … I was thinking I’m most inspired when I stop thinking and let creativity take over. But the first thing that came to mind is I’m most inspired when I’m on my surfboard - the real moment to moment thing that happens when you surf. That’s real inspiration because that’s what I want to take with me onto my life on land.
If I could travel to one place in the world that I haven’t been to as yet it would be … because … San Sebastian, Spain, for the food and the ocean.
I want to extend a Pipeline size wave of thanks to Teddy for taking time out to chat with me on his day off - and for being one heck of an awesomely cool guy. He's got an open invitation to join me at my local surf spot any time he feels like trying out his new custom shaped Channel Islands board. Also want to thank our friends at Turner Publicity and Rogers & Cowan. Raising the Bar returns for its second season Monday, June 8th at 10 p.m. on TNT. For the scoop on the series, visit the show's official Web site. You can also look for Teddy in the upcoming feature film A Single Man, which will co-star the ever-amazing Julianne Moore and Colin Firth. (We also wouldn't mind if he showed up again on Dollhouse next season, either. Hint, hint.)