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TV Producer Bruckheimer's women actors have strength, smarts



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For a man whose name is synonymous with testosterone-fueled flicks like "Armageddon" and "The Rock," and who's turned CBS into his own well-policed kingdom, producer Jerry Bruckheimer sure has put a lot of women to work.

From the Q-tip-wielding crime-scene investigators of CBS' "CSI" to the gun-toting cops and agents of "Cold Case" and "Without a Trace," Bruckheimer's women tend to be strong, smart and, yes, beautiful.

You could call them babes, though you might want to stand well out of range before trying it.

Not that "Cold Case" star Kathryn Morris, the first woman to receive top billing in one of Bruckheimer's crime dramas, is likely to give you trouble.

"Jerry Bruckheimer loves sexy women, he loves unattractive women, he loves women," Morris declared in a recent phone interview.

As perhaps the blondest of the Bruckheimer blondes (and no, not all the women in Bruckheimer shows are blond), Morris can't even get worked up over some viewers' obsession with her hair. (It seems they'd like to see her character, Philadelphia homicide Detective Lilly Rush, wear it down.)

"I'm not an offendable person," she said, adding, "I know what kind of blonde I am. I don't define myself by being blonde."

Still, someone obviously thinks about these things, because when it came time to cast the lead of the company's second woman-led show, "Close to Home," Jerry Bruckheimer Television president Jonathan Littman's first thought about the role of the show's new-mother prosecutor was, "No blondes, no blondes."

Until in walked Jennifer Finnigan, an undeniably blond actress who'd previously starred in NBC's short-lived sitcom, "Committed," and played a recurring role on NBC's "Crossing Jordan."

"You go for the best actor," said Littman during an interview at a recent CBS party.

"When someone goes into the room and nails the scene, and nails the scene in the context of, this is something you had in your head, and what you had in your head is what's come back across the room to you ... you know (they've) got the role," he said.

"Female characters as strong as these (hers and co-star Kimberly Elise's), they're hard to find on TV and in film, and especially in a procedural drama," Finnigan told reporters in July.

In a subsequent interview, the actress admitted that she'd feared that if "Committed" had lasted, "I would be pigeonholed in that blond, bubbly romantic comedy" role.

"She wasn't dumb, but she was effusive," Finnigan said.

Something that can't quite be said for "Close to Home's" Annabeth Chase, a fiercely focused prosecutor who's juggling parental responsibilities.

Putting guns - or law books - in the hands of attractive women is nothing new on television, of course.

But as viewers of shows like Steven Bochco's "NYPD Blue" and "L.A. Law" know, female face time can come at a price, with characters' personal lives sometimes taking precedence over their professional ones.

Fraternization isn't unheard of in Bruckheimer shows - see the love triangle Poppy Montgomery's Samantha Spade finds herself in in "Without a Trace" - but at least the women seem no more vulnerable than the men.

"I think the thing with Jerry's company is that he's interested in making movies, and this is just another screen for him," said Morris.

Morris, whose film credits include "The Contender" and "Minority Report," noted that "when a movie script comes my way, the female character is usually much more fleshed out."

In a Bruckheimer show, "the lead character must have a complexity that is beyond a curling iron," she said.

"I was the last person cast on `Cold Case,'" the actress recalled, and "I wanted to know what the journey would be for the long term."

What impressed her - beyond the fact that the show was created by former "NYPD Blue" writer Meredith Stiehm - was that "they really talked about `NYPD Blue' and the complexities of Dennis Franz' character, (Andy) Sipowicz, and (said) my character would take a journey that was as rich as his," Morris said.

"We weren't talking about undercover episodes, me in leather and posing as a prostitute. It was much more about a person, and not just a woman."

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(c) 2005, Philadelphia Daily News. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

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