Thomason Rolls Dice

Article excerpt

Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Thomason rolls dice

Actress Marsha Thomason understands the tacky allure of a place like Las Vegas.

No, it's not just the city's ability to give anyone a gambler's chance for riches, or the glitzy spectacles arranged on a daily basis. She says Las Vegas "doesn't pretend to be something it isn't."

"It's based on debauchery," Miss Thomason said.

That could be a key reason why the freshman drama "Las Vegas" has earned solid ratings in its first few weeks. The NBC show centers on a security squad which keeps a Vegas casino running smoothly while busting any would-be cheats. James Caan stars as the head of casino security. The show airs Monday evenings at 9.

Miss Thomason doesn't sound nearly as calculating over the phone as she does as her character, Neesa Holt - a pit boss dubbed the "Ice Queen."

The British actress good-naturedly disputes that label.

"I don't think she is an ice queen," Miss Thomason said. "It's all about business. It's the nature of being the pit boss."

She promised viewers will soon discover Neesa's vulnerable side.

"You'll get to see a bit more of her ... in the next few episodes," Miss Thomason said.

The actress is already getting to know her fellow cast members, particularly Mr. Caan, who plays the omnipresent Big Ed Deline.

"I adore Jimmy Caan," she cooed. Her favorite Mr. Caan story has her dropping by his trailer while his makeup was being applied. She walked in to find the 60-something actor rapping Run DMC's "It's Tricky." She quickly joined him to rap the subsequent verses.

Still, working on a slick show like "Las Vegas" means more than rubbing elbows with legendary actors. She also routinely endures a shot she calls "the whoosh" - those adrenaline-fueled set pieces where the camera flashes through the casino to simulate its fever pitch.

"Every single person has to freeze and hold for a while, for a minute, and then, action," she said, adding no one wants to be the person who blows the shot.

Miss Thomason worked regularly in British television before coming stateside. The biggest change, she said, is a matter of scale.

"Here, there are so many more people involved in the shows. Even the sound stages and sets dwarf their British counterparts."

That proved especially true during her time shooting "The Haunted Mansion," an upcoming comedy thriller starring Eddie Murphy, Miss Thomason adds.

She wouldn't mind returning to her native England for future projects but she understands the choice may not be hers.

"I'd like to go back and forth, but I'll go where the work takes me," she said.

'Rules' top sans Ritter

Reuters News Agency

Tears flowed, the laugh track was turned off and a record number of viewers tuned in as the ABC comedy "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" returned to prime time last Tuesday with the death of its star, John Ritter, written into the story line.

The question now is: Where will the show go from here?

The first episode without Mr. Ritter, who died on September 11 as the sitcom entered its second season, drew nearly 21 million viewers, an all-time high for the series that made the one-hour special the most-watched show on TV Tuesday night.

The big tune-in also gave ABC a welcome November "sweeps" boost to two other marquee sitcoms- third-year series "According to Jim" and sophomore show "Less Than Perfect. …