Magazine article The New Yorker

As Seen on TV

Magazine article The New Yorker

As Seen on TV

Article excerpt

If you are a casting director in search of a President, senator, C.I.A. director, district attorney, rear admiral, or other Guy Whose Job Is Really Important, chances are you've put in a call to Fred Dalton Thompson. Thompson, who is seventy-one, has made a career of being both an actual official and an actor who plays one. Before he was the district attorney on "Law & Order," he was a lawyer for the Republicans on the Senate Watergate Committee. Before he was Senator Thompson, of Tennessee, he was Senator Hedges, in the Melanie Griffith film "Born Yesterday." And, before his brief, befuddled run for President, in 2008 (he announced his candidacy on the "Tonight Show"), he was President Ulysses S. Grant, in the TV movie "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee." "There are very few things that I've played that I haven't either been them or known them," he said the other day.

Thompson was on his way to Centre Street, to research his latest role: Judge Omar Noose, in the Broadway production of "A Time to Kill," based on the John Grisham novel. The show is his Broadway dbut, if not his first time playing a judge ("The Genesis Code," 2010). "When I first started practicin' law in my little home town"Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, population fourteen thousand"there was a Judge Ingram," he recalled, in the car. "He was very courtlyand kinda portly, too. I remember he went up to my father after I'd argued a case and was braggin' on me: 'He's gonna be a fine lawyer!' " In Nashville, where Thompson was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he met the considerably tougher Judge Frank Gray. "I always thought he was mean as a snake," he went on. "He would put his head down on the bench and swivel around in his chair in disgustnone of which would appear on the record." (Years later, Thompson advised Chief Justice John Roberts on his confirmation for the Supreme Court.)

He got out at the Criminal Court building and swept through the metal detector. (It helps if you're on "Law & Order.") After stopping for coffee at a dingy food stand, he was swarmed by security guards. "We just made a joke, Mr. Thompson," one of them said. "You survived the submarine in 'The Hunt for Red October,' but you're gonna go in there and die from the food!"

On the thirteenth floor, he was greeted by the Honorable Charles Solomon, of the New York Supreme Court, who has been on the bench since 1986. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.