Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gossett Cooks in Thriller as Restaurant Owner

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gossett Cooks in Thriller as Restaurant Owner

Article excerpt

THERE'S A LOT of Louis Gossett Jr. in Ray Alexander, the detective-restaurant owner he plays in "Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice." The thriller, which also stars James Coburn and Ossie Davis, premieres this week on the "NBC Friday Night Mystery Movie" (8 p.m. on Channel 5).

Alexander is the owner of Ray's Backyard Cafe, an eclectic San Francisco restaurant. Though the establishment is Alexander's pride and joy, it's also a cash guzzler. To make money, Alexander takes on high-risk, high-profile private investigator jobs while Uncle Phil (Davis) manages the restaurant. Alexander does his PI work for noted San Francisco attorney Jeffrey Winslow (Coburn).

"All the things I love, I do in this," says the winner of an Emmy ("Roots") and Oscar ("An Officer and a Gentleman"). "I have my friends around. I cook. My dream is to have a restaurant. I think that's going to happen by the end of the year. I think it's going to be in Arizona. That's where I got my offer."

Pitching "Ray Alexander" to NBC was a piece of cake, says Gossett, who has a production deal with Viacom. "My partner is Perry Simon, who is the head of Viacom. He used to be at NBC. We went straight up to the main people and we pitched it."

Writer-executive producer Dean Hargrove ("Perry Mason," "Columbo") believes Alexander is a unique private investigator. "We think that he's a very engaging character," Hargrove notes. "There is quite a bit of humor. I came up with the notion and took it to him. He felt that it was something he was very comfortable with. We went from there."

Hargrove also wanted to create a character with whom everyone could identify. "Columbo is very much an Everyman," he says. "I wanted to get a character who people could relate to who has the same problems that everybody has."

Gossett fleshed out Alexander. "He really created a character as he got into it," Hargrove explains. "He gave the guy a lot of humor and a style - in terms of humor, the way the guy operates and the kind of moves he gives him in his performance."

The movie also explores Alexander's unique evolution into a PI. A social activist in the 1960s, Alexander was president of the Black Students Union at a fictitious San Francisco college. …

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