Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Actor Belzer Mirrors His `Homicide' Character

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Actor Belzer Mirrors His `Homicide' Character

Article excerpt

IF IT takes one to play one, Richard Belzer is a perfect fit for the role of wearily cynical, arcanely brilliant Det. John Munch.

Belzer acknowledges that his own persona, his stand-up comedy presence and the character of Munch are three of a kind, "very close."

As blade-thin, razor-edged Munch on NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Street" (9 p.m. Fridays on Channel 5 locally), Belzer has built a masterful character, endlessly opinionated, deeply educated and as sharply defined as his narrow black ties.

The work is earning Belzer, 50, raves for the most expansive, demanding role of his career. But he toiled in TV and films and on stage for a couple of decades before gaining the recognition that promises steady work and income. So he can be forgiven for not wallowing too mightily in the revelry.

"Yeah, I'm a 23-year overnight success," he said. "It looks like I've established myself finally, so if one show ends, there's a shot I'll have another job. I'm really kind of realistically celebratory about it. Not overly so."

Belzer used to tour his edgy, news-oriented, audience-engaging act of comedy six or seven months a year. Now he's far more occupied with dramatic acting on "Homicide" and in movies (he just finished a film for Disney with Donald Sutherland).

His wife of 10 years, Harlee McBride, has a recurring role on "Homicide" as an assistant medical examiner. Their enduring relationship and a solid foothold on an acting career are success stories that might have seemed impossible earlier in Belzer's life.

He has spoken openly about a very difficult childhood, especially a bad relationship with his mother. His father, to whom he was closer, committed suicide. He has two failed marriages, and he admits a serious problem with drugs, now years in the past.

Belzer's career seemed on the verge of stardom in the mid-70s, when he warmed up audiences for the first brilliant "Saturday Night Live" cast. He was promised a shot on the show, in front of the cameras, he says, and then it was taken back. …

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