Unlike the surf-shop owner he plays on CBS’ summer sitcom Big Wave Dave’s, Adam Arkin knows something about the sport. ”I was never a full-out board surfer,” says Arkin (son of Glengarry Glen Ross‘ Alan Arkin), who lived in central California for several years in the mid-1960s. ”I’m dating myself, but they didn’t have boogie boards back then. All they had were inflatable rafts. They had some pretty monstrous waves, and I got pretty good at riding them.”
Not that Arkin has been hanging 10 recently. ”It’s imperative now that I never take up surfing,” Arkin, 36, says. ”It would be bad for my character if I learned anything more about it.”
Arkin won’t likely catch any waves near his home in Westchester County, N.Y., where he moved with his wife, Linda, and daughter, Molly (now 6), in 1991 to escape Hollywood. ”I had become known there based on work I had done 10, 15 years earlier,” says Arkin, who starred in rst sitcom, 1977’s short-lived Busting Loose, at age 19. ”It was very much the right move.”
Arkin quickly conquered Broadway (he earned a Tony nomination for 1991’s I Hate Hamlet) and landed the recurring role of Adam, the hostile, reclusive, unwashed gourmet chef on CBS’ Northern Exposure, which meant occasionally traveling back west to the state of Washington. ”He’s a walking id,” Arkin says of his namesake. Although Adam has become one of Exposure‘s most popular figures, Arkin doesn’t think he would work as a regular character. ”He’s so much of a hermit and so antisocial,” Arkin says. ”You can’t retain those qualities in a character who’s hanging around every week.” Still, Arkin says, ”I can’t tell you how often people come up to me and say ‘We watch you every week.’ Well, thank you, but I’m not on every week.”
Moving east also brought Arkin closer to his dad, who lives nearby in Westchester. ”I still turn to him, and in recent years he has turned to me for [acting] advice,” Arkin says. ”That’s ultimately been the biggest compliment, because I feel like he regards me as, if not necessarily an equal, at least as somebody in the ballpark.” But that’s another sport.