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Alan Rosenberg: Face to watch

The actor joins the cast of ”L.A. Law” this fall

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Well, of course Eli Levinson, the emotionally wobbly mensch from Civil Wars, turns out to be the cousin of Stuart Markowitz, the emotionally stable mensch from L.A. Law played by Michael Tucker. Why did we not see this sooner? New Yorker Eli goes west to work on a case with Stuart’s help and then joins the Law firm this season, suffering ”all the traumatic aspects of relocating and not finding a decent bagel,” explains Alan Rosenberg, an L.A. transplant himself, from his native New Jersey.

Though Rosenberg, 42, has played toughs in such TV fare as Jackie Collins’ Lucky/Chances and The Revenge of Al Capone, he says the gentle Eli suits him best. The part recalls Rosenberg’s big break on the New York stage in the 1970s, when the Yale Drama School dropout played an emotionally wobbly homosexual drug addict in Thomas Babe’s A Prayer for My Daughter. ”Like Eli,” says Rosenberg in his distinctively soft, raspy, urban voice, ”he was an open wound who couldn’t help but be honest in his evaluation of the world. I guess that is sort of a thread in my work. Even with some of the tougher characters I’ve played, I look for their softer side, their feminine side.”

Though still deeply mourning the death last year of his brother, former Warner Bros. film production president Mark Rosenberg, who died of a heart attack at age 44, Alan might almost allow that life is pretty fine right now: He’s married to actress Marg Helgenberger (China Beach), the two are the parents of almost-3-year-old Hughie, and the family has just bought a new house in Santa Monica. But, for good measure, Rosenberg offers a brooding, Eli-esque meditation. ”I happen to think I’m fairly levelheaded compared to some people in this business. Then again,” he smiles a wounded grin, ”a lot of people consider me to be totally neurotic and a flake. But I can pass.”