Playing the lead in Barry Levinson’s upcoming drama ”Liberty Heights” (opening tomorrow in L.A. and New York) hasn’t made Ben Foster forget about another favorite role, as a mentally challenged high school student on NBC’s ”Freaks and Geeks.” Unfortunately, the show’s near-universal acclaim is matched only by the near-universal dismay over its time slot. Saturdays at 8 p.m. is an hour more suited to medicine-dispensing frontierswomen and other family fare than to a biting, comic look at high school life in the early ’80s. Now NBC has dropped the show from its sweeps-month schedule but plans to move it to Mondays at 8 starting in January.
Foster, 19, is upset about the uncertain future of ”Freaks and Geeks” not just because his role in the pilot is likely to be revived if the series survives. He also feels a certain empathy for the motley bunch of high school misfits portrayed on the show.
”I understand the isolation very well,” says Foster. ”Growing up in a small town in Iowa and being the token actor doesn’t really go over well unless you’re also on the football team or you’re wearing your cut-off Axl Rose T-shirt and throwing beer bottles in the town square.” Like some characters on the show, Foster — who ultimately dropped out of school to pursue acting — had his share of run-ins with high school teachers: ”My experience with teachers is that they’re condescending and they don’t like their job. And that’s tragic. It’s great when people can complete high school and go to college. But I’m not one of them.”