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Skipp Sudduth: From 'Iceman' To 'Watch' Man

“Third Watch” is a charm for the stage vet

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How did Skipp Sudduth capture the work-weary essence of career cop John ”Sully” Sullivan in NBC’s Third Watch pilot? It helped that he was naturally exhausted: All last April, he scooted from Watch’s New York set to his gig in the four-and-a-half-hour Kevin Spacey-led Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh. ”It was really fun for three days,” says Sudduth. ”I felt like James Bond, with cars whisking me off into the night. But then it was like a marathon.”

Sudduth’s race began the morning of Iceman’s opening, when he auditioned for a bit part in Watch. But exec producer John Wells—who had cast Sudduth in last year’s failed drama Trinity—decided to revise the role of the jaded Sully (originally meant for a younger, leading-man type) for the paunchy 43-year-old. ”He kept doing it better than anyone else,” says Wells, who rearranged his shooting schedule around Iceman. ”We decided, It’s gonna be a pain in the ass, but it’s worth it.”

Even though his night job is done, Sudduth isn’t exactly well rested, thanks to 15-hour days on Watch‘s set. But being frantic sure beats the job lull that followed his 1990 move from Chicago with the Steppenwolf production of The Grapes of Wrath. ”When you come to New York and hang your shingle out as an actor, the city seems to be saying, ‘Really? We’ll see,”’ says Sudduth, who waited tables for a spell.

Gradually Manhattan warmed to him, and his lumbering looks scored him cop roles on such gritty shows as Oz, Law & Order, and Homicide. He’ll also do a variation on the badge—as a security guard—in the upcoming drama Flawless with Robert De Niro. ”To be fair,” he says about his flatfoot typecasting, ”if I wear a green satin flight jacket and jeans, I have kids on 48th Street asking if I’m a cop.”

In his off time, however, Sudduth sheds his fuzz persona: He’s one half of a singer-songwriter folk duo called Minus Ted, which is releasing its second album in December, and he performs a weekly comedy improv piece as Hans of Europe, an effete Tavern on the Green chef who crafts ”molded salads” (”Ve don’t like to say Jell-O,” he sniffs in a dismissive German accent); his African-American Watch costar Coby Bell plays along as Hans’ twin brother Mocha. ”We’re working on a music video,” Sudduth says excitedly. ”The song is ‘I’ve Got Something in My Pants.”’ Let’s just hope he doesn’t quit his day job.

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