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Why Patrick Swayze's new A&E series makes us happy

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Swayze_lBy now, you’ve probably heard the good news that Patrick Swayze is responding well enough to treatment for pancreatic cancer that a summer start date has been set for production on his A&E FBI drama series, The Beast, in Chicago. (He’d shot the pilot before his diagnosis.) I’m guessing I’m not the only one who let out an audible “Yay!” It’s just that I remember reading an interview with Swayze from the early ’90s in which he talked about wanting to experience all phases of an actor’s career: he’d been hot, he was looking forward to cooling off, and then making a comeback in his fifties. Now, at age 55, it looks like he’ll get that chance. And I’m happy for him.

When I spoke with Swayze for EW’s 15th anniversary in 2005, he joked that he’d made a conscious decision about 10 years earlier to have a great time screwing up his career. What he meant was, he’d decided to only play characters that he found interesting (drag queen Vida Boheme in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and closeted pedophile Jim Cunningham in Donnie Darko, for example). “I had to have the life I dreamed about as an actor, to become an artist, and you don’t do that by being sucked down the Hollywood blockbuster mentality route. You do that by taking calculated risks and trying things and challenging yourself — and that’s what I’ve always been about,” he said. “You know there were the years where I was in the general ‘Crazy Swayze Adrenaline Junkie’ mode and did death-defying things — death-defying to the layman but not to me. Hello, I’m on about my 159th life. But it is nice to get to that place where finally, some level of wisdom, I’d like to think, or maturity is governing you.”

Reading A&E’s description of The Beast, you can understand why the role of FBI agent Charles Barker would appeal to Swayze. It’s the best of both worlds: “An unorthodox but effective FBI veteran (Swayze) trains a new partner [Tarzan‘s Travis Fimmel] in his hard-edged and psychologically clever style of agenting while himself being pursued by a secret Internal Affairs team. The mischievous veteran hazes his new partner as they work undercover, brilliantly manipulating situations, constantly testing his new partner, and pushing him to delve deeper into his ‘roles.’ As he realizes he can no longer maintain normal relationships and still do his job, the rookie is confronted with yet another challenge: An FBI team trying to enlist him as a double-agent in the bureau’s investigation of his partner.” 

Big risks can bring big rewards. We hope this is one of them.

addCredit(“Patrick Swayze: Bruce Gifford/FilmMagic”)

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